Sacramento Bee – Bill Paterson
One of the most renowned soccer players in Pakistan is in Sacramento this week trying to land a contract with Republic FC.
Kaleemullah Kahn, a captain of the Pakistan Men’s National Team, is on trial with the defending USL champions.
The 22-year-old Khan, a 5-foot-7 forward, played last season for Dordoi Bishkek, the top club in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. Last season he was voted the league’s top player and goal scorer with 18 goals in 17 matches in helping that country’s perennial power to the league title.
He has played in 25 matches and scored four goals since joining the Pakistan Men’s National Team in 2011. He scored 31 goals in 2012 and 33 more in 2013 for Kahn Research Laboratories, a power in the Pakistan Premier League.
“He sees Sacramento and Republic FC as a good fit for him,” said Adel Saad, his agent with the Bay Area-based KoraStars. “He is really impressed with the style of play, and that it’s a team that he thinks can bring out the best in him. He knows Preki is an experienced coach who had achievements with Chivas in (Major League Soccer). And it’s not just about coming to America and being on a good team, it’s the environment around you. Sacramento has a large and supportive Pakistani community. So he feels comfortable here.”
Khan watched Republic FC’s 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders 2 on Saturday with Sacramento technical director Graham Smith. It helped him to get a feel for Preki’s possession-style, attacking system. He met the team during a training session on Sunday.
Kahn hails from country without much soccer history. Pakistan, which ranks sixth in the world in population with nearly 200 million people, is 173rd in FIFA’s latest world rankings.
But Saad said Kahn is a transformational player who can help open the doors for other top Pakistani players to showcase their abilities in America and Europe.
“He is a special player,” Saad said. “Pakistan isn’t famous for (soccer), but he’s a homegrown, rising star.”