Newport County’s Kiban Rai: I Feel Wales Is Where I Belong
Kiban Rai, the son of a Gorkha, has achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first male player of Nepalese heritage to sign a professional contract in the EFL. The 18-year-old has joined Newport County and hopes that his success will inspire players from diverse ethnic backgrounds to pursue a career in professional football.
Kiban Rai, born and raised in Brecon, has made history as the first player of Nepalese heritage to secure a professional contract in the Premier League or EFL. Rai’s parents, who settled in Brecon due to his father’s military service, have been supportive of his football aspirations. Having started his football journey in Brecon and undergone a spell in Merthyr’s academy, Rai caught the attention of Newport County, where he earned a scholarship and eventually made his first-team debut at just 17 years old.
Rai’s breakthrough into professional football is a testament to the growing representation of British South Asian players in England’s top four divisions. He has been aided in his journey by the Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS), a program initiated by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) to enhance the experience of Asian players in the professional game. Rai has participated in AIMS events alongside other British Asian players, learning from senior players and mentors such as Danny Batth and Mal Benning.
Rai’s move to the professional ranks reflects the positive impact of the AIMS program, which has helped educate parents about the commitment and challenges associated with pursuing a football career. The scheme has provided a platform for networking and showing the talents of South Asian players, and Rai is optimistic about its continued growth and progress in the coming years.
Kiban Rai Aims to inspire – and play for Wales
While Rai remains connected to his Nepalese culture due to his upbringing, he expresses a strong desire to represent Wales at the international level. As someone born and raised in Wales, Rai feels a deep connection to the country and considers it his rightful place. His dream is to one day wear the Wales national team jersey and play for the country he calls home.
Rai’s achievement as the first male player of Nepalese heritage to secure a professional contract in the Premier League or EFL is a significant milestone. Rai’s success not only highlights his talent and dedication but also serves as an inspiration for aspiring players from diverse ethnic backgrounds. With the support of initiatives like the Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme, the representation of British South Asian players in professional football continues to grow, fostering a more inclusive and diverse football landscape. Rai’s ultimate dream is to represent Wales internationally, as he strongly identifies with the country and its people.
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