The Baji Bantams - Bradford City’s first fans group for South Asian women - will be among the roaring crowds of Valley Parade this weekend. 

The group is made up of life-long fans, families and some who have never seen the lively home of the Bantams on match day.

The Baji Bantams’ first outing will see City play Sutton United.

“I finally found my people after all these years,” said Eyarun Nessa. 

It will be a special time for the Keighley mum, who has followed the sport for years but never experienced it in the stands.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: LtR: Humayun Islam, Shazuna Ali, and Lizzie Saunderson outside Valley Parade, the home of Bradford CityLtR: Humayun Islam, Shazuna Ali, and Lizzie Saunderson outside Valley Parade, the home of Bradford City (Image: Newsquest, Mike Simmonds)

It was stories like Eyarun’s which inspired Humayun Islam, founder of Inspire Support Sports Empower (ISSE), and Lizzie Saunderson, director of operations at Bradford City FC Community Foundation, to create the change.

The Baji Bantams has been supported by the Fans for Diversity initiative which promotes inclusion in football.

“It’s really important the football represents all,” said Humayan, who is also a trustee at Bradford City FC Community Foundation.

“Football plays a massive part within the community as a whole.”

Shazuna Ali, who lives in the Barkerend area, said: “I have been to a match before with a different group and I’m excited for this. It’s an amazing experience, it’s loud, it’s crazy, everyone’s chanting. You get involved.”

Describing her hopes for the atmosphere and group, she said: “A sense of freedom, being able to be a woman.

“I just feel, being a South Asian woman, this is a door opener. I love football. My boys love football.”

Being able to attend a match with her children is one reason why Eyarun is ready for the Baji Bantams to take their seats.

“I have always wanted to watch football in a stadium but I wanted someone of experience to support that transition,” said Eyarun.

“I was not able to take my children to football due to my own internal barriers but they are so excited and I am so happy that finally I can show them another world that they only saw through a box at home.”

She added: “Although for many years I enjoyed watching the World Cup or key games throughout the year, due to general lack of interest amongst the South Asian female community, that interest started to decline.

“When you are not familiar with an environment, there is some element of anxiety. Sometimes the media portrays there are fights between football fans over the game and this builds up more anxiety.”

Speaking about the barriers for South Asian women, Eyarun said a lack of South Asian female role models in sports made it difficult to connect to games.

“Playing football was never on the radar as it was associated with ground dirt,” she said.

“It goes without saying that beauty and looking aesthetically pleasing is a key priority especially in this day and age."

Being able to do prayers in between the game, watching in a warm house, and not forking out for tickets can also limit some women.

Lizzie said the Foundation is all about the power in the badge.

Describing the impact of fan groups like this, she said: “It’s not just in the stadium, it’s city-wide.”