What does the future hold for Kaleemullah Khan at Sacramento Republic?

What does the future hold for Kaleemullah Khan at Sacramento Republic?

By Shawn Rossi

A switch to the States was always going to be a learning curve for Kaleemullah Khan.

Making history as the first Pakistan-born player to pen professional terms with an American club, the 22-year-old has taken a giant leap into the unknown.

He is a long way from home and, at the level he is currently turning out at, is still finding his feet when it comes to the shaping of what he hopes will be a long and successful career.

Sacramento Republic clearly spotted something in him and felt his obvious potential justified the awarding of a short-term contract.

That agreement is now edging towards a conclusion, so big decisions will have to be made over the coming weeks.

Having initially joined on a four-month deal in June, Kaleemullah was quick to express a desire to earn an extended stay, and he explained this to The Express Tribune.

He was also fully aware of his role as an ambassador for his nation, with it possible that he could play some part, however small, in opening a wider window to the world for fellow hopefuls from his homeland.

He added: “It’s an honour for me. No one in the world knows Pakistanis for football, but with this chance I hope to change that. I’m proud of the path I’ve taken.”

The opportunity presented to him has certainly been embraced, with summer contests against Premier League heavyweights Sunderland and Newcastle United – as part of their respective pre-season tours – offering him a first-hand look at the levels reached by those at the very top of the game.

Kaleemullah has done enough to earn the trust of coach Paul Buckle – a man with considerable management experience from spells taken in at the likes of Torquay United, Bristol Rovers, Luton Town and Cheltenham Town in England.

He has, however, been unable to open his goal account for the club and slipped out of Republic’s matchday squad for the first time ahead of their crucial 3-1 victory over Tulsa Roughnecks last time out.

Loan recruits have been drafted in by Sacramento in an effort to keep their play-off dreams alive and Buckle, who was quick to put his fresh faces straight into the fold on Saturday and he was impressed by the positive dressing room.

There are now just four more possible fixtures for Kaleemullah to take in – possibly more if the play-offs are reached, and ones that will feature in football betting markets if you fancy your chances of picking a winner  – so the clock is ticking on his efforts to prove his worth.

He has, however, helped to open doors for others, with Pakistan’s women’s team captain Hajra Khan talking up his efforts to Desi Blitz after being offered trials in the Bundesliga, so whatever happens from this point – with there being international competition at the SAFF Championship to come at the end of the calendar year – the promising playmaker has stood himself in good stead for the next chapter of his career, be that in the US or elsewhere.