Clevedon's Hayer enjoying international exposure

Clevedon Town's Glen Hayer

Glen Hayer in action for Clevedon Town - Credit:

Clevedon Town’s Glen Hayer is a rarity in local football being of south east Asian descent and an international.

Football players from south east Asia are grossly under-represented in the British game but have been in the news recently.

Former Millwall,  Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jimmy Carter revealed he was the first player of Indian descent to appear in the Premier League and then this month,  18-year-old Academy prospect Arjan Raikhy, of Punjabi descent, made his aston Villa first-team debut in the young side that faced Liverpool in the FA Cup after a Covid scare in the senior squad.

There cannot be many current internationals playing in the Toolstation Western League, but Hayer is one and has nine caps playing for the Panjab FA.

Whilst not a major football power, Panjab are members of CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Nations, for national teams not under the auspices of FIFA.

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It is made up of nations, minorities, isolated dependences, or cultural regions to enable them to play competitive international football, including in their own biannual World Cup competition.

The Panjab representative football team was formed in 2014, initially to represent the Punjabi community in the UK who originate from the Punjab region.

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This huge area stretches across parts of eastern Pakistan and northern India and originated from the Sikh Empire under Mahaja Ranjit Singh in the 19th Century. It includes the Amritsar District in India plus Faisalabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi in Pakistan.

The Panjab football team has emerged as one of the stronger CONIFA nations, finishing as runners-up in the inaugural 2016 CONIFA World Cup and fifth in 2018.

However, at the moment, it is made up entirely of non-league players and the rare examples of eligible players tend to play either for one of the home nations or Pakistan, like ex-Fulham defender Zech Rehman who was capped at youth level by England and subsequently won 22 caps for Pakistan.

The first time two Punjabi players played on opposite sides came as recently as January last year when the experienced Danny Batth of Stoke was joined on the bet365 Stadium pitch by Swansea City substitute Yan Dhanda.

Glen Hayer in action for Panjab

Glen Hayer in action for Panjab - Credit:

Hayer was selected for the Panjab side after attending a two-day training camp at Lilleshall. His first cap came in 2018 in a 1-1 draw against Jersey and he was selected for Panjab’s 2018 CONIFA World Cup group squad for the tournament played in London where their local supporters created a great atmosphere for their group games at Arbour Park, Slough.

He was then selected for the 2020 World Cup which was due to be played in North Macedonia before the Covid-19 epidemic intervened.

In preparing for the tournament Panjab held a football camp in Leicester, which was a great experience for the Clevedon defender.

He said: "It was a fantastic camp with Panjab in preparation for the 2020 CONIFA World Cup which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Coaching at Leicester City’s Training Ground was a great experience. It was brilliant working with top coaches and players."

However, his most memorable appearance for Panjab came in a 4-1 friendly defeat against Liverpool Under-23s leading up to the 2018 CONIFA World Cup.

He added: "I’ve supported Liverpool all my life so playing against them at Melwood was fantastic for me and it’s great to see a couple of the players I played against, Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams, have made it into the first team."

Encouraged by his father, Weston-super-Mare businessman Ranj, Glen played for Weston Crusaders from the age of five and then for Langford Rovers.

His Clevedon career started with one appearance in 2015/16 against Street before he played for the Weston-super-Mare Under-18s, returning to the Everyone Active the following season.

Still only 22, Hayer has established himself as a regular in the Seasiders defence and has made 137 appearances and scored nine goals, the first coming in a 3-0 Somerset Premier Cup win against Street in November 2016.

He said: "Obviously my future ambition is to play at the highest level possible and it’s been fantastic playing with some great players from all around Europe with different skill sets. It provides provides a great challenge and I hope it will continue."

However, that will have to wait until football returns and travel restrictions are lifted. Like all Clevedon players Hayer is keeping fit on his own.

He said: "I am going to the gym four times a week and doing my own personal bits and pieces at home on a treadmill and spin bike in the garage."

As in his Weston Crusaders days, his biggest influence is still his parents and he paid tribute to them, saying: "My parents - Ranj and Pam - have been great throughout my football career, taking me here there and everywhere, which means a lot.

"They have fully backed me and still do, even letting me train instead of having to work in the family business!

"It’s allowed me the opportunity to play on the international stage and to represent my ancestor’s homeland, so it would be a dream to win the CONIFA World Cup with Panjab."

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