Opinion: Dilan Markanday – The shining light for many on a dull day for Spurs

Dilan Markanday
Alex Pantling / Getty Images - Tottenham Hotspur via Getty Images - Paul Harding via Getty Images

Few will remember Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat to Vitesse Arnhem with any fondness after the woeful display last night. Yet it proved to be the stage for a moment far more important than the game itself, the debut of young Dilan Markanday.

With a bench full of academy starlets, Markanday was the only player Nuno felt as though he could trust to head onto the field of play and change the game, which is a statement in itself.

The youngster was given around 15 minutes on the pitch alongside the likes of Dele Alli, Giovani Lo Celso and Harry Winks.

A few moments into his debut, Markanday dropped the shoulder and spun his Vitesse marker to burst in behind, something Tottenham had been lacking for the 70 minutes previous.

However, Markanday’s debut goes far beyond the start of his own career, as he made history as the first-ever British Asian to play for the Tottenham first-team.

In fact, in October 2017, the BBC reported that only 10 of the 3,000 professional footballers in England were British Asian and, in 2019, Daniel Kilvington suggested there were 10 British Asian players out of 4,000.

In 2011, approximately 7.5% of the population in England was of Asian descent, meaning the number of footballers within a group of 4,000 should have been more like 300.

British professional Roger Verdi had to move to the United States for his footballing career due to racism experienced in the UK during his youth days in the 1960s and 70s.

The first British Asian player to feature in the Premiership was Jimmy Carter in 1991, although he chose not to disclose his heritage at the time.

In the Premier League, the first two professional players were Neil Taylor and Yan Dhanda, while the FA promised plans to encourage a better pathway for British Asian players in 2013.

More recently, we have seen Hamza Choudhury make his debut for Leicester in 2017, becoming the Premier League’s first player of Bangladeshi descent, while he also later became the first to score in the Europa League.

In 2019, Adil Nabi revealed he wanted to inspire the next generation of British Asians, just as the likes of Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis had done for black footballers.

Despite India being the seventh-largest country in the world with a population of over one billion, you can count the number of players of Indian descent in the top four English leagues on two hands.

In fact, statistics showed two years ago that there were still just 12 South Asian heritage players in the Premier League and Football League.

So, Dilan Markanday’s debut for a club of Tottenham’s size is far more than a 15-minute cameo in the Europa League. It is both a small step in the right direction for British-Asian representation, as well as a reminder of how much work there still is to be done.

As for Markanday’s performances this season, the 20-year-old was certainly deserving of his chance in the spotlight too, having recorded an impressive six goals and two assists in seven Premier League 2 games this season.

Markanday has also played two and assisted two in the EFL Trophy, now adding a European cap to his increasingly impressive young resume.

The improvement, even in the space of a year, has been staggering for the Barnet-born attacker, having recorded three goals and three assists in 20 games last season.

Alok Badri, Chairman of India Spurs had this to say on Dilan’s debut:

“Dilan Markanday made his debut for Spurs yesterday at the 75th minute. It was 11:45 PM in India on a weekday. I was almost going to sleep looking at the way the game was going but the substitution got me wide awake again!

“Although Dilan is a British citizen, it was a matter of pride for all the Spurs fans in India and also Indian Spurs fans in the UK that a player of Indian descent had made his debut for our beloved Spurs.

“What this debut means for us is that it opens a few more doors for our players. It allows us to dream. Indian football has been struggling over the last few years. The infrastructure isn’t too great and the opportunities for the players to abroad were minimal.

“I hope Dilan can help this situation to change in India. And for the fans, we finally have ‘one of our own’ to cheer for. Dilan’s debut will definitely bring more fans for Spurs in India.

“The Premier League is the most-watched football league in India. Spurs fans have increased dramatically in the last few years but having an Indian star playing for Spurs will help more new, younger football followers connect better with Spurs. I already saw many rival fans in India appreciating Dilan’s debut.

“Spurs’ reach and following in India is about to increase by a considerable margin. We as India Spurs fans have been waiting for this moment. Now we wait for his first goal in the lilywhite shirt. COYS.”

And Alok was not alone in his thoughts. Just take a look at what his debut in the Lilywhite of Tottenham meant to Indian and British Asian fans around the world:

Chandni Sembhi (24): “As a British Asian Spurs fan, it means a lot to me to be able to see myself represented in the team I love and support. I can’t wait to see Dilan succeed at Tottenham and am excited to see him play a lot more.”

Yashodhan Sharma (18): “As an Indian, it’s actually a great inspiration to see someone of Indian origin represent such a big club at such young age too. Also, I hope more Indians start supporting spurs because it gets lonely here.”

Sneha Ashan (17): “Dilan making his debut is something that I think all Indian Spurs fans awaited for a long time more than others for obvious reasons and because you’d always hear how good he is doing in the academy so it’s a pretty amazing feeling to see someone who has nearly the same background as us and achieving what he did last night by becoming the first British-Asian to play for spurs, a club we adore and support with all our heart. I personally know so many Indian Spurs fans and I could see how much it meant for them and me personally, it’s only going to grow much more when he’s an even more experienced player and we are all really excited to see him develop as a player for us.”

Harigovind K (20): “As an Indian, I have never met another Spurs supporter in my life. Or even heard of an Indian footballer in the top flight. Everyone is surprised when they hear I support Spurs. Even though he reps England, it did feel amazing when he made his debut yesterday.”

Dr. Ashwin Rajenesh (34): “First of all, it’s great to see Dilan breaking into the first team. Brought great energy and eager intent to play, confidence on the ball out on the right, desire to take people on with sure-footedness on the dribble. Definitely one to look out for in the future and can hope for more first-team action in cups not too far. Absolutely always glad to see diversity. Homegrown minority community representation as well as pride back here in India to see “one of our own” in first-team action.”

Name Kalyan Sri (21): “Waiting for a long time for this moment as an Indian. The only moment from yesterday match that made me jump out of my seat was when I saw him at the touchline to come in. Don’t know why but it’s so exciting.”

Crishna Divekar (18): “As an Indian spurs fan, I’m really proud to see him play for my club. Great potential and I expect him to be a regular in the future. If he’s successful with spurs, the number of Indian spurs fans could increase massively.”

Atharv Singh (19): “Very proud to actually see how far we as Indians have come in terms of global representation. Dilan Markanday may actually open the door for other South Asians to be able to achieve their football dream (hopefully).”

Sanjit (47): “Lived all my life in London, and dreamt of an Indian making it at the top level of UK footy. To see an Indian breakthrough at Spurs is such a significant moment. Obv, a long way to go – but gives us hope that we can have representation at the top level of football.”

Protiti (26): “Immensely proud, and that’s probably an understatement. He’s the first footballer of Indian descent I’ve seen play top-flight football in my lifetime. Seeing Sonny represent Asians so well has always made me immensely proud, but Dilan just hits home harder. Hope he smashes it!”

Sarang Thuse (16): “This thing about Dilan Markandey is quite overwhelming for an Indian Spurs fan. It does mean so much and I think *IF* this man can make it big then it would be a huge thing for Indian football. Football in India just needs proper backing and proper training at the grassroot levels.”

Manoj Praveen: “Being an Indian and seeing Dilan making his debut was one of the greatest moments in my time supporting Spurs. Hopes he makes it at Tottenham!”

Gobinder Gill (46): “It’s an amazing feat but to think how long it’s taken highlights many things not just with Tottenham but football as a whole in what is a very huge multi-cultural/ethnicity country.”

Harsh Mishra (24): “Every single Indian Spurs fan had been waiting for this very moment. Dilan Markanday finally making his first-team debut means a lot after the form that he has shown this season for the U23s. It means even more to all the Indian Spurs fans, as he is truly One of Our Own. Hopefully, yesterday’s result doesn’t de-rail his progress and he continues to get chances for the first team, to show his calibre and continue to proudly represent his Indian heritage at the first-team level.”

@pshp64: “Indians have long been overlooked in professional sports outside of India even though the diaspora is so vast. It is so exciting to finally see someone like Dilan Markanday representing on such a high profile level, and especially for Spurs!”

Joseph George (34): “We were eagerly waiting for his debut since he gave us an interview last season during FA Cup. It clearly showed that our club also rates him very high. I would prefer him to go out on loan to gain more first-team experience so that he becomes a household name. It will help him to establish himself at Spurs as well. Indians are really happy and excited to see that a player of Indian origin got a chance to play for our favourite club. Hope he makes a big impact at Spurs, so that we get a football icon to look forward to. Also, there is a misconception that our genetics aren’t suitable to make a pro footballer. Dilan’s debut shows that it is possible for an Indian to pursue his football dreams.”

With plenty more Europa Conference League football to come, as well as the early rounds of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, and even chances to cameo in the Premier League, the future is bright for Markanday.

Hopefully, in a few years time, we will be able to say the same thing about the future of British Asian and Indian representation in English football, but a lot of work still needs to be done.

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