By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
Pakistan captain Zesh Rehman has been an inspirational role for Pakistanis aspiring to make it as a career as the former Fulham defender is a rare breed of talent in South Asia, having played in all levels of professional football in England.
And the centre-back claims that he is always working hard to be a respectable role model that future British-Asians and Pakistanis can look up to while pursuing a career in the beautiful game.
“It’s an honour and a privilege, but at the same time, a responsibility,” he explained. “I’m proud about what I have achieved in the game, but more importantly it’s trying to be seen as the right role model as I know that kids from several backgrounds look up to me,” Zesh was quoted as saying to FIFA.com in a recent interview.
Rehman also added that due to Football’s appeal to people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, it can be a vital tool in bringing change to the world.
“Football is such a widely-watched game, and is so powerful as a vehicle for change because it reaches so many different people,” he said. “It makes sense to welcome these different backgrounds and cultures with open arms because it will have a huge impact beyond the pitch and beyond the country they are playing in, particularly in regards to the Premier League.
“[At Fulham] we had players from all over and it is probably the most multi-cultural league in the world. It helps raise awareness of people’s different cultures and celebrate those differences, as opposed to seeing it as a threat,” he added.
After leaving England, Zesh played in Thailand and Hong Kong, an area which he claims is the next emerging area of football talent, although his own country Pakistan and the likes of India still have their work cut for them.
“I think the next two biggest regions that people should be keeping an eye on are south-east Asia – Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, who are producing some very good players who are so passionate for the game – and then south Asia in terms of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan as they are still a little way behind.
“However, having recently just played in Nepal in front of 30,000 fans, the passion, the energy and love for the game is definitely there. I’m sure in the future we will see players starting to appear at good levels across Europe.”
The ex-QPR man is nonetheless confident about Asia’s rising fortunes and claims that after Qatar 2022, the continent will be firmly established on the footballing map.
“By the time the Qatar World Cup comes around, I really do believe that people will see the future is Asia,” Zesh said claimed while talking to FIFA.com.