FA Vase final: Amar and Arjun Purewal hoping to ‘break barriers’ at Wembley

FA Vase final: Amar and Arjun Purewal hoping to ‘break barriers’ at Wembley

Panjab FA XI line up before they play England C
Purewal twins Amar (left) and Arjun (right) play internationally for the Panjab FA
Venue: Wembley Date: Monday, 3 May Kick-off: 13:00 BST
Coverage: Listen to build-up and live commentary on BBC Radio Newcastle.

Amar and Arjun Purewal will make history at Wembley on Monday in a moment they hope will help to “break barriers”.

The 31-year-old twins will become the first British South Asians to face each other at the national stadium when Northern League rivals Consett and Hebburn Town meet in the FA Vase final.

And though the delayed non-league showpiece will be played behind closed doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Consett defender Arjun and Hebburn forward Amar hope to inspire those watching on television.

BBC Sport spoke to both players – and their mum Kelly – before a “proud” day for the Sikh family.

‘A lack of role models’

Amar spent five years at Newcastle United’s academy before making his mark internationally with the Panjab FA and in the English non-leagues.

And the attacker hopes he and his brother being in direct opposition on television will show young British Asians there is a pathway for them in the game.

He told BBC Sport: “Asians watching around the country might say: ‘There are two boys playing at Wembley, I can do it too.’

“Professionally, we have Hamza Choudhury at Leicester and Yan Dhanda at Swansea, but after that there is a lack of top-level role models.

“A lot of Asian youngsters watch cricket and regularly see the likes of England’s Moeen Ali and India’s Virat Kohli, but there just aren’t enough Asian footballers.”

Amar Purewal
Amar Purewal is the older twin by just two minutes

The brothers co-own a sports coaching company that works with schools, clubs and communities in the north east – and Amar hopes to encourage involvement at all levels of football.

“There is a lot of talk about improving diversity in the media, and Alex Scott and Micah Richards are two great examples, but where are the Asians?” he said.

“Hopefully it draws more Asian people to break barriers within the sport, whether it’s playing at grassroots level, coaching, or in the media.”

‘Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

For central defender Arjun, who captains Consett and plays alongside his brother for Panjab FA, facing his “best friend” will be a “bittersweet challenge”.

“We’ve played against each other quite a few times, and it’s not nice playing against your brother,” he said.

“We want each other to do well, but on this occasion it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we’ll do everything we can to win.”

The twins have built their reputations in the north east – with spells at Darlington, Bishop Auckland and Durham City between them – and Arjun says it is “fate” the two will meet on a “massive” day for the area.

“We do have the odd chat during the game but if the ball is to be won, we will both be going for it,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It’s bittersweet because, unfortunately, there’s got to be a winner and a loser and we’re going to have to deal with it, whoever it is – but hopefully it’s him.”

Arjun Purewal
Arjun Purewal will lead out Consett as the team’s captain

‘It’s difficult as a mother’

The twins’ mum Kelly has been washing their kits and following their careers for years – and admits it will be hard to watch her sons play against each other.

“They are very close and it’s so difficult for me, as a mother,” she said.

“I’m so proud of them doing so well, and to get where they have, because it’s not an easy thing, especially being Asians as well.

“I’ll be cheering for both sides and it’s a shame there can only be one winner – I think they should share the trophy!”

Kelly says her only disappointment is that – with the game played in an empty stadium – the family cannot be there.

“I’m very disappointed we can’t be there,” she added.

“We had plans last year [for the original final]. The whole family from Sunderland, their sisters from Wolverhampton and their aunties were all planning to go.

“I just hope they enjoy the day.”

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