The Reds winger was nominated for the ‘Inspiration’ award after setting a positive example in the local community and becoming a role model for Asian youngsters who want to break into the game. Although he missed out on winning, the engineering student felt honoured to be involved: “I didn’t feel disheartened because the night was a big experience for me. I am very fortunate and happy to have been nominated in the first place.”
Akeel also discussed advice he would give to young people from ethnic minorities wanting to break into football, having been discriminated against in the past:
“In my early years I felt my ethnicity was the reason people may have doubted my ability because there aren’t many Asians involved in football,” he explained. “Once I proved I had the ability, I was performing really well despite also being hearing impaired. This didn’t faze any of my team-mates or the opposition. All I can say to youngsters is never give up and play to the best of your ability. Regardless of where you’re from or however you may have a disadvantage, don’t let that stop you from achieving your dreams.”
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Kick it Out, a national initiative which promotes equality and inclusion in football, and tomorrow’s fixture against Stoke City is Manchester United’s dedicated Kick it Out match for this season.
The United players will wear anti-racism t-shirts during the pre-match warm-ups, whilst Club personnel and coaching staff will wear official Kick it Out badges.
United goalkeeper David De Gea is also backing the campaign by becoming United’s official Kick it Out ambassador for the 2013/14 season. On taking on the role he commented, “There is no place for discrimination of any kind, not on a football pitch and not in our daily lives. Football brings people together, there should be no divisions and we need to educate those who do not see it that way.”