by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: Fahadullah Khan has had a strange old footballing career so far. He has seen his passion for the game dwindle, he has been forced to undergo a kidney transplant, he has seen his stock drop from star midfielder and next-big-thing to a has-been before making that rise up again. And he is still just 25.
Now he has his sights set on following national skipper Kaleemullah into the US to play football. However, he knows things won’t be easy for him.
“I know it won’t be easy to go to the US and play there, especially due to my kidney transplant,” says Fahadullah.
But he is upbeat despite seeing the ugly side of Pakistan football. Hailing from Waziristan, he was a star midfielder for his regional team at a precocious age and made his mark in the U16 national side.
He soon found himself in the national team too, only to find out that his kidneys no longer functioned properly.
“It was a high-flying career,” Fahadullah told The Express Tribune. “I enjoyed every bit of it, while it lasted, but I was unaware of the kidney disease. Of course I was not doing physically well and that started to show.”
Fahadullah was the part of the Pakistan Olympic qualifiers in 2011 and played against Thailand and Malaysia with the seniors’ team.
“It was hard to explain what was going on with me; when I went to the doctor we found out that I had a kidney disorder since I was a child,” he said. “KRL offered me a spot in their side but I must admit I lacked discipline at that time. I had just gone from being a star in the making to suddenly fading into obscurity.”
Fahadullah’s health worsened and it was clear that this had become much more serious than just football; it was suddenly about survival.
“I was playing very well at that time,” he said. “Kaleemullah is talented but I always felt I could play better than him at the peak of my game. I still feel I have the talent needed to play at the top. I am trying to get a spot in Kaleemullah’s side Sacramento Republic, even though I would have to sign a contract stating that if anything happens, then I would be taking full responsibility.”
The kidneys are no longer an issue for Fahadullah. “My elder brother gave me a kidney,” he said. “The doctors say I can live for 30-35 more years.”
Fahad claims he trains six hours a day just to keep his fitness level up to par with international players and intends on trying out for Sacramento in June.
“I applied for the tryout — we have to pay a fee and we need to send our resume, but there is a problem, I haven’t got much footage of myself with the national team, so I have to work extra hard to make videos that showcase my talent,” he said. “
Fahad has had his US visa rejected once already. “I am from Waziristan, and I stutter when I speak, so it is not easy for a person like me to convince visa officers,” he said. “I’m trying to go again though, I’m not giving up. But I have gotten really good remarks from Sacramento; they assured me they won’t rule me out due to my medical history and added that talent is the key.”
He feels being a footballer in Pakistan is not easy though, and any career in the sport is challenging.
“I wanted to start my own club when I was forced to stop playing; but to do so you have to get registered and people usually do not support players, especially who are as young as I am,” he said. “As a player, I didn’t even have enough money to train once I was out of the national team. I had no motivation left so I thought about starting a club that would help me and others, but that is very expensive and local coaches don’t cooperate.”
Not one to give up, Fahadullah is determined to pursue his dream once more, and his passion for football has rekindled once more. It would be folly to write him off just yet.