Just a stone’s throw away from the old Millmoor Stadium, a community football club has been making great strides in resurrecting the sport in the area, with a specific focus on BME players.
United 4 Community FC was setup three years ago to allow prospective Asian football players the chance to get involved with football and with up to 40 players training every week, it’s fair to say the club has become a success.
Created off the back of research conducted between 2009 and 2010, the Rotherham-based club has already become an important hub for prospective Asian footballers in the local area.
Players travel from surrounding areas such as Eastwood, Ferham, and Masbrough and represent a wide demographic from Pakistani to Slovak, and Afghani to Yemeni.
An under 16 setup was even launched last year to move players from grassroots to club participation level.
The team currently competes in the Sheffield and District league Division F, in what is the first of many competitive teams which will hopefully take-off in the near future.
Team manager and one of the founders of the club, Nathan Carlin, has been delighted with the side’s performances so far this season, despite a ‘tricky start’ to 11-aside competition.
“I am really enjoying it and so are all the lads,” he explained. “Initially, when we first launched, there wasn’t a bug rush to get involved because a lot of the players have never actually played 11-aside at a competitive level.
“We have a big range of abilities in the squad but everybody really enjoys taking part in the games and training and it is great to see them improving every week.”
Mark Cummins, inclusion officer at Rotherham United Community Sport Trust, added that the football club is actually more than just a sports team and serves a valued role in the local community.
He said: “United 4 Community is more than a club; it is a vehicle for a much wider project.
“The players we have training with us also have the chance to attend youth clubs on Thursday night instead of just standing around on the streets.
“Likewise, we have held classes to teach them about the right lifestyles for professional athletes and to educate them in a way which is not only informative but also interesting.”
Players training with the team often come from working-class backgrounds and may struggle to pay for necessities in the sport such as travelling to games and kits.
United 4 Community FC therefore provides free travel to all its players for away games whilst the kits were kindly donated by local Rotherham Councillors.
A truly community club, based in one of the most deprived areas of Rotherham, United 4 Community pride themselves on their inclusive player policy. Zanib Rasool, Community Manager at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust, believes this approach has not only proved beneficial for the players but also for the whole community.
She said: “The club has gone a long way to tackling the barriers that were highlighted in our 2011 short film titles ‘They play cricket don’t they?’.
“It looked at issues faced by British Asians in grassroots and professional football, such as racism and cultural problems, yet United 4 Community is working hard to eradicate these issues.”