By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
The wait is finally over. After years of games being cancelled and incomplete documents, Nabil Aslam is finally set to join the Pakistan National Team ahead of their crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
Aslam, a centre-back by trade, was courted by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) during Tariq Lutfi’s tenure at the helm in 2011 but without his Pakistani documents was unable to ultimately join the team.
And when Zaviša Milosavljević was in-charge, the Denmark-based defender missed out on making his debut after several friendlies were cancelled. But finally the efforts have paid off with Nabil linking up with the Pakistan team in Lahore and aiming to provide steel to the Pakistani defence with his years of experience in Europe.
“I started football in Brondby EF. It’s the second biggest club in Denmark. Then later I went to another club BK Frem. I was there for seven years, then AC Horsens got me on a free transfer. Last year, I left AC Horsens to join AB Copenhagen for half a season,” said Nabil while talking to FootballPakistan.com in an exclusive interview.
With Pakistani defenders struggling at times, Nabil is a welcome sight and his time in Danish football has taught him well, with the 30-year-old adding that the SuperLiga is extremely technical while the 1st Division has a more physical approach.
“I played in the Danish Super Liga for 5 years. The difference is the physical strength, the 1st division is tougher, but the SuperLiga is more technical and you have to be clever to play there.”
Nabil also had the honour of playing in the Danish cup final in 2012, where he come up against Denmark’s biggest club FC Copenhagen. And while his team didn’t end up lifting the trophy, they got a lucrative UEFA Europa League spot courtesy of their 3rd placed finish and the fact that Copenhagen had already qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
“The Danish cup finale was an excellent experience and although we didn’t win it, FC Copenhagen were league champions and thus we ended up with a UEFA Europa League spot. In the Europa League, we played against a big team from Norway; Elfsborg. It was a 1-1 draw at home, but we beat them 3-2 in their stadium,” claimed Nabil.
Their journey was abruptly ended against Portuguese giants Sporting, but the defender fondly remembers the fight they put up at home and the dreaded, tense atmosphere at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in the second leg.
“Then we faced Sporting Lisbon. Everybody was really happy to come up against such a big team; it was a huge occasion for the club. The match was unbelievable; at home we played very well at home. But in Lisbon, we were all in shock. The stadium was a huge and the crowd was full, the pressure to perform was huge.”
With sufficient club success in a major European league, Nabil is eager to embrace the latest challenge; playing internationally for Pakistan and claims that he is extremely eager to don the jersey during the World Cup qualifier against Yemen, a team which he believes is beatable.
“In Denmark, when the media talks about their national players, it makes them happy and proud. It is the same for me here. I am very proud to be a Pakistani football player and the fact that I am going to be representing my country.”
“I haven’t seen the team yet, we are 11 players, you can’t say we have 4-5 stars and we will win. We need to perform as a team and if we do that, we can win,” the central-defender was quoted as say saying.