FootballPakistan.Com Webmaster and Chief Editor Malik Riaz Hai Naveed had the chance to caught up with Pakistani International and new Thai Premier League player Zesh Rehman.
Hey Zesh, thanks for taking time for our FPDC Fans. Could you tell us how it came that you surprisingly signed a contract in Thailand and left Bradford?
The nature of my departure from Bradford was not ideal but in football circumstances can change quickly and many decisions are out of your control. I can look my self in the mirror and know I gave 100% honesty and commitment for the Club in my role as Club Captain both on and off the pitch. I still have an excellent realtionship with the chairman, directors and several players at the Club and always keep an eye out for their results. I finished on good terms with Peter Taylor and would like to wish him and the squad all the best for the remainder of the season.
Hey Zesh, congratulations for signing a contract with Thai Champions Muangthong United. Tell us how you are at the moment and how the project Thailand is going on.
Since moving to Thailand I have adapted well, the move was made easier for me by the staff at the club. They really went the extra mile to ensure my transition from The UK was as smooth as possible. The Club provided me with an apartment and car and also helped with all the required paper work to make the move possible so I am grateful to them for that. Moving abroad forces you to re-evaluate all aspects of your life and is a good time for self discovery being in new Surroundings. I believe the move will help me grow as a person and player. I miss my family of course but they understand my goals and dreams and have been very supportive of me as ever.
How is the team, are there some special things to mention?
I am slowly starting to pick up the basic Thai Language, many of the players speak English so that definitely helps. The Manager is from Belgium and the coach from Brazil, again both speak very good English.
The diversity amongst the squad definitely makes it easier to integrate, its great to learn about different players countries and beliefs. We have players from The Ivory Coast, Slovakia, Finland, France and of course Thailand so its a wonderful example of how football can unite so many different nations together under one banner. That’s the beauty of the game.
Being the Thai Premier League Champions there is definitely an air of positivity around the club, the winning mentality is very evident. The players are made to feel like winners which has a huge effect when entering the field of play. The media attention surrounding the club is phenomenal, the press conference for new players saw approximately 100 different media outlets, I had never seen anything like it in my career!
You have already played your debut, how was it?
I made my debut in The Thai version of the Charity Shield last week at the National Stadium in front of a 40,000 crowd which again was a very memorable experience. Unfortunately we lost the game 2-1 but it was a milestone for myself to become the first British Asian and Pakistani International to play professional football in Thailand. I nearly capped my debut with a goal late on but unfortunately it was not to be on this occasion.
What is the standard in Thailand like? And what are your aims for the coming season?
The standard of play out here is very good, I would definitely say some players could play in the Championship in England. The passion for the game out here is unbelievable, The support at Muang Thong is tremendous, the other clubs are also very well supported. English football is always on show here on the box so I’m always up to date with results of my old clubs in the UK. The local people have responded very positively to me, they are very friendly and appreciate me coming over to Thailand to ply my trade.
My aims for the coming season are to play in The Asian Champions League and help the club to a third consecutive Thai Premier League Title which has never been done by any other club over here before. I want to learn from my new coaches and look to improve as a player.
From what I have seen there some very technically gifted players in my squad, several players play for the Thai National Team, they possess an excellent worth ethic and attitude to the game. Thai football has revamped its infrastructure and all the necessary building blocks are in place to allow the country to develop its players and coaches to to ensure they qualify for a future World Cup which I’m convinced will happen at some point. There is a young goalkeeper who has attracted interest from Clubs in The English Premier League, I think he will be plying his trade in Europe in a year or so.
Your “Zesh Rehman Foundation” has been in media all over the UK, congratulations for that. What is your aim with that Foundation?”
Despite being in Thailand my Foundation is continuing to deliver programmes that use football as thev ehicle to help personal self development and offer people regardless of ethnicity and cultural background to enjoy what footballhas to offer. The Foundation recently expanded to Manchester and over the next few months will start to work with more proffessional football clubs to offer opportunities to kids to explore the different avenues that football has to offer. My brother is running the day to day of the Foundation. If anyone want to know more they can visit www.zeshrehmanfoundation.org
Now aged 27, you have to think about your future. Where do you see it? Will you go into coaching?
At 27 I beleieve I can play for another 8-10 years if I look after my body, I am not thinking about any coaching roles I am just focused on playing for as long as I can and experiencing different leagues in the world to develop as a player and person. Finally I believe that I will be able to play for Pakistan alot more frequently now that I am in Asia, I will be able to join the squad on FIFA recognised International breaks without the worry of missing league games.
Zesh asked us to submit questions monthly, so that he can update us on his career. Mail your questions to: email@example.com