FIFA 21 publisher EA has teamed up with Premier League footballer Hamza Choudhury to release a children’s comic book, aimed at inspiring the next generation of British Asian footballers.
The book is titled Hamza: My Story, and is being published in association with the new Midnight Ramadan League, a grass-roots competition in which matches take place during Ramadan after the evening meal of Iftar and late-night prayers. It will be distributed to schools with links to existing 'Premier League Primary Stars' and 'Show Racism the Red Card' campaigns. In-game items representing the league, such as an Ultimate Team kit, have also been released for FIFA 21.
The comic can immediately be viewed online, via the official EA website (opens in new tab).
Choudhury was raised in a traditional Bengali Muslim family, and is the only British Asian currently featuring regularly at Premier League level. (Aston Villa's Neil Taylor has just one league appearance this term.) Indeed, research from 2020 shows that of the UK’s 4,000 professional footballers, just 10 were British Asian (0.25%) – despite British Asians making-up 9.7% of the population who play football in the UK recreationally.
The Leicester midfielder’s collaborators on the project include illustrator Raj Dhunna and sports writer Vithushan Ehantharajah.
Today is the launch of a new @EASPORTSFIFA campaign fronted by @HamzaChoudhury1 to inspire the next generation of British Asian footballers.Over the last month, I've been working on a comic book with Hamza on his Bengali heritage & journey so far, illustrated by @rajkdhunna pic.twitter.com/RMW9KrXSfEApril 23, 2021
“I was contacted by a friend who used to work at FourFourTwo and recommended me,” says Ehantharajah of his involvement. “From what I understand, it was something EA were lining up with Hamza, as part of a campaign in unison with Channel 4 around British South Asians in football. Part of that meant they wanted representatives from that community to form the project, which I suppose is where Raj and I come in. Though Raj has been making serious moves for a while!”
The concept resonated strongly with Ehantharajah. “My parents are from Sri Lanka and moved to the UK during the civil war. I was born in London in 1986,” he says. “My dad has always been a huge football fan. He supports Liverpool and captained his university team in Sri Lanka.”
“Dad encouraged us to play, but was always slightly wary about pushing us too much into it,” he continues. “He’d had a couple of bad experiences around football when he came to the UK. Because of that, he’d never take us to watch games though would make up for that by playing with us every weekend in the park. We still all meet up - I have a younger brother - to watch the odd big game at home. And now my brother and I take it upon ourselves to take him to games which is pretty cool."
"Being yourself is important in life and football," says Choudhury in the book's foreword. "It was a lesson taught to me growing up: to love who you are and what you do. Without embracing my heritage, my skin and even my hair, I would not be the person or the footballer I am today. This is my story so far.”
On the video game front, Choudhury was one of more than 50 players upgraded during this year's FIFA 21 FUT Birthday campaign.