Manchester United and England's Rio Ferdinand
Kick It Out spoke to him.
Tell us about racism you have experienced.
I was at a game when I was about 16 - it was a London team - and a man started shouting "black this, black that" at the players. He turned to me and said: "Not you mate, you're all right." I looked at a nearby policeman as if to say: "What are you going to do?" But he looked through me, he wasn't going to do anything. I just got up and left. As a player you get a certain amount of racism from crowds here and there, but it is not as apparent as it was before. When players like John [Barnes], Ian Wright, Viv Anderson were playing it was a lot worse. I grew up on an estate in Peckham, near where Damilola Taylor was killed. When I was older I got a BMW convertible and used to drive around Peckham and areas like New Cross, Deptford and Hackney, and I'd get stopped on a regular basis. I wasn't really known as a footballer at the time and they'd ask me: "Where d'you get the money for this? Are you dealing? Are you nicking stuff?" I would say: "I earned this car, I wouldn't drive it if I didn't earn it." I don't get stopped now.
How does it affect you when you are faced by it?
On the pitch I go in a bit stronger and challenge them. Not verbally, I let the football do the talking and embarrass them. I'm not the type of person to confront people but I will try to win the game so I can look them in the eye.
Have you had any problems while playing abroad for England?
I was playing for England under 21s against Yugoslavia in Spain when Emile Heskey got abused. There were only a handful of people doing it but one man stood out - he even had dreadlock-style extensions yet he was making monkey noises. I think things in the rest of Europe are worse than here.
What would you say to any aspiring young Asian players?
They are at the same stage of the cycle that black players were at 20 years ago. If Asian boys want to play football they've got to know there is a place for them in the English game. There are a lot of Asian leagues but I don't think there should be separate ethnic leagues. I think there should just be football leagues so scouts can see everybody playing, rather than segregating them.
You were at school with Stephen Lawrence. How did his murder affect you?
It was mad. The whole day got frozen. People were coming in saying: "Stephen Lawrence got stabbed." I was a first year and he was a fifth year but we knew each other. He was a quiet, nice boy, into art and music; he had a purpose and wanted to do something in life. For him to be taken away that way seemed so unreal; people didn't know what was going on, or why
What would you say to young people who may be the victims of racism at school or in the streets?
At school you've got to tell your teachers. If they don't sort it out, tell your parents, get them to go down to the school and tell the headteacher. It's got to be sorted out straight away. If you ignore it, it can escalate and become worse and worse. If you don't deal with it, the bullies will think you are accepting it.