by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI : Pakistani fans may know the statistics of international footballers, but how much do they know about one of their own?
Chaman-born Kaleemullah is on the verge of a milestone, and if he manages to score a goal for Igdirspor FC in Turkey, that will be a source of pride not just for him but the nation and especially for aspiring footballers in the country.
It will be the 100th goal of a footballer who dared to pursue football – the forsaken sport in Pakistan – professionally.
So far Kaleemullah has scored 99 goals, 41 goals out of these outside of the country, according to him.
Kaleemullah’s has been proving his worth for international clubs since 2013, when he first played for Kyrgyszstan’s FC Dordoi. He played two seasons there and scored 23 goals. He also became the first Pakistani to sign contract with the United Soccer League and played two seasons in the US with Sacramento Republic FC and Tulsa Roughnecks, scoring one goal each for both sides.
Now he is in Turkey, hoping to find a way to the European continent. However, before that he wants to make an impression.
Igdirspor will be playing Cayelispor on Sunday and Kaleemullah scored his last goal and winner for his team against Arhavispor in the Bolgesel Amator Lig.
“It gives you more confidence,” Kaleemullah told The Express Tribune. “I want to score that goal, so it matters more, in my last match too I scored a winner, so I want to make it clear that I’m here to play, I’m here to inspire younger Turkish players too. I want to show them my skill. I have scored 41 goals outside of Pakistan. I just want to put forward the message to the younger Pakistanis that if they work hard enough they can do this too. They can have a career in football too. I want to score this 100th goal.”
Kaleemullah added that he never knew that he would come this far as a young boy in Chaman, just playing football.
“No one thinks about football if they think about Pakistan, I want to change that. I wanted to do something as an individual, as a Pakistani footballer that can be remembered for a long time, something that can inspire the youth. I hope I can be a good role model too.”
The 25-year-old said he is feels positive about his career goals, and wants to make his contribution count when he is playing for clubs.
Locally Kaleemullah used to play for Khan Research Laboratories, and played the Asian Football Confederation President’s Cup with them, scoring seven goals at the tournament.
“I used to think that just playing was enough, but I want to give my all and make a difference if I’m playing for any club. Earlier I was satisfied with getting the opportunity alone, now I want to make each opportunity count and hopefully prove my talent. I do believe that if one works hard enough they can make it big, despite the odds. I want to see our youth take football seriously too,” said Kaleemullah.
He had been ignored by the Pakistan Football Federation in the last two international events, Asian games and the South Asian Football Championship, merely because he spoke about his concerns that the PFF have failed to deliver in terms of football development and the officials have been more active in politics.
The PFF’s vice president Sardar Naveed Haider had called him a ‘traitor’,’unprofessional’ and ‘greedy’, just for signing with a Turkish club, while he had requested PFF to join the training tour for the national team in Bahrain before the Asian Games.
PFF had also called him ‘unfit’ to make sure he does not play for the team again, as a way to set example for other players that any kind of criticism of the Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat’s PFF will be met with vengeance and vendetta.
PFF goes mum
PFF went the extra-mile last month when they sent out a disciplinary letter for breach of code of ethics to Kaleemullah for speaking to the media and not ‘cheering’ the Pakistan team. Both accounts were false and the youngster had been supporting his team-mates from Turkey and had only pointed out that the federation is run unprofessionally. PFF issued the letter addressing Kaleemullah as the ex-national footballer.
PFF asked him to send explanation by September 29, while he replied beforehand asking for explanation on Haider’s comments by October 5.
Kaleemullah is still waiting for the reply from the PFF.
“They aren’t saying anything now, they didn’t reply to me,” said Kaleemullah. “Instead they tried to pressurise K-Electric to take some actions against me, but that matter is sorted too. PFF on the other hand are mum now.”