Ex-Red Carter on being the Premier League’s ‘first Asian player’
Sharing a name with a former US President, it’s not obvious to everyone that former Liverpool midfielder Jimmy Carter was the Premier League’s first Asian player.
However, in an in-depth interview with the BBC, the 55-year-old from Hammersmith who joined the Reds for £800,000 in January 1991 from Millwall, talks about his Indian heritage.
Carter was handed the coveted number 7 shirt at Anfield by previous incumbent and legendary player and manager Kenny Dalglish but with the Scot departing just a month later, he did not fit into new boss Graeme Souness’ plans and returned to London to join Arsenal before the year was out.
Carter was with the Gunners when the English top flight rebranded itself as the Premier League in 1992 and looking back on his move to Merseyside, Carter says:
“When I signed for Liverpool, there was never any mention of: ‘Do you have any Asian background or foreign heritage?’
“I was very lucky to get my second chance in football and what I didn’t want to do – looking back – was bring anything to attention which could possibly be seen as a detriment to me. There were no Asian players back then.
“People would still talk about black players saying they didn’t like it in the cold, or that Asian players were too lightweight. I couldn’t afford for anything to be brought up where it was going to be a detriment to my career.
“If I had highlighted my British Asian heritage it would have, perhaps, shone a light on being the first one to ever play for Liverpool and Arsenal.
“It could have given that belief to youngsters up and down the country, that they too could make it. But, on the whole – even taking that into consideration – I still don’t have any underlying regrets.
“There is part regret that I wasn’t able to feel strong enough or have the conviction at the time to actually come out and shine a spotlight on it. But outweighing that was the fact that, to do that would be pointing myself out as someone different, when it shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be about the colour of your skin.
“It has to feel right in all aspects for you to disclose something. It wasn’t a conscious decision that: ‘I’m going to keep this a secret.’ It was nothing like that.
“If people came up to me and said, ‘I spoke to your dad the other day, I didn’t know you were Asian’, I was pleased as punch. I would never be one to hide that.”