On Monday, 31-year-old twins Amar Singh Purewal and Arjun Singh Purewal are all set to become the first British South Asian brothers to play against each other in a Wembley Cup final by Football Association (FA) of England.
The brothers, whose parents immigrated from Punjab to England in the 1970s, will be keenly watched by their mother Kulwinder Purewal, who runs a convenience store in Ryhope, Sunderland. With the twins representing two different clubs in the final–while Arjun is captaining Consett FC, Amar plays for Hebburn Town– it will be an emotional moment for the family.
“It’s a privilege for me to lead Consett FC at Wembley Stadium and to play against my brother Amar. This final is the biggest game of our football careers, and we have told each other to enjoy it. The whole family is both excited and nervous for us and wish that we could both win. Our late father would have been delighted with our feat,” shares Arjun, while speaking to The Indian Express from England.
The siblings’ parents moved to England from their ancestral villages of Boparai Kalan and Hakimpur near Phagwara in Punjab in the 1970s with their father Gurdawar Singh Purewal working as a bus driver initially in Coventry before the family moved to Sunderland and started a convenience store at Ryhope in 1985. The twins, youngest of five children, started playing football in the neighborhood kindergarten before joining junior clubs in Sunderland. When their father passed away in 2001, Kulwinder, who also works as a part-time interpreter, supported their football dreams. Amar was in the junior team of Newcastle United, but was released after an injury in 2004. The following years saw Amar, a striker, play in the Northern League with clubs like Ryhope Collliery Welfare FC, Newcastle Benfield, Bishop Auckland, Durham City, Darlington, Shildon, and West Auckland FC before joining Hebburn Town.
Arjun, a centre-back, would ply his trade for Bishop Auckland, Durham City and Darlington along with Amar apart from playing for Whitby Town and Blyth Spartans. “As youngsters, both of us supported Coventry FC as they won the FA Cup in 1987, two years before our birth. After our father passed away, our mother supported our football training virtually on her own managing the store and working as a part-time interpreter. Our elder sisters Baljinder Kaur, Daljit Kaur and brother Harminder Singh Purewal too supported us,” shares Amar.
The twins also play for the club Panjab FC, a football club for players with Punjab roots and were part of the team when it reached the final of the CONIFA World Cup, a tournament for sub-national entities, minorities not affiliated with FIFA, in Russia in 2016. That was one memorable match with Arjun leading the team and Amar scoring seven goals. “Playing for Panjab FC was an amazing experience. It was one of my best performances and it was nice to play under Arjun. He is a good leader and that’s perhaps the only time I listen to him despite being the elder twin,” laughs Amar.
The brothers, who made a trip to India as kids, are also both qualified coaches and run AP Coaching for school kids in Sunderland. Even though they have been to India only once, the brothers keep track of Indian football and have been impressed by the Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri. “Apart from playing for our clubs, both of us work in primary schools running PE lessons and train school clubs. We hope to grow it further in the future,” shares Arjun, who has played in more than 150 matches for Consett FC.
Aware that they are a role model for the South Asian community, the twins want to motivate parents to push their children into football. ‘‘We want to be able to make a platform and not disappear after our playing days are over. Football has made us reach all the South Asians and Sikhs around the world and we are grateful for that,” says Amar, who was named Asian Non-League footballer of the year in 2017.
As for Monday, it is a final between the two clubs for the brothers. “I am excited to lead the team and both of us want to make the supporters proud,” says Arjun.