Leicester City News - Oct '03

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.. Academy Update...Gondal's Goal (07/10/03)

Here's the first in a series of articles looking at some of the youngsters in our Academy.

Usman Gondal...the first British Pakistani to sign for a Prem club? He's been scoring regularly for the U-17s this season, including a good hat-trick the other week, so what do we know about him?

City signed the Derby born youngster in the summer on a 3 year contract and Usman wants to be the first British Pakistani to play in the Prem.

Speaking to the Derby Telegraph earlier this year he said,

"It would be brilliant to be a role model for other British Pakistanis and that's what I'll be working towards over the next few years.

"There aren't any British Pakistanis playing for any of the big clubs at the moment. My role model is Thierry Henry and I definitely try to base my game on his.

"I think the main reason that a lot of British Pakistanis don't make it as footballers is because they don't get enough support off their parents.

"A lot of our culture revolves around education and I think a lot of parents are wary of their children getting too involved in sport.

"Thankfully, I've had loads of support from my family and my dad has been very good, driving me round all over the place."

Gondal has encountered racism on the football field but believes that other British Pakistanis should not be put off by name calling or abuse.

"I've had plenty of racism in the past but I just ignore it and don't retaliate," he added.

"It's usually from opposition players but it's just their way of trying to wind me up.

"I was slightly worried that some of the clubs my be a bit racist but, so far, I haven't found that at all."

Gondal was snapped up by Leicester after he scored in a trial match for their under-19 side against Watford. Before that, he also had a spell at Nottingham Forest.

"My PE teacher at Derby Moor, Richard Williams, has got a few contacts and put me in touch with Nottingham Forest," said Gondal, who started his GCSE exams this month.

"They took me on trial and I was there for about six or seven weeks.

"I scored hat-tricks in both of my first two matches and got 13 goals in seven games overall.

"Unfortunately, I suffered a knee injury and was out for about two months.

"When I recovered, I scored two goals against Leeds United but Forest still wouldn't offer me a proper contract.

"Leicester came in for me and, after I scored for the under-19s against Watford, they offered me terms.

"I've already met Micky Adams and Dave Bassett and had a brief chat with them. I've also met quite a few of the players because I played for the Academy against the reserve side in training.

"They all seem really nice people and I have received a lot of encouragement"

Director of Leicester's Academy, Jon Rudkin, said,

"Usman is a good size, has a good turn of pace and can score goals.

"He's shown some good potential but, like all players his age, he is a long way from being the finished article.

"We have offered him a three-year scholarship, which means that, all being well, he will definitely be with us for two years before his position is reviewed.

"For the first two years, he will spend a day-and-a-half at college to keep up with his education and will spend the rest of his time at the football club.

"If we decide to keep him on for a third year, he will become a full-time footballer.

"Next season, Usman will be playing predominantly for our under-17 team and he might also play a few matches for our under-19s.

"Youth development is becoming increasingly important at the moment, with the current financial climate in football, and clubs are very keen to bring through their own players.

"Our ultimate aim for lads such as Usman is to give them every possible chance of one day playing for the first team."

"There are more and more players emerging from the ethnic communities and, in the future, I think we're going to see a lot more players from these backgrounds," he said.

"To be honest, we are not too bothered where our players are from but we have developed some good links with the ethnic clubs in the area.

"It is now a case of convincing some people from these backgrounds that football is a potential career and there is an education available to youngsters who join our club."

Check out more Academy news at www.lcfcacademy.vze.com

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