The 2022/23 season has been another breakthrough campaign for British South Asians in football.
Players from the community featured at every level of the women’s football pyramid and across the divisions in the English Football League.
But which players made it into the Team of the Season?
Sky Sports journalist and FA Level 2 scout Dev Trehan sat down with Zohaib Rashid, founder of the Desi Ballers platform, to pick a first-of-its-kind combined XI for the season.
Manchester United youngster Safia Middleton-Patel enjoyed a dream season, penning her first contract as a professional footballer and keeping a clean sheet on her senior international debut for Wales.
The 18-year-old rounded off a memorable campaign by playing in the FA Women’s Championship for both Coventry United and Blackburn Rovers during two separate loan spells.
The 2022/23 season was another solid one for Asmita Ale. The 22-year-old made 17 appearances in all competitions as Spurs finished ninth in the Women’s Super League. Ale was also a regular for England U23s, keeping clean sheets against Italy and Belgium.
Former England youth captain Easah Suliman featured in 16 games for UD Vilafranquense on loan from Portuguese top-flight side Vitoria Guimaraes. Suliman ended the season with his first call-up to the Pakistan national team, whose upcoming fixtures include a trip to India to take on the hosts in the South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF).
Danny Batth underlined his importance to Sunderland by making 40 league appearances for the Black Cats in their run to the Championship play-offs. Batth, who captained Sunderland for large parts of the season, was also recognised by the club’s fanbase with the Supporters’ Player of the Year award.
Mal Benning was a virtual ever-present for Port Vale in their first season in League One since the 2017/18 campaign. Benning, who scored the goal which sealed victory in the League Two play-off final at Wembley last year, registered 39 league appearances for Port Vale, scoring away at Ipswich Town.
Otis Khan made 31 league appearances, helping Grimsby to a top-half finish on their return to League Two. Khan also scored twice during Grimsby’s stunning run to the FA Cup quarter-finals and ended the season with a maiden international call-up for Pakistan, with Khan now set to feature at the SAFF Championship in India.
After just 12 appearances for Leicester City during the 2021/22 campaign, Hamza Choudhury went on loan to Watford in search of regular football. The British-Bangladeshi midfielder was one of Watford’s more consistent performers, making 36 league appearances, with Leicester announcing on Monday that they have extended his contract for a further year.
Millie Chandarana earned her first professional contract in English football at the beginning of the season, repaying the faith shown in her by Blackburn Rovers by appearing in 20 of the club’s 22 FA Women’s Championship games. Chandarana’s strike against Charlton Athletic was also named Rovers’ Goal of the Season.
Yan Dhanda enjoyed a successful first campaign with Ross County, scoring six goals and getting 10 assists in his debut season in Scotland. Dhanda ended the season with three goals and an assist in Ross County’s last four games to help the Staggies preserve their cinch Premiership status.
Mariam Mahmood ended her first full season in women’s football as West Bromwich Albion’s top goalscorer. Mahmood enjoyed a purple patch, scoring in seven consecutive games, before going on to feature in a first-of-its-kind exhibition, documenting the history of South Asian heritage female players in th modern English game.
Kira Rai enjoyed the best season of her career so far with five league goals and double-digit assists for Derby County. Rai ended the campaign in style by winning a penalty, getting an assist, scoring two and landing Player of the Match in Derby County’s 5-0 final-day demolition of West Brom.
Cardiff stopper Rohan Luthra is in the squad after making history against Preston in March, coming on for his senior debut in English football and becoming the first goalkeeper ever to come out of Britain’s South Asian community and play in the Sky Bet Championship.
Sai Sachdev is included after continuing his progress at newly-promoted Sheffield United by signing professional terms and making his senior debut. Aaron Drewe is also in after making his Championship debut and starting seven league games at QPR, with Birmingham City Women’s trailblazer Layla Banaras earning a spot after becoming the first South Asian heritage player to feature for the team in the modern era.
Midfielder Ronan Maher made his debut during the 2022/23 season, aged just 17, going on to make 10 appearances for Walsall and playing twice for the Republic of Ireland’s U19s. He features alongside Arjan Raikhy and Zidane Iqbal, who impressed in Dubai during the winter break for Aston Villa and Manchester United, respectively.
Aqsa Mushtaq secures a place after her first taste of elite football in England, returning from Europe to play for Lewes in the FA Women’s Championship. Mushtaq is joined by Simran Jhamat, who made 24 appearances across all competitions for Coventry United.
Dilan Markanday makes the cut after playing in the Championship and scoring twice in the Carabao Cup for Blackburn Rovers, before a loan at Aberdeen where he helped them finish third and secure a Europa League play-off.
Sri Lanka international Dillon De Silva is included after impressing across 21 matches at Torquay United on loan from QPR. Kiban Rai is also in after making four senior appearances for Newport County, including making his full league debut on the last day of the season against Crewe.
Doncaster Rovers Belles star Nadia Khan earns a spot after a season in which she became the first Pakistani woman ever to score four goals in an international match. London Seaward’s Zahmena Malik joins her after assisting the winner on her international debut, before later netting Pakistan’s first goal in women’s Olympic qualifying history.
Adil Nabi’s season is yet to finish. The former England U17 international completes the squad and has so far made 13 appearances at Athens Kallithea in Greece.
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