FC Edmonton’s latest addition to the backline Netan Sansara will be looking to leave his mark in Edmonton in several different ways.
Sansara is of British-Indian dissent as he was born in Walsall, England. His parents were born in the UK and his grandparents came from India. There aren’t many professional British-Indian professional soccer players, but Sansara can proudly say he is one of them. His journey to the professional level faced many challenges, but the left-back continued to fight through them until he achieved his dream of being a professional soccer player.
“I’ve never felt different from everyone else, but I was always reminded that I was different than everyone,” Sansara said. “The media and even my own culture reminded that there aren’t many of us who make it. There were a lot of barriers I had to break through and I am lucky to have a good family who supported me through everything. There aren’t many [British-Indian] players who have made it through to the professional level and I am proud to be from the British-Indian community. I wear that with a lot of pride.”
The Englishman went on to say that part of the reason why there aren’t many Indian professional soccer players is simply because of their culture and how education is a huge part of that culture. Sansara believes that the emphasis on education hinders the amount of successful Indian players in the professional scene.
“Even with me my parents wanted me to focus on education,” Sansara said. “Even in my professional contract when I was in the UK, my parents made sure there was an agreement that I will be allowed to pursue education. I have my A-levels in psychology and physiology and till today I am taking online courses in sports management. But for many kids, they are discouraged because education is such a key factor. We have many great doctors, dentists, and what not, but not many great soccer players!”
“In general though, education is something that is taken seriously,” Sansara went on to say. “So sometimes sport doesn’t get prioritized and kids don’t get that support from their families. It’s normal I guess, but I hope that can change at some point. It would be nice to see more British-Indian athletes.”
Sansara has always been a strong advocate for the community and the defender plays a role in the Kick It Out Program, which is an initiative started to kick out racism in the game of soccer. The 27-yeard-old also worked with the Professional Football Association (PFA) to try and help increase the number of British-Indians in professional soccer. It’s something the former Fredrikstad captain takes a lot of pride in.
“Race isn’t something that should separate us,” Sansara said. “I would love to show all the other kids from other nationalities that its about breaking barriers and that anything is possible. If you are a good footballer and you’re good enough to play at a professional level, then it’s possible.”
Sansara was awarded for his efforts on and off the pitch by earning the British-Indian Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2013. Sansara went up against the likes of high-profile cricket players such as Monty Panesar. His impressive season with Danish side FC Vestsjaelland was also a key factor in the defender winning the award.
“It’s an honour to come up against these world-renown starts,” Sansara stated. “It’s good to be acknowledged for what you do. I am not one to sing from the rooftop about my accomplishments and what I’ve done in the game. I try to live my life and go on with my day and I am thankful everyday for everything I have achieved.”
The Englishman is looking to continue his role as an ambassador, but now for the community of Edmonton. With the club actively engaging with the community, the left-back is hoping to get out there and help fellow athletes pave their way through the soccer scene in Edmonton
“I would love to go out to the local community and tell them about what I faced and how I overcame it,” Sansara stated. “It’s important for [kids] to know that you can mix cultures together, especially here in Canada because there is lots of diversity here. It’s something I spoke about with the gaffer when I joined Edmonton. I want to get out there and help promote the football club because Canada is a beautiful multicultural place. Anything I can do to help the community I will do it.”