Ex-Charlton midfielder Paul Mortimer and FSF exec Anwar Uddin join Proud Valiants at the 2019 end-of-season Charlton vs Homophobia tournament. (Photo: Twitter)

AN Asian woman has praised football for its power to unite people and bring about real change as a game inclusive for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

Bhavisha Patel is a woman’s officer for Proud Valiants, a Charlton-affiliated LGBT group that works to tackle homophobia in football, and she has commended the club for being at the forefront of the fight against racism in the game.

Writing for Sky Sports on Wednesday (28), Patel said: “Football has grown into a global phenomenon with such a wide audience; and it has the potential to affect real change as a game inclusive for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, beliefs, or disability – that is the future of the game I am fighting for.

“Football has the power to lift us above our differences and unite us. Someone once said to me, in that moment when your team scores a winning goal, you will celebrate shoulder-to-shoulder with the person next to you, regardless of how different your backgrounds are. This has stuck with me because it is true.

The game has always been a part of Patel’s life. She remembers kicking a ball about in the garden as a kid and to having the Champions League final showing at her wedding. However, making transforming her passion for football into a profession did not seem feasible at the time.

“As a young brown-skinned woman, I struggled to see where I’d fit in the men’s game,” she said.

The die-hard Liverpool FC fan discovered Charlton during her university years and it’s “community feel” made her fall in love with a new club. She was also impressed with the fact that the club shared its resources with its branches.

“When a club is willing to share with, and provide resources for, a whole host of other branches of the club, such as the women’s team, Charlton Invicta (LGBT-inclusive football team), Upbeats (young people with Down Syndrome), and more, it is hard not to want to be part of their cause,” she said.