Maziar Kouhyar. Has anyone else noticed that name pop up quite a bit lately in the National League North?
The Afghanistan international has found some sparkling form for Hereford in recent weeks, producing Man of the Match performances five times in 2022, scoring four and assisting once from midfield in the last six.
He has appeared in the Vanarama Team of the Week three times on the spin and has just been awarded the National League North Player of the Month.
Kouhyar is currently being scouted by a number of National League and EFL sides and is also back in the Afghanistan squad, with Asia Cup qualifiers against India, Cambodia and Hong Kong coming up in June.
Despite his current trajectory, it’s been a difficult time for Kouhyar since fleeing the Taliban to the UK as a refugee. His childhood growing up in Coventry and time spent climbing the footballing ladder at Walsall was littered with incidents of ignorance and prejudice, but he has shown great resilience and perseverance to get himself back on track.
Following release from Walsall, Maziar was in a bad place with injury and feeling generally disillusioned. He temporarily went into car sales and was feeling like his time in football could be over.
A Fresh Start
Vitally, Kouhyar found an agency to represent him called ‘Be’ and eventually found himself with an opportunity at Hereford with his second game being an FA Trophy final appearance at Wembley.
His manager, Josh Gowling, wrote a piece recently on how non-league football can help players from all communities rebuild their careers and cited ‘Maz’, the first Afghan-born player to play league football in the UK, as one of those that would have typically fallen through the cracks if it was solely left to the PFA to find him a club. Fortunately, Josh was the right manager at the right time
Maziar is just one of a handful of British-Asian players who are shining on the pitch. Gowling is also very excited about Dinesh Gillela, a former Bournemouth U21 captain who is likely to feature regularly for Hereford in the very near future.
Coincidentally, I watched Southend play Solihull at Roots Hall this month and read that Noor Husin who joined the club in January had also fled Afghanistan at the age of 5, settling with his family in Croydon.
Noor is also setting high standards as a young British-Asian player in the National League, claiming Southend’s February player of the month award. His strike away at Eastleigh helped the Shrimpers fans make their minds up in what must have been a tough decision given they’re unbeaten in 12 games now.
It’s normal to wish good players well but given the disadvantages Maziar, Noor and their families experienced in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban, I’ll be looking out for both players and hoping that they continue to achieve success in their careers.
I’ve always wondered why there are so few British-Asian footballers in our domestic leagues, apparently only 10 out of 4,000? If there are fewer opportunities given to players from all communities that needs to be addressed and maybe that begins with initiatives like the PFA’s Asian inclusion mentoring scheme.
With British-Asian owned sports consultancies like ‘Be’ hoping to inspire British-Asian youngsters to play football hopefully that number will grow and give a more representative reflection of the diverse society we live in.