A grassroots football tournament conceived by two young British Indian professionals and footie enthusiasts in their early twenties has gone from strength to strength since its launch last year.
The Indian Football Tournament, made up of 24 teams, attracted overwhelming support from the local community in west London – where it was born – and beyond. It also raised over £3,000 for its chosen initiative, the mental health charity MIND, in keeping with the core theme of promoting football and mental health awareness within South Asian communities in Britain.
Here, one of the co-founders of the tournament, marketing analyst Nikhil Vadhera, tells iGlobal all about this unique sporting drive in the wake of another successful tournament on June 24.
How was the idea of the Indian Football Tournament born?
Growing up as an Indian in a heavily populated South Asian area like Hounslow, me and my good friend (financial advisor) Akash Patel realised the lack of opportunity for footballers from our background in terms of progressing towards professional football.
The consistent production of South Asian talent without recognition led Akash and I to start this tournament as a means of providing a platform for South Asian heritage footballers in the UK to showcase their potential.
In addition to shedding light on South Asian grassroots football, something else which was widely neglected growing up in my community was and is mental health. Studies show that two-thirds of people of South Asian heritage living in England experience mental health problems, which go widely unnoticed. Hence, we decided to raise money for MIND. Both causes go hand in hand with each other with the Indian Football Tournament.
Please share some highlights of your most recent tournament, the second since inception.
It was a great day, we had 400 people in attendance in the form of players, spectators and volunteers. We raised in excess of £3,000 and the local MP, (Labour’s) Seema Malhotra, attended and delivered a few words of encouragement.
The Leader of Hounslow Council, Shantanu Rajawat, also enjoyed a day of great sport and reflected upon the contributions British Indians are making within the community. We also had a resident DJ playing tunes all day!
Please share some insights around the format and the charity associated with the tournament.
We had 24 teams across four groups and the games are played in a seven-a-side format. The group stages are followed by straight knockout and all refereed by official FA referees – identical to the FIFA World Cup format. And, we have four official FA refs referee the games.
A range of players joined in, from casual footballers who play once a week with friends to seriously competitive players who play semi-pro football at a very high level. Despite the diverse range in ability, the tournament is still played at a high level of football and in good spirits.
As an added bonus, we raised over £3,000 for MIND through team submissions, donations and sales proceeds on the day as a result of food and drinks being donated by local businesses: Prince of Wales pub (soft drinks), Farm Pizza (pizzas), Mohan’s Catering (Indian food), coupled with Right at Home providing care in the community.
The 2023 tournament had the following awards:
· Referee medals x4
· Winning teams medals x10
· Winning team trophy x1
· Top goal scorer trophy x1
Essentially, our two main messages are:
Don’t overlook South Asian footballers because there is some serious talent coming out of this community.
Don’t overlook mental health within the South Asian community as it is something which a lot people suffer from but there’s no easy fix, which is where charities such as MIND step in.
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What’s in store for 2024?
After the success of the inaugural tournaments, we are planning to make this an annual event that is bigger and better each year, in the hope of raising more and more money for charity whilst shining light on South Asian grassroots football.
We hope to increase the number of teams from 24 to 32 and also introduce a female component to the tournament. So, watch this space!
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