Mohammed Bhana is on a mission – to find out why so many British Asians support Liverpool Football Club.
The lifelong Red has spent the last year researching and writing a book on the subject. The Asian Liverbird, which was commissioned by the club after an approach by Bhana, explores how immigrants from Asia came to choose LFC upon arriving in England in the Sixties and Seventies – and why, generations later, their children and grandchildren are still wearing red. "LFC has been entrenched in Asian households since the 1960s," says the author. "But the question of why is incredibly across the board." Bhana's search for answers took him first to Melwood, where he spoke to stars such as Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Nabil El Zhar. Next he conducted a raft of interviews with Asian fans and journalists, each of whom gave their account of why Liverpool is in the blood. Each story is as colourful as it is different, yet one name is present throughout – Bill Shankly. "It's the Shankly way," explains Bhana, who spoke to the great Sir Tom Finney about our legendary manager. "He had this great family-orientated take on life. "It wasn't just what he did for Liverpool on the pitch. You hear about him giving tickets to fans and helping get young kids on the straight and narrow. "As a kid I could really relate to the great man and I still do. His magic will never fade." This view is shared by one of our most recognisable ethnic fans, Mohammed Amin Loonat, whose face appeared in every tabloid newspaper after he invaded the pitch to kiss Stan Collymore during the striker's goalscoring debut back in 1995.
"Shankly didn't care about the colour of your skin, or what your name was, he just wanted the club to conquer the whole world," says Amin. "He made the Kop believe that they were part of the club, and rightly so – we are all one. People all over the world wanted a piece of this club." If Shanks planted the seeds of our incredible ethnic fanbase, another Kop icon ensured they blossomed throughout the modern era – John Barnes. "He was the first high-profile black player at the club," says Bhana. "Asians didn't have a great role model in football at the time, so they took to Barnes - a man of colour who destroyed defences week in, week out. "Asian fans came to Anfield in their droves because of him. It certainly helped the club create an affinity with this fanbase." The legacy of Shankly and Barnes can be seen in Asian communities up and down the country. Take Bhana's home town of Batley, for instance. About 70 miles east of Anfield, this old mill town has, on the face of it, little in common with the bright, Capital of Culture-funded lights of Liverpool. But sit down on a bench outside Batley Town Hall and you won't have to wait long to see a Liverbird sitting proudly on someone's chest.
Liverpool shirts are au couture in this part of Yorkshire, where 30 per cent of the population is Asian. Journalist Nazia Mogra, who covered the launch of The Asian Liverbird for BBC Radio Manchester, thinks it is a generational thing. "When the first generations of Asian kids grew up, Liverpool were the best team," she explains. "You see a lot of people wearing Liverpool shirts in places like Preston, Manchester, London, and Batley. "It has come through the generations. In the Asian community, a lot of things are passed down, and supporting Liverpool is one of them." And it's not just in England where the Kop legend is passed on.
Bhana explains: "You cannot discount the impact second and third generation Asians have had on relatives in Asia and the Middle East, who are joining the trend of supporting Liverpool FC. "Nowadays you hear about relatives in those countries wearing Liverpool tops and watching games. Little did Liverpool Football Club realise that the brand is revered all over Asia with a tremendous increase in fans as far as Gujarat and Bombay. "My parents returned from a holiday in India recently and they could not believe how many Liverpool fans there were over there. They even saw a Liverpool FC shop in one of the biggest cities in India. No other club can boast such a fanbase or has given so much back to the supporters." One man who has witnessed this growth first hand is two-times European Cup winner Phil Thompson. The Scouser visited Asia in his playing heyday before returning two decades later as assistant to Gerard Houllier. "The way Liverpool Football Club has grown in Asia and the Asian community is unbelievable," says Thommo. "I saw it as a player and it was great then. But I went back twice as assistant manager and it was astonishing – the kind of thing you have to see to believe. "Growing up as a lad in Kirkby, I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that Liverpool would go on to be this global phenomenon. I didn't know we had supporters outside the city. "It just goes to show what Shanks started all those years ago. Of course, he would have said he predicted it! "Club like AC Milan and Bayern Munich can say what they like but they have nowhere near the level of worldwide support Liverpool have, and these fans live and breathe the club just as much as lads from Kirkby and Anfield."
The Reds' global appeal has only increased since Thompson left the backroom staff in 2004, not least because of the miracle that was Istanbul. The Asian market is one the club is keen to tap into, an example of which is the launch of a Chinese version of the Official LFC Magazine in Hong Kong. Back home, the club is taking a palpable lead in commissioning a book specific to our British Asian fans. London Evening Standard journalist Amar Singh believes its 220 pages could have a real impact. "This book is a big step forward," he says. "It has already made a real impact. At the launch of the book, Ian Rush, Phil Thompson and Mohammed signed copies for fans from various backgrounds. It was just unbelievable. "I see more and more Asian Liverpool fans each time I go. I recently traveled up to Anfield in a coach with about 50 mainly Asian fans. It was a great feeling. "British Asians will make their mark in British football and it's great to see Liverpool Football Club leading the way."
Article sent in by Cisse. Really interesting article. From Liverpool website
South Africa have blooded 71 ODI cricketers since returning from their first major limited-overs outing, the 1992 World Cup. Some brilliant (see Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs), some average (see JP Duminy, Andre Nel) and others downright token (see Vernon Philander, Justin Ontong), but surely none as bad as this bunch of one-shot wonders and the like...
Openers... Andrew Puttick (ODIs: 1; Runs: 0; HS: 0; Ave: 0.00; SR: 0.00)On the back of a match-less tour to Sri Lanka in 2004 with the national team devoid of a crocked Herschelle Gibbs, the Cape Town-based left-hander pandered to the selectors' convenience call a year later and raced to Newlands to replace the injured Boeta Dippenaar.
Thrown in the deep end against a New Zealand attack fronted by Shane Bond, Puttick's day quickly turned to small embarrassment as five balls into his debut knock the Black Caps speedster castled the new recruit for a quacker.
Effectively set up for failure by the team management's selfish need for expediency, the poor bloke was never given another chance to prove his mettle. Adam Bacher (ODIs: 13; Runs: 270; HS: 56; Ave: 20.76; SR: 57.56)Not to suggest nepotism was the reason but South African cricket supremo Ali Bacher's nephew enjoyed an inexplicably extended stay in the ODI set-up. Lean home series against India and Australia resigned him to the international wilderness, before his daft recall some seven years later against England and Zimbabwe, again at home, proved that he still couldn't hack it in the big time.
Last seen scoffing at Kevin Pietersen's captaincy and suggesting Justin Ontong and Vernon Philander are not the future of South African cricket with the Supersport commentary team. Close calls: Gulam Bodi, Gerhardus Liebenberg, Morne van Wyk, Louis Koen. Middle Order... Rudi Steyn (ODIs: 1; Runs: 4; HS: 4; Average: 4.00; SR: 28.57)The mid 90s batting equivalent of Hashim Amla, Steyn should never have been exposed to limited-overs cricket. In a batting order littered with erroneous experimentation (Dave Richardson and Gerhardus Liebenberg opening, Gary Kirsten at five and Hansie Cronje down at seven), he came in at three and struggled against Zimbabwe's Henry Olonga and Heath Streak. In an era when South Africa viewed 230-240 as a formidable total, the debutant was well on his way to doing his bit with a dogged four singles before Streak stopped him dead in his tracks with one of four wickets for the day.
Mike Rindel (ODIs: 22; Runs: 575; HS: 106; Ave: 27.38; SR: 68.66)Having started his time with South Africa in the middle order before being upped to top of the knock, the aggressive left-hander's career slowly but surely petered out as the powers-that-be buckled to the buzz word: pinch-hitter. Such a role had a certain shelf life, one which Rindel was quick to expire. The return from injury of Gary Kirsten and the emergence of Herschelle Gibbs as regular in the starting line-up eventually led to the man in question's permanent axing. Dave Callaghan (ODIs: 29; Runs: 493; HS: 169*; Ave: 25.94; SR: 67.90)Much like Rindel, Justin Kemp's cousin started his international stint in the middle order before the same pinch-hitting gameplan surged him to the top of the order and back down again.
The selectors had to wait 19 outings into his 29-match career for him to truly warrant his pay cheque, as he plundered New Zealand for a 143-ball 169 not out. That hefty knock proved quite the anomaly, given he never pipped 50 in any of his other two dozen ODI innings. All-Rounder... Derek Crookes (ODIs: 32; Runs: 296; HS: 54; Ave: 14.80; SR: 71.84, Wkts: 25; BB: 3/30; Ave: 40.44; Econ: 4.96)In the wake of numerous hopefuls before him (see Nicky Boje, Clive Eksteen, Tim Shaw, etc), Crookes tried his utmost to cement a spot in the side as his nation looked for a permanent spinner.
His exploits with the ball ranged from substandard to dismal and his performances with the bat were much the same. Most notably though, he will be remembered for his 'unknowing' role in the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal. One fine day in Nagpur the little tyke was bizarrely asked to open the bowling for the Proteas, subsequently fetching 69 runs in his 10-over allotment. Little did he know, he was a mere pawn in Cronje's greedy endeavour. Or did he...?
Last seen offering insight, along with Paul Adams, on the Supersport commentary team. Close calls: Pieter Strydom, Corrie van Zyl, Eric Simons. Wicketkeeper... Steve Palframan (ODIs: 7; Runs: 55; HS: 28; Ave: 13.75; SR: 68.75; Catches: 9; Stumpings: 0)When Dave Richardson fractured his left index finger on the eve of the 1996 World Cup, the Border gloveman must have found it hard to stave off anticipant glee and instead feign sympathy. As the country's number two 'keeper, Palframan flew to the subcontinent and quickly tried to blaze a trail for himself with blossoming knocks against New Zealand and England. But not enough time at the crease and a handful of slack stints behind the stumps saw him axed and one MV Boucher climb the pecking order. Close calls: Thandi Tshabalala, Errol Stewart, Nic Pothas. Spinner... Shafiek Abrahams (ODIs: 32; Wkts: 25; BB: 3/30; Ave: 40.44; Econ: 4.96)Believe it or not, the Saffers once sported two spinners in one XI! 4 November 2000 was the 'famous' day as Abrahams and Boje plied their trade in unison, the former evidently proving so ineffective that he was never seen on the big stage again. He still fancied he had something to offer though, and years down the line snapped up a job on the selection panel. And only now are South Africa beginning to boast a semblance of consistency in their spin selection: Johan Botha. Close calls: Dave Rundle, Claude Henderson. Fast bowlers... Henry Williams (ODIs: 7; Wkts: 9; BB: 3/38; Ave: 25.33; Econ: 4.15)
The portly paceman's on-field and off-field antics left a lot to be desired: couldn't bowl, couldn't bat, couldn't field. Along with Gibbs, he fetched a pretty sum for agreeing to go at more than five an over in a 2000 ODI, but copped an injury and only coughed up 11 balls in that match. After the whole saga Williams was rather bitter, moaning "Hansie didn't phone or speak to me, or say sorry. I couldn't understand that he got us into that s*** and then didn't stand up for us." Shame. Victor Mpitsang (ODIs: 2; Wkts: 2; BB: 2/49; Ave: 31.50; Econ: 6.30)Stepping into a the new-ball role long held by the legendary Allan Donald in February 1999, South Africa's youngest ODI cricketer (then 18 years and 314 days) quickly proved expensive despite nabbing two wickets in two balls. Six months later he was given another chance, this time as fourth change(!) and again fetched leather.
He is still trying to emulate Windies great Courtney Walsh's bowling action in domestic cricket and occasionally unleashes his lanky frame on the Free State's basketball courts. Rudi Bryson (ODIs: 7; Wkts: 7; BB: 2/34; Ave: 46.14; Econ: 5.12)
After easing into international cricket with some decent showings against Zimbabwe, the podgy speedster and his zippy action came in for a right pasting at the hands of India and the Aussies. Partnering Shaun Pollock with the new ball as South Africa looked to use Donald with the softer seam, Bryson's final shoddy showing took place in his hometown of Centurion as Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh heaved him all over the show. Close calls: Charl Willoughby, Jon Kent, Garnett Kruger, Steven Jack, Brett Schultz. 12th Man... Martin van Jaarsveld (ODIs: 11; Runs: 124; HS: 45; Ave: 20.66; SR: 73.37)Currently clobbering runs left, right and center for Kent, the lanky 34-year-old failed to fulfill the potential he promised with the Proteas. 11 matches into his disappointing ODI career (seven of which were against whipping boys Zimbabwe or Bangladesh), the chop fell on him for the final time in late 2004. The next year he did what any decent, discarded, self-respecting South African cricketer would do: fly the coop on a Kolpak contract.
Article sent in by S Bhika
JIHAD ABUS VS ALIS
Before we showcase our article and the War tomorow, Just a reminder that the Abus and the Alis go head to head this Staurday. On the blog tomorow there will be a war. Get ready and sharpen your swords.