Lahore, 11 March : “I am sure that Zeshan Rehman (Muangthong United FC, Thailand) and Atif Bashir (Barry Town FC, Wales) together are rated as most exciting central defenders in South Asia. Atif was outstanding during Colombo’s AFC Challenge Cup 2009 while I was really impressed with the potential of Zeeshan during SAFF Championship 2005. Zesh had never represented Pakistan under my coaching but I have records that he played SAFF Championship brilliantly at Karachi six years ago under Bahraini coach Salman Shareeda and missed the next at Maldives last year due to food poising. This defender, favorites to join me for coming AFC Challenge Cup mission along with Atif, has enormous talent and enough capability to re-join Pakistan after playing his last international for Pakistan at Syria two years ago, blocking all Iraqis attacks in World Cup Qualifier 0-0 draw” this is stated by Pakistan National team Tariq Lutfi who was manager of Pakistan team in 2005 when Zeshan made international debut for Pakistan.
Pakistan will take on Turkmenistan (21 March), India (23 March) and Chinese Taipei (25 March) in Group-B encounters of 4th AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers at Kuala Lumpur. “Due to his Pakistani parentage, and because he possessed dual Pakistani and British nationality, Rehman qualified to represent Pakistan, and he eventually opted to play for them, as he considered it to be a more realistic option.”added PFF’s Secretary General Lt.Col ® Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.
Nicknames Zesh, he is an English Pakistani football defender who was the first British Asian to start a Barclays Premier League match and is the first to have played in all four divisions of professional football in England. He was the first Pakistani international footballer to play professional football in England. He is now with Muangthong United FC, a Thai football club based in Nonthaburi Province and owned by Siam Sport Syndicate and others private investors. The club currently play in the Thai Premier League.
“I watched him play for Pakistan against four teams in SAFF 2005 when the team conceded only a goal (that too on penalty) in 360 minutes. But I have to take more time to see Birmingham-born defender in more actions so that his actual competency could be known as far as representation of national team is concerned with battery of domestic/home players. He joined Thai team after 2009-10 season with Bradford City, scoring two goals in 48 matches,” added Tariq who called eight overseas players Yousof Ejaz Butt (Birkerod IF Skjold, Denmark), Atif Bashir Qureshi (Barry Town, Wales), Reis Ashraf (Buckingham Town FC), Yaqoob Ijaz Butt (Herlev Idrætsforening FC, Denmark), Zeeshan Rehman (Muangthong United FC, Thailand), Irfan Khan (Bradford Park Avenue Association Football Club, England), Kashif Mumtaz Siddiqui (Fresno Fuego, USA ), Adnan Farooq Ahmed (Aboomoslem FC, Iran) to join 29 home-grown booters.
Rehman signed a two-year deal with Thai side on 19 December 2010, making debut debut 41 days later in the King’s Trophy against Chonburi Sharks at the Suphachalasai Stadium. His appearance made him the first British Asian and Pakistan international to play in Thailand.
Zesh, now 27, praised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat’s directives to ask Tariq monitor the overseas footballers of Pakistani origin who are interested in playing for Pakistan and also those who have already played for Pakistan but are still unknown.
“I will never forget 7 December 2005 when I made international debut for Pakistan against Lankans at Karachi’s Peoples Sports Complex during 6th SAFF championship. You have to dream big and remember anything is possible with hard work, faith and belief. Pakistan conceded only one goal during four games of the event. I also want to see the whole infrastructure of Pakistani football improve and see more players from other countries decide to represent Pakistan. My ambitions for Pakistan are to reach last 32 of World Cup one day Insha Allah. Hopefully, we can achieve this while I am still a player, if not then I would love to be the coach that does it.
“Football on Thai soil is going fine, I am gaining more experience all the time and previously have worked under nine managers and played for six English clubs Fulham, Brighton & Hove Albion, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers, Blackpool and Bradford city during last seven years. In terms of gaining more experience it was exactly what I needed and one of the reasons I moved around England from 2004 to 2010. Now I am Thai club player under Portugal-born coach Henrique Manuel da Silva Calisto.