Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Kathmandu
Ever since making his debut for the Pak Shaheens in 2005, former Fulham star Zeeshan Rehman continues to divide opinion amongst fans.
While there is no doubting his abilities, his performances for Pakistan have been far from perfect, casting a doubt over the player’s intentions.
Rehman, who has played against top class opposition in the English Premier League, has never put up those marauding performances whilst playing in green and his last appearance against Singapore saw the team concede 2 goals in the half he was on the pitch.
That’s not all, go back to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and a tired-looking Zesh was unable to prevent a 3-0 rout in Dhaka, although the pitch condition did not due him any favours either.
It was expected that he might make up for the performance in the 2nd leg, but the centre-back bowed out citing personal reasons.
While his appearances have been dodgy, when Zesh is on top form for Pakistan, the results are there for everyone to see.
The Shaheens held Iraq to a 0-0 draw in Syria in 2007 and were dominant in the 2005 SAFF Cup, where they made it to the semi-finals and Rehman made his debut.
And this time there is an air of optimism that things could be different.
Firstly, Zesh seems eager to play for Pakistan and secondly, the squad has improved a lot since the last edition of the tournament. The induction of 5 foreign-based players will also aide Pakistan’s cause as their finishing woes were woefully highlighted in 2011.
The game against India particularly boasts a tough ask, with Sunil Chhetri leading the line and ready to square off against Zesh.
However, if the former Blackpool man can keep attackers at bay and prove his worth in Green, Pakistan’s chances of winning the 2013 SAFF Championship will rise considerably.