Anwar Uddin has been awarded an MBE for services to association football in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, becoming the first British South Asian current or former player ever to be bestowed with the honour.
This year’s honours coincide with four days of national celebration to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne, and FA Council member Uddin is one of just four football personalities to receive an MBE – alongside Wales captain Gareth Bale, Liverpool midfielder James Milner and ex-Scotland international goalkeeper Alan Rough. Uddin’s former West Ham academy team-mate Rio Ferdinand has been made an OBE.
Fans for Diversity campaign chief Uddin is the first British-Bangladeshi player in English football history and joins an illustrious list of previous recipients, including every member of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad, and current England men’s and women’s internationals such as Jordan Henderson, Steph Houghton, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling.
Uddin, who Sky Sports News exclusively revealed was set for a historic appointment as England C assistant manager, is one of very few players in modern times to emerge from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and famously captained West Ham to FA Youth Cup glory in 1999 before signing Premier League terms with the club.
After a short stint at Sheffield Wednesday, the former centre-back went on to play for Bristol Rovers before returning closer to London to join Dagenham and Redbridge in 2004 where he made more than 200 appearances across six seasons.
Uddin became the first British South Asian to captain a league side during his time with Dagenham & Redbridge, and also became the first British South Asian to lift a trophy under the arch at Wembley Stadium when the Daggers clinched promotion to League One with a 3-2 win over Rotherham in the 2010 League Two play-off final.
The ex-defender reunited with former boss John Still at Barnet that summer, before stepping up to become interim assistant manager to Giuliano Grazioli when Still left, making him the first English Football League coach from Britain’s South Asian community.
Uddin, whose father hails from Sylhet in Bangladesh, had spells at Sutton United and Eastbourne Borough and managed non-League sides Sporting Bengal United and Ware after hanging up his boots.
He spent two-and-a-half years as assistant to Danny Searle at Aldershot before reuniting with another of his former managers at Barnet, Paul Fairclough, for the England C team’s recent friendly with Wales.
Uddin brought in three South Asian heritage coaches to support the team for the away fixture, creating one of the most diverse dugouts in England’s international football history.
Uddin combines football commitments with managing the Fans for Diversity campaign, a jointly-funded initiative between the Football Supporters’ Association and Kick It Out promoting diversity and inclusion in football. He has helped create around 200 diverse supporters’ groups across the country, including more than 70 for LGBT+ fans and allies.
East Londoner Uddin has also worked with the Show Racism the Red Card charity and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), and has publicly backed Sky Sports’ transformative work to raise awareness and change the narrative around British South Asians in football, which has since been built on through a partnership with the country’s largest sports race equality charity Sporting Equals.
He is currently helping the Premier League shape their strategy following the historic launch of the league’s very first South Asian Action Plan alongside Kick It Out, to help address the under-representation of British South Asian footballers within the Academy system.
British South Asians are the largest single ethnic minority group in the country yet the community has been massively under-represented in the professional game for decades, with Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari describing it to Sky Sports News as the biggest statistical anomaly in football.
The latest available PFA data shows less than 0.5 per cent of all professional footballers in English professional football are from a South Asian background despite healthy participation rates across the country.
British South Asians in Football
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