KARACHI, Oct 8: Up-and-coming versatile Fulham defender Zesh Rehman on Saturday officially confirmed his availability for Pakistan, saying he would be more than willing to don the national colour.

A Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) official said much-awaited contact had eventually been established with Rehman when the multipurpose player personally called up PFF on Saturday to express his wish to wear Pakistan jersey.

“We were desperately trying to contact Zesh and left messages for him. Today we were finally able to talk to him when he replied and called backed to us. I personally talked to him on phone and he has clearly expressed his will to represent Pakistan, saying he is available and keen to play for us,” director technical PFF Col Mujahid Ullah Khan (retd) told Dawn.

Rehman had earlier indirectly contacted PFF a week ago, expressing his will to play for Pakistan. Since then he had been contacted by PFF for official talks.

PFF says Rehman, who took the initiative to talk to Pakistan soccer officials expressing his wish to play for the national side, has been gearing up for coming to Pakistan and has started preparations.

“Zesh has told us that he has been working on acquiring Pakistani passport which he believes will be ready within a week. It’s all wonderful and a boost for Pakistan football,” the official said.

PFF has informed the Birmingham-born Pakistani that the federation would like him to represent Pakistan at AFC Asia Cup qualifying round away match against Bangladesh on Nov 11.

Besides the away fixture, forthcoming eight-nation South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship from Dec 7 to 17 to be hosted by Karachi at People’s Sports Complex, is another event PFF is interested in fielding Zesh –- a plan which will definitely make the regional event a big attraction.

Rehman has, however, informed PFF that he would finalize his plans and schedule since now he has been intimated by the Pakistani soccer officials about the competition in which they like him to figure.

While there is now no stumbling block in Rehman joining the Pakistani squad following official talks between the Briton and PFF, modalities are to be finalized after few formalities.

Although Rehman and PFF are keen to see Pakistani origin Englishman in the national side, things would move into right direction only after PFF officially writes Fulham, asking them to release the defender.

“Though it is very good omen that PFF and Rehman have joined hands to promote soccer, official letter to Fulham asking them for his release is now the only thing left to complete the process. We don’t see any reason why he cannot be released. We are hopeful he will join us,” said Mujahid.

To keep the ball rolling, PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat, who has already been briefed about Rehman’s keenness to play for Pakistan, will be intimated about the latest development on Monday following which PFF will finalize things, hopefully by officially writing to Fulham.

Asked what motivated Rehman to play for Pakistan while he had a brilliant career ahead of him in England, Mujahid says perhaps it was nationalism and love for his country of origin that the he decided to represent Pakistan.

“I think it is nationalism, and media hype in sports that attracted Zesh. He is certainly an English Premier League player but playing for his country of origin must be an honour for any player and a plus in his career.

“I believe since he is also the first sub-continent player to play in the English Premier League that factor must have played a major motivating factor. But then certainly his parents are also a force behind his decision to play for us as both are Pakistani,” said PFF official.

Rehman, who will be 22 on Oct 14, made his League debut against Liverpool in Anfield in April 2004 when he was promoted as a regular after taking advantage of an injury to Ian Pearce.

The promising Englishman, who came from Fulham youth ranks, play as a central defender, right-back and in central midfield, earned praise from his manager Chris Coleman.

Rehman has been idolized by many Pakistani footballers for being the first footballer from sub-continent to play top-flight English soccer. His arrival in Pakistan is being welcomed by PFF, fans, and players for whom Rehman could be considered a role model for his exploits at English league.



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