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Kandola: Mentoring scheme inspiring young Asian players

12 Dec 2021

Support from former PL stars like Danny Batth in PFA scheme helping Asian footballers' development

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Kamran Kandola is among a crop of Asian talents in Academies looking to make a breakthrough in the Premier League, and the Wolverhampton Wanderers 17-year-old is being helped in his pursuit of top-flight football by the club's former defender Danny Batth.

As part of the PFA Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS), Kandola has been mentored by Batth, a centre-back of English and Punjabi dissent who is now at Stoke City.

"Me and Danny have quite a few conversations, and trying to build up a good relationship because obviously he's been through it," said Kandola at an AIMS event this year at Sporting Khalsa FC, Walsall.

"He's been at Wolves and that's obviously where I'm trying to go through."

AIMS, which is backed by the Premier League, aims to increase the number of Asian footballers making it in the professional game.

"It's huge that we're getting it [the scheme] to be as big as possible because we need as many people to see it," added Kandola.

"Even if it's not only Asians, even if it's just young people of different races or different backgrounds, or that they are even just thinking, 'I don't know if I can go into this?'

"It's showing them that there's nothing stopping you. 

"If you think you've got the ability and you want to take up this as a job, don't hold back and just go for it."

Value of mentoring

Batth understands how valuable his role is.

"Growing up I didn't have the opportunity to tap into any mentoring from experienced players," said Batth. "My support network was simply my family and friends.

"Working alongside the PFA, I am able to share some experiences, set-backs and things I have learnt, which I hope will help to progress the careers of these young players."

Positive experience

The AIMS event was led by PFA Player Inclusion Executive Riz Rehman, the brother of former Fulham defender Zesh Rehman, who was the first British Asian Pakistani to start a Premier League match in 2004.

Riz hosted a coaching session at the event, followed by networking opportunities for the players and parents.

"They’re going to take away little nuggets of information and be enthused by just seeing other peers at other clubs and established Premier League players," he said.

"Hopefully they’ll go onto their clubs this season and really flourish.”

Arjan Raikhy made his senior debut for Aston Villa in the FA Cup last season and was inspired to see at the event so many young Asian players who are making their way through the Academy system.

"I didn't know there was this many players of an Asian descent," Raikhy, 18, said. "It was quite a positive thing to take, really."

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum competes with Aston Villa's Arjan Raikhy
Arjan Raikhy made his senior debut for Aston Villa in last season's FA Cup

The success of AIMS follows on from the Professional Player to Coach Scheme, which launched last year with the aim of increasing the numbers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic male and female players who transition into full-time coaching roles in the professional game.

See: More about the Professional Player to Coach Scheme

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