Cardiff City legend Michael Chopra has hailed Rohan Luthra’s debut as “a brilliant moment” for Britain’s South Asian community.
The emergence of 6ft 5in Punjabi goalkeeper Luthra provided one of the few bright spots for Bluebirds fans last season – with Cardiff, who lost to champions Burnley on the final day, finishing 21st and enduring an underwhelming campaign.
Luthra came off the bench in the latter stages of Cardiff’s loss away at Preston in March, becoming the first goalkeeper to come out of Britain’s South Asian community to play in the Sky Bet Championship.
The 20-year-old had been stepping up his return from injury at the time, and was only on the bench at Deepdale because Cardiff’s regular goalkeeper Ryan Allsop was serving a one-match suspension.
Sky Sports News exclusively revealed back in June 2021 that Luthra was leaving Crystal Palace after a decade at the south London club, before breaking the news the goalkeeper was on his way to Cardiff where he would become the first British South Asian to sign for the team since Chopra more than a decade earlier.
Former Newcastle and Sunderland striker Chopra, who scored 63 goals in 159 appearances for Cardiff, said Luthra is now an inspiration for the next generation of footballers from South Asian backgrounds.
“It was a brilliant moment for the South Asian community when Rohan came on for Cardiff,” Chopra told Sky Sports News.
“Sometimes you only get one chance in life and that is especially true in the football world. Sometimes you only get one chance to make your mark, and if you can’t, people often look elsewhere, especially with the amount of money that’s involved in football now.
“I was very happy to see him get the opportunity, and now everyone wants to see him kick on and build on that.
“It’s great what he is doing. It’s great that people can actually look up to him now, especially other South Asian heritage goalkeepers. He’s proved that it can be done and that South Asians can do it if they get the opportunity.”
Chopra, whose previous clubs also include Ipswich and Blackpool, said he would have loved to have tested himself against Luthra, either in training or on the pitch.
“I spoke to Rohan’s dad when he left Palace, and I also spoke to [my former team-mate at Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters] Graham Stack, who became goalkeeper coach at Cardiff about it,” Chopra said.
“Two South Asian lads going head-to-head together would have been great banter and a great bit of competition! But it’s a great achievement, everybody is really proud of Rohan, and hopefully he can build on it.”
Chopra opened up exclusively to Sky Sports News almost a decade ago about enlisting the support of cricket great Sachin Tendulkar to help him find a way to play for India at international level, with the country not allowing diaspora players to represent the national team.
Sheffield United’s Danny Batth and Ross County’s Yan Dhanda have faced similar frustrations in recent years, but Indian fans were treated to the sight of four British South Asians taking to the pitch at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday night.
Vitoria Guimaraes defender Easah Suliman and Grimsby Town attacking midfielder Otis Khan were among the quartet to start for Pakistan against India at the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship.
The pair, who both recently featured in a first-of-its-kind Team of the Season, were joined on the pitch by former West Brom academy starlet Rahis Nabi and fellow midfielder Harun Hamid, who spent last season at QPR.
India, who are almost 100 places above Pakistan in the FIFA rankings, ran out 4-0 winners with Sunil Chhetri scoring a hat-trick for the hosts.
Pakistan’s next game in the tournament sees them take on Kuwait, with India coming up against Nepal.
FC Utrecht are closing in on signing Manchester United trailblazer Zidane Iqbal on a permanent deal.
Academy graduate Iqbal is set to put pen to paper on a contract with the Eredivisie club, ending his decade-plus long association with United where he has progressed through the age groups.
Iqbal made history in December 2021 when he appeared in the Champions League game against Young Boys to become the first British South Asian to play for Manchester United.
The Manchester-born midfielder, whose mother is Iraqi and father is Pakistani, appeared on United’s bench on seven occasions during the most recent Premier League campaign.
Iqbal recently turned 20 and penned a new United contract last season.
But the Iraq international now looks on course to continue his career in the top division of Dutch football, with his departure from Old Trafford first reported by The Athletic’s David Ornstein.
News of Iqbal’s departure comes less than a week after another leading light from Britain’s South Asian community, Arjan Raikhy, elected to leave Aston Villa.
Raikhy, who is reportedly a transfer target for Wolves and Leicester, shot to prominence with a wonder goal against Chelsea for Villa’s U18s back in November 2020.
The technically-gifted midfielder made his senior first-team debut just two months later in an FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool, described by supporters’ group Punjabi Villans as “incredible”.
Raikhy ended a memorable season by setting up Ben Chrisene’s opener in a 2-1 victory against Liverpool as Villa’s U18s lifted the FA Youth Cup.
The Sikh-Punjabi enjoyed another productive campaign the following season as he earned the distinction of helping two teams – Stockport County and Grimsby Town – get promoted back to the Football League during two separate loan spells.
Despite impressing for Villa during their winter break in Dubai ahead of last year’s World Cup, Raikhy is one of eight players – including Ashley Young and Jed Steer – to have been released ahead of next season.
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