By Shahrukh Sohail (Published by the Express Tribune)
Swift pace. Check.
Stocky build. Check.
Adil, a blistering winger with bags of pace and skill, who lit up the SAFF Championship 2013, reached the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Presidents Cup with KRL FC and attracted attention from several clubs in Nepal and Palestine in 2013.
Belonging to a country where the domestic structure for football provides very little for player development and talent polishing, Adil and his achievements are a testament of his struggles. However, he has clearly proven that hard work and a desire to succeed is a perfect recipe for success.
There were many hardships along the way for this talented 21-year-old. During his school days, he used to sell fruits and sugarcanes, going around the streets of Bahawalpur with his cart, to financially support his family. However, whenever he found the time, he would play football to feed his passion.
His talent was scouted early when he got selected for the regional team in the National U-14 Championships in 2006. He eventually impressed the coaches to secure a call-up for the Pakistan U-14 side that took part in AFC Festival of Football in Bangladesh.
International exposure, coupled with Adil’s burgeoning talents, meant that he was on his way to quickly graduating onto the senior levels – the U-16, U-19 and U-21 sides – where eventually, his abilities caught the eye of PEL FC. The football club provided the youngster with a substantial salary and a chance to mould himself into a professional.
Adil, excited to see such promising prospects offered to him, jumped at the chance and joined the Lahore-based Pakistan Premier League side in the 2009/10 campaign. The impact was instant as he played in nearly 30 games during the course of the season and was eventually drafted into the 2010 Asian Games squad.
Playing alongside senior lads and impressing everyone with his speed, the Bahawalpur native was once again on the move in 2010. He joined the reigning champions, KRL FC, as they launched an assault on the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) title.
That move changed everything for Adil. He was called up by the Pakistan national team in 2011 and made his debut against Turkmenistan in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in March. He later played in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the SAFF Championship as well, but his moment of glory on the International stage came when he performed exceptionally well in KRL’s AFC Presidents Cup tie, against Erchim FC of Mongolia in 2012.
The game, hosted in Lahore, proved to a major turning point for Adil as he ran riot on the flank and showcased an abundance of vision, power, speed and his hallmark move, the ‘step over’.
Just like Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, Adil’s quick burst of speed and change in direction became a nightmare for full-backs and the diminutive star continued to make new in-roads.
Whenever Pakistan played, Adil was on the team sheet. Whenever KRL played, Adil was there to give defenders a run for their money. And through consistent performances, the attacker started gaining attention from clubs outside the country.
This wasn’t the first time a Pakistani player had been scouted from foreign clubs. Current captain Samar Ishaq was offered a contract by a Syrian club in 2006, while goalkeeper Jaffar Khan was scouted by a Korean second division club, only to be denied by his superiors at the Army Football Club in 2001. The likes of Kaleemullah and Muhammad Rasool have also gathered interest from Nepal and Iran recently; however, these players have turned them down in favour of their current jobs.
Adil, unlike the rest, was determined not to let obstacles block his move and worked tirelessly to secure his transfer.
Many sides were chasing his signature and Nepal’s Macchindra FC even offered a contract, but the winger was determined to get a more lucrative deal. Finally, it was when the Dordoi Bishkek offered their agreement that this talented winger signed away his game and his future to the Kyrgyzstani football club.
Players in Pakistan are usually content with a domestic sport job for life and don’t wish to get out of their comfort zone or play in a competitive environment. Sometimes, they don’t have the vision to understand what a stint abroad can do for their careers.
Adil stands as an example for youngsters, who constantly watch European football and only dream of making it as a professional. Adil has proven that not only does our country have talent, but that one can make a career out of the beautiful game in Pakistan if one works hard enough.