Neil Taylor: Wales and Aston Villa defender backs drive for more Asian footballers

Neil Taylor
Neil Taylor's career has included spells at Wrexham and Swansea City as well as 43 Wales caps - he also represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics

Wales and Aston Villa defender Neil Taylor believes attitudes towards racism are improving in British football but says he would like to see more players of Asian heritage.

Taylor, 32, has given his backing to a new Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) mentoring scheme for young Asian players.

He says he is encouraged by the change in attitudes towards racism he has seen during his career.

"Society is changing," he said.

Taylor, whose mother was born in Kolkata, India added: "We are at the point now where everybody is united in the fact that if it happens, it's being reported, people are being found and we're getting to the root of the problems.

"As a society, we are starting to realise that you can't get away with what you say these days.

"You've got to be careful and I think that racial prejudice is starting to get out of the game.

"We've seen it with 'Black Lives Matter' and it's great what is happening. Society is changing".

Taylor is supporting the PFA's 'Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme', a new five-year initiative launched by the players' union.

"For Asians it's about changing the narrative and what we want to do with the PFA is to be that focal point for people to be able to talk to - to talk to academy lads and for those lads to talk to players at under-10s and under-11s," Taylor told the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.

Riz Rehman, the PFA's player inclusion executive, also sees the importance of the Asian community having access to networks for the academy systems.

'If you get into the academy system, you're there because you have good ability," Rehman told the programme.

"And the ones who do make it are the ones who work the hardest, have a good network, and are speaking to parents, players, guardians who have been there and actually lived those experiences.

"I think that's the difference, having those mentors, people who can help you deal with those setbacks. Because along the way there will be many setbacks."

Figures show that Asian and British Asian people make up almost 7.5% of the UK population, but last season only eight players from Asian backgrounds made first-team appearances across the 92 clubs in England's top four divisions.

Taylor believes the problem goes right to the grassroots.

"My lad plays football at under-sevens and I just want to see more Asian players," he said.

"I live in Birmingham which has an affluent Asian community and I still don't think I see as many Asian kids as I would like playing football.

"It's about having them involved in all levels of football".

Growing up in St Asaph in north Wales, Taylor says he was in a minority playing football as a British Asian child.

"I don't think I came across many [Asian players]. Possibly some parts of the country had more than others but, in general, not many at all," added Taylor.

"I think that's been the theme for many years and this is why we are trying to combat that now and try and build those numbers."

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