Wales opening doors to diverse communities ahead of Armenia fixture
Female football supporters from Wales’ South Asian communities will watch the national team play for the first time on Friday through a new initiative designed to create a more diverse fan base.
The sold-out signs are set to go up for Wales’ Euro 2024 qualifier with Armenia at the Cardiff City Stadium with Rob Page’s side hoping to take another step towards next summer’s finals in Germany.
Among the 33,000-plus capacity crowd will be women benefiting from a partnership between Her Game Too Cymru, Amar Cymru – the group launched in 2020 to give the South Asian community a voice in the national team – and the Football Association of Wales.
Thirty tickets were made available to women from South Asian communities to attend the game. With the offer oversubscribed, fans that missed out have been invited to a Cardiff restaurant on Monday to watch Wales’ Euro qualifier in Turkey.
Roopa Vyas is a director of Her Game Too, the campaign group run by fans to raise awareness of sexism in sport, and has followed the Wales national team at home and abroad.
“We want to show the Red Wall is the friendliest fan base around,” said Caerphilly-born Vyas, who has a Ugandan father and an Indian mother.
“I have gone to games off my own back but I know the barriers that exist and it not easy for people from Muslim, Hindu, Bengali, Somali and other communities to do that.
“Amar Cymru is a progressive group that want to get female fans to games and they came to me as they knew I went to games and could shine a light on it.
“Hopefully we can go back to the FAW after the game and show them it was successful.”
Shazia Zahoor, born in Cardiff of Pakistani heritage, once played for Dinas Powys Ladies alongside current Wales captain Sophie Ingle and will be among fans experiencing her first international action on Friday.
“I’ve been a football fanatic since I was 13 and wanted to play but the culture did not encourage it,” said Zahoor, who will be joined at the Wales game by her sons Ibrahim, 11, and Zakariya, five.
“Even now I would feel uncomfortable talking to my father about playing football.
“I’m thrilled to be going to a Wales game and taking my two boys. It will be lovely to see other Asian women there because it really is breaking down barriers.”
The FAW want to create a more diverse fan base and has had mascots with South Asian heritage at home games and discussed establishing prayer rooms for fans at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Members of Amar Cymru – which translates to ‘My Wales’ and resonates with the South Indian, Bangladeshi and Punjabi communities – attended a Wales match for the first time in September 2021.
Jalal Goni, the organisation’s founder, says the landscape of Welsh football has changed even in that short time.
“When Amar Cymru started in lockdown it was pre-dominantly made up of males, but Walesbeing at the World Cup changed things,” said Goni.
“Females were saying how we can watch it and we had an event for the USA game at the World Cup that included arts and crafts and other things for the family as well as the football.
“The World Cup opened up the stadium experience for females. We know the older generation in our communities would not support females going to a male dominated event but we are breaking that stigma down.”
Goni, who will be part of a 10-strong Amar Cymru delegation in Turkey as the group attends a stand-alone Wales away fixture for the first time, added: “There is a lot riding on it.
“Female fans will be dressed differently in head scarves and cultural dresses and we hope there will be no negative comments.
“It is a massive step but the FAW have done a tremendous job in reshaping Welsh football, certainly since Euro 2016.
“Attending Wales games has become more of a family experience and we feel we are ready for this.”
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