After creating history by becoming the first British Asian to play a first-team game for Tottenham Hotspur, it is little surprise that Dilan Markanday is dreaming big.
Markanday, born in Barnet to Indian parents, broke new boundaries when he came on as a substitute in Spurs’ Europa Conference League game against Vitesse Arnhem last month.
His achievement has rightly been celebrated as a significant moment for the player, the club and the community, but the 20-year-old, who has been nominated for the Premier League 2 player of the month for October, does not want to stop there.
He is dreaming of a one-club career at his beloved Tottenham, who he joined as an 11-year-old, while also hoping to act as a pioneer for other people to follow in his footsteps.
“It was a proud moment being the first British Asian, it is obviously great,” he said. “I hope more and more come through and I am the first of many. I hope that lots of British Asians make that step, believe in themselves, back themselves and can come through and show what they can do.
“I hope they all see it and like it and are inspired by it, I hope they keep supporting me, following me and hopefully one of those watching will go on and do it themselves.
“The dream is to play for Tottenham for the next 15 years, playing every game, but obviously I know things might not work out and there are going to be ups and downs. But all I can control is the controllables and things will work out for the best.
“Being around the first team has made me want it even more. It has made me hungry and I want to be in that environment every day for the next 15 years.
“Growing up in north London in Barnet, Tottenham has always been so close to home, I went to a lot of their games when I was younger. It has always been a club that I have massively loved, so to be now part of it and coming through the academy has been a great feeling.”
British Asians are still highly under-represented in the professional game, so Markanday’s emergence can only be a positive catalyst for change.
He got a feel for what might be in store for him in terms of a raised profile after chatting on Zoom with members of some of Tottenham’s official supporters clubs in India, who congratulated him on making his debut.
While the winger, who cites Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Arjen Robben and Riyad Mahrez as his idols, is keen to inspire others, he does not want to put pressure on himself to be a flag-bearer.
“I have been aware of it on social media, people supporting me, following me and following my journey,” he said.
“I try not to let it affect my football, I try not to put pressure on myself to think I have to do it for other people. I am doing it for myself and along the way I hope to inspire other people that anything is possible.
“I have always been aware that the numbers haven’t been as much as anyone wanted them to be, but it is all about believing in yourself.
“All my family have been so supportive of me, taking that step, leaving school and trying to do football full-time.
“They have always supported me. Of course there are always going to be people who doubt you and say you shouldn’t have done that, but it is all about me and believing in myself and hopefully I can prove anyone who has doubted me wrong and I can keep going.”
It may have been an historic journey for Markanday from youth teams at AFC Finchley all the way through to European competition for Spurs, but he insists it has not been more challenging for him than any of his team-mates.
“I don’t think it has been harder or easier,” he said. “I have been at school while doing football, I have always taken school seriously and then leaving school I have done football full-time.
“It is all fair around here – there is no discrimination because you are Asian or any other race. It is all about football, how good you are, backing yourself, showing what you can do and trying to be the best that you can be.”
Markanday, who cites Scott Parker and Ryan Mason as key influences during his time in the Spurs academy, is part of a group set up and run by the Professional Footballers’ Association to help fellow British Asians of all ages make their way in the game.
He said: “There is a PFA group which is great for all the British Asians at the various clubs. We come together and talk about our experiences with younger kids and show them that they can do it, if they put their mind to it and show what they can do.
“It is great just to hear the stories of others, how they grew up, what they have been through, the ups and downs and just sharing your experiences for all the players, the younger players and even the parents, just to learn what they go through.”
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