Promising Scottish Asian footballer talks about his achievements and how he overcame racial discrimination
Rayan Mohammed (Image by EdinburghLive)
A young up-and-coming Scots Asian footballer who dreams of following on the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed how he had to face racism in Scottish football and overcome it to get to where he is today.
Edinburgh schoolboy international, Rayan Mohammed, wants to be a flagbearer for his community by achieving great feats in the sport. He made his first-team debut at the age of 17 by playing for Alloa Athletic. He scored 35 goals in four months for club’s youth side, EdinburghLive reports.
Mohammed became one of the few native talents from Scotland’s Asian community to make it into the senior SPFL ranks, after he took the field against Falkirk, reports have stated.
Several football fans who watched the match are said to have been impressed by the jet- heeled forward who won a late penalty that scored a point for his team.
However, the journey to this level wasn’t an easy one for the player as he had to face several incidents of racism.
The support he received from his mother Shameem and father Asif – a former Scottish taekwondo champion, were key in his development as a confident sportsman.
He said, “I’m lucky to have the parents I do – they’re always pushing me. They spent so much time taking me to training, standing in the rain and the snow pushing me to be the best I can be.
“I’ve had a few negative experiences and the way I’ve always felt is that I’ve had to work harder than the average person to be recognised. Being an Asian boy, it’s seemed like I’ve had to be two or three times better to look special.
“I know I’ve not reached the top yet but it does make me proud that I’m on my way and can be someone for other kids from my community to look to.
“I’ve experienced racism a couple of times on the pitch. There was one instance in an under- 16 game where a player made a racist comment to me. The referee heard it and the player ended up being banned for six months.
“Some people might have taken that sort of thing to heart but I just use it as fuel to get better. He’d only reacted like that because I’d got the better of him. He was the goalkeeper and I’d scored twice.
“I was angry at the time, obviously, but I know it’s better to control my anger and respond in the right way – which I did because I went on to complete my hat-trick.”
Mohammed with his mother Shameem and father Asif (Image by EdinburghLive)
Mohammed aims to build a successful career in football and make a mark for himself in senior levels, where not many Asians in Scotland have managed to even reach, owing to several complex factors.
He continues, “I just want to be the best I can be.
“Obviously my dream is to make it to the Premier League and to play for Scotland and score lots of goals. I’ve always loved Ronaldo – you can tell he’s such a hard worker and I’m all for that. It’s the example I try to follow.”
According to EdinburghLive, the reasons behind Scottish South Asian football players being unable to make progress can be attributed to several issues which include – cultural differences, racism and discrimination, pressure to focus on studies rather than sports, etc.
But when it comes the James Gillespie’s High School pupil, the story is very different as he has immense support from his parents.
His mother, Shameem said, “I think the issue is that a lot of Asian families have this perception their children won’t make it as a footballer. As a young Asian, who is going to give them a chance? They think it’s better their kids put their efforts into their studies.
“I can understand why a lot of mums and dads feel like that. You could put so much effort into football and but there are no guarantees in this sport.
“But Asif and I saw it differently. We decided to push Rayan as much as we could because this is his dream. We have to support him. He can return to his education at any time but realistically, this is his one shot at football so why not give it a go?
“Rayan works so hard, sacrifices so much, like time with his friends. He even puts his school work to one side – maybe a little too much for our liking!
“But the teachers know how committed he is. He wants to be a role model for Asian boys.”
After witnessing Mohammed’s talent when he was picked up by Alloa last summer, he has been fast-tracked to Brian Rice’s first-team. Mohammed adds, “It’s been great working with such an experienced coach. It’s amazing.”
“I’m so grateful that the gaffer put his trust in me and gave me the chance to play first-team football.
“He’s said hopefully I’ll stay involved with the matchday squad going forward and we can just take it from there.”