Express & Star

New Handsworth skipper Jagpal Chima hoping to lead way after making history

Jagpal Chima hopes more ethnic minorities will take up the sport and potentially follow in his footsteps after becoming Handsworth Rugby Club's first-ever Sikh captain.


Chima, whose brother Amandeep also plays for Handsworth, has progressed through the ranks at the Birmingham Road club over the past 19 years.

The 32-year-old is the first Sikh to become skipper in their 140-year history, and he would like to see more youngsters from the Asian and African-Caribbean communities get involved and make rugby more diverse.

"I've been down there since I was 13, so I played through the ranks of the junior section before going on to the third team, the second team and then the first team," said Chima.

"I've been playing with the first team since I was 19, so it's been a good stint.

"Hopefully, this can be a good entry for people from different ethnicities and backgrounds to join.

"I know rugby has been seen as more of a middle-class, elitist sport, but it's definitely not the case anymore.

"Fingers crossed, it will all open up and people see this as a step in the right direction and have a bit more confidence to join their local rugby club.

"Hopefully, we can attract more to Handsworth as there's definitely a lot of talent in the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, but they just haven't had the opportunity or really been pushed towards it.

"In our community, it's usually cricket and football that's pushed mainly, and rugby is not usually considered."

Handsworth will compete in Counties 2 Midlands West (North) next season, and Chima is keen to lead by example for the first team.

They will go into the season with a fresh approach - not only with the captaincy but having made changes to the squad and coaching set-up.

"We've had a couple of senior guys retire, coming to the end of their tenure, and a change in management," he said.

"We're currently looking for a new coach, so it's exciting times.

"We're never a club that just wants to coast. We've always hit above our weight, and we've got the players to push forward.

"There's a real emphasis this year on pushing our junior section and growing it back to where it was as well."

Chima is one of a few Asians currently at Handsworth while they have had a few play more over recent years.

He certainly feels there is room, though, for more uptake – at his beloved club and beyond.

"I've always loved the inclusion here. You never feel out of place," added Chima.

"When I started with the seniors, I was a student and didn't have a lot of money, but they'd put their arm around me and buy me a drink after the game.

"It doesn't matter what background you're from. When you're here, you're all one.

"I'd love to see more. We've got a few at the moment and had a handful over the years, six or seven come in and out.

"At other clubs, you don't see many either. It's quite few and far between.

"We're one of the oldest clubs in the UK, so to be the first Sikh captain, it's a real honour.

"I'm a little bit nervous, but also excited. I'm hoping to put my own spin on things and help push the club forward."