Wales will be able to call on support from its South Asian community when a new fans’ group attends Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Estonia for the first time.
Amar Cymru has been launched to give the South Asian community a voice in the national team, with the group’s formation fully backed by the Football Association of Wales.
Jalal Goni formed Amar Cymru – which translates to ‘My Wales’ and resonates with the South Indian, Bangladeshi and Punjabi communities – and told the PA news agency: “I saw an FAW equality banner at a game about getting national ethnic groups to support Wales.
“You’d seen dots around the ground, but not enough when you consider Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham are multi-cultural cities.
“We had consultations with people of South Asian heritage to see if the interest was there to watch Wales and it clearly was.
“People were buzzing to be part it after Euro 2016, they could see the rise of Wales with players like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey and wanted to be part of it.
“You’d see people from the South Asian community wearing Wales shirts on the streets but they did not go to the stadium to watch the team.
“The safeguarding was not there in the old days and the stigma of abuse that some fans suffered had stayed attached to them.”
Neath-born Goni, who now lives in Cardiff, says he had his own hurtful experience of watching Wales as a teenage fan.
“I remember going to the Millennium Stadium for a game against Italy in 2002 and singing the national anthem,” Goni said.
“I was told to sit down by a supporter ‘because it’s not your anthem’.
“I was pleased people around me called him out for saying that, but I still felt hurt by that comment because I feel Welsh first and Bangladeshi second.
“You put it down to one narrow-minded person, but you would never tell your parents about that because you knew they’d never let you go to watch Wales play again.”
Amar Cymru members met at a Cardiff restaurant to watch Euro 2020 action when the group was launched in June.
The Estonia game will now provide the first stadium matchday experience for many South Asians.
“Our culture is we don’t go to pubs, but we had 38 people at a restaurant for a Wales game at the Euros,” Goni said.
“We can build our culture showing our support for Wales in our own way.
“We have created a WhatsApp group to message fans and we are looking to bring more females on board.
“Our hope is that if one new fan at the stadium enjoys the experience then he or she will probably go back and tell 10 people in the community about how good it was.”