KARACHI, Oct 3: Pakistan soccer may get a shot in the arm as English Premier League club Fulham defender, Zesh Rehman, has expressed interest in playing for the national side, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) said on Monday.
“We have been contacted and informed by someone close to Zesh that he wants to play for Pakistan. We now want him to get in touch with us and have asked him to contact us as soon as possible,” PFF director technical Col Mujahid Ullah Khan (retd) told Dawn.
PFF says Rehman might have been interested to represent the national side after few Pakistani players based in foreign countries came recently to join Pakistan squad.
“We still don’t know how Zesh has been attracted to Pakistan, but we believe that he must have been thinking to play for us since couple of players based in other countries had come to play for us in the recent past,” the official said.
United Kingdom-based Pakistani Usman Gondal had specially joined Pakistan camp for recent Pakistan-India series but could not continue due to adverse playing conditions and lack of facilities.
“The Pakistani player now living and playing in England, however, did not play after he fell ill and owing to lack of facilities and bad ground condition usually one can find here,” PFF official said.
Saifullah, basically an NWFP player who represented PTCL in 1998, now living and playing in Saudi Arabia, had also returned to play for Pakistan team but did not continue.
Although prospects of Rehman joining Pakistan squad give hopes of sport’s revival in the country, the official said the Birmingham-born player was yet to contact PFF to have official talks.
However, it has been learnt that Rehman is keen to represent Pakistan but would like PFF to officially write to Fulham for his release and availability.
The modalities will be finalized only once contact between PFF and the Englishman is established but PFF believes Rehman’s presence in Pakistan squad will give the game a tremendous boost.
“We love to have Zesh in Pakistan squad. It will be a great motivating factor and might help us revive the game in Pakistan which has produced several fine internationals at least at Asian level,” says Mujahid.
PFF feels if everything goes well, Rehman might be able to represent Pakistan at eight-nation South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship at Karachi’s People’s Sports Complex from Dec 7.
Rehman, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Oct 14, was a little-known Englishman before he established himself as a regular at Fulham to become the first Asian to make a breakthrough by playing top-flight soccer in England.
Making his Premiership debut against Liverpool in Anfield in April 2004, Rehman was promoted as a regular after taking advantage of an injury to Ian Pearce, and did not disappoint his side, earning all the praise from his manager Chris Coleman.
A product of Fulham Academy, Rehman made his Fulham First Team debut as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Wigan in the Carling Cup in September 2003. Rehman, who came from Fulham youth ranks, is a versatile player who can play as a central defender, right-back and in central midfield for Craven Cottage side.
Rehman could be an inspiration for Pakistani footballers since the defender is of Pakistani descent. As both of his parents are from Pakistan, he is being considered the role model not only for Pakistanis but for Asians too.
Reports say although Rehman is not focussed on becoming the role model for Asian players, he says he would enjoy being someone young players from the continent could emulate.