Vimal Yoganathan, a 17-year-old footballer based in the north of England, made his professional debut for Barnsley FC last week. He is the first Tamil footballer to play for a professional UK club.
The tall, six foot three, first year scholar from Chester joined Barnsley at under 16s level after being in Liverpool’s academy. He is a Wales youth international.
The central midfielder, who plays for Barnsley’s title winning U18s team, impressed the senior coaching staff to become the latest addition to their first team – a moment he has worked towards since stepping through the door at Oakwell.
“Yeah, it was a bit surreal,” the Sri Lankan Tamil described. “I’m still pinching myself now. It was a good experience. I’m just grateful that the gaffer had faith in me and all the staff to be able to trust me to make my debut. It was a good experience.
“It was definitely a lot different compared to academy football. They were obviously a good side, Tranmere, but I feel like as young lads as well, it’s not our starting team. We showed good character to keep persistent, carry on going and we obviously showed with the goal in the end. Obviously, unfortunate not to win on pens, but that’s how football is.”
In the days ahead ahead, Yoganthan will feature heavily in Barnsley’s U18s and U21s sides. In May, U18s were crowned Professional Development League champions.
It’s wonderful to see Yoganthan, a teenager, representing not just the Tamil, but also the wider South Asian community in professional English football.