Denmark based footballer of Pakistani origin Adnan Mohammad has been in the headlines in the concluding months of the 2017-18 Danish SuperLiga season with his exploits at Helsingor. Adnan has been among the struggling club’s best performers since the winter break and his 2 world class goals against Copenhagen and Silkeborg earned him a slot in the Danish SuperLiga’s team of the month for March 2018. Unfortunately Adnan’s purple patch couldn’t save Helsingor from relegation to the Danish 1st Division.
So we caught up with the youngster to discuss his journey through Danish football so far and plans for the future. This interview has taken good few years to finally reach its conclusion and we appreciate Adnan making time for FPDC to talk in great detail.
Adnan started playing football early aged 4 with the helping hand of his older brother who encouraged him to take up the sport and supported him throughout his career, “my brother was my role model growing up and playing football” Adnan recalled. Whilst his brother played a crucial role in getting Adnan into organised football and supporting his development, the young man believes he always felt as the odd one out at training or match days growing up. This was because whilst other Danish kids would usually be accompanied to training one or both parents, Adnan would make the trip alone to everyday.
Adnan said “I used to make 40-45 mins bus journey each way and as a 12-year old when I first started it was difficult.” This lack of all-out family support is a dilemma often discussed in UK by academics and football stakeholders when talking about lack of footballers among the large South Asian diaspora in the ancestral home of football. Family support certainly plays a significant part in facilitating young kids to take up the sport as a career.
However Adnan didn’t let that deter him as he continued to make those journeys and progressed through the age group teams at Lyngby. Whilst Adnan’s parents weren’t there to watch him train or play, they fully supported him in meeting all his needs; from special diet to football equipment and travel expenses that he would incur on those long bus journeys.
Adnan said that while his parents have still not come to watch him play, they do enjoy watching him impress in the SuperLiga on TV at home. Whilst they stayed behind the scenes in his development, Adnan also credits his rise to his late uncle Mohammad Asjad, who passed away in March 2013 aged just 30 and had left a lasting influence on the youngster. “He taught me from right and wrong, who to hang around with and who to avoid as lot of youngsters can sway towards gangs and crime,” remembers Adnan.
It was this desire to forge a career at the highest level in Denmark that made Adnan take a step up from Lyngby and join FC Nordsjælland. He earned a name for himself in the youth sides of FCN and was then rewarded with a senior team debut in 2014 for a Danish Cup match. He would have to wait till the following season to make his SuperLiga debut, which came in September 2015 against AGF.
Just as Adnan was hoping to build on his debut and push for more playing time, FCN were developing another player who would not only break into the first team in the coming months but also take Danish football by storm. He was none other than Emre Mor, the young Danish-Turk player who had also come through at Lyngby like Adnan and then joined him at FCN. Mor would make his debut after the winter break that 2015-16 season and immediately attract Europe-wide attention.
Adnan talks fondly of Emre and played a role in convincing him to join him at FCN. Adnan said, “we lived together for 6 months at FCN and became really good friends and follow each other’s careers closely.” Mor got ahead of Adnan at FCN and starred in those 10 games which earned him Turkey call-up for a place in Euro 2016 as well as a move to German giants Borussia Dortmund.
Adnan was pleased for him and even went to the European Championships to watch his friend play and has also gone to watch Mor in Spain playing for Celta Vigo.
With Mor’s rise at FCN came limited opportunities for Adnan but he kept performing in the reserves and stayed on at the club hoping to seal a first team slot once Mor had moved to Germany. It was a struggle in the 2016-17 season as Adnan only featured 10 times in the first half of the season with just 4 starts. He had to do something coming winter break as he just wanted to play first team football and that’s when an unexpected opportunity knocked on his door.
That opportunity came from abroad through Arendal had just been promoted from Norwegian 3rd tier to 2nd tier and had ambitions to get to the top flight. The club had close links with FCN and made an approach for Adnan, who quickly jumped on the chance to play first team football despite it being a step down from one of the top Danish clubs to a newcomer in Norway’s 2nd tier.
What awaited for him in Arendal wasn’t something he was prepared for and the style of football in Norway was something he wasn’t used to. Adnan admitted that it was a shock to the system, “They played very direct. I wasn’t getting much of the ball and was unable to contribute. I wanted this move to help my development but it didn’t.”
Adnan only played 10 matches at Arendal before deciding that he had to go back to playing top tier football and mutually agreed to cancel his contract with the club.
He returned to Denmark and had a trial at newly promoted Helsingor, impressing the club and getting offered the opportunity to get his SuperLiga career back on track. Adnan became a mainstay at Helsingor in their relegation struggle, impressed fans in Denmark and in Pakistan.
However he is aware that with the club getting relegated he is assessing his options over the summer if he is to continue playing in Danish top flight in 2018-19.
As a youngster Adnan was known for his trickery and pace which earned him regular invites to Denmark youth teams where he would train but was unable to play due to not having a Danish passport. But now Adnan has set his sights on representing Pakistan and had been eagerly awaiting for the political turmoil in PFF to come to an end.
With Pakistan appointing Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira ahead of Asian Games and SAFF Cup, Adnan expects a call-up for the SAFF Cup hosted by Bangladesh in September this year.
Adnan is hoping to be joined by fellow Pakistani-Danes in Yousuf Butt, Hassan Bashir and Mohammad Ali and hopes that Norwegian-Pakistani players Ghayas Zahid and Etzaz Hussain also join the Pakistan National Team.
For Adnan, fellow Nordic players playing top flight football like Ghayas and Etzaz is a positive development and he keeps in touch with APOEL star Ghayas. Adnan said, “As a youngster I used to see Nabil Aslam play on TV and he was the only Pakistani-origin player in SuperLiga then.” Now the young winger hopes his performances can inspire younger generation of Pakistani kids in Denmark to take up football as a career.
It is hoped that as Pakistan returns to international action since the March 2015 loss to Yemen in the 1st round of Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, the team will effectively combine the best domestic and foreign-based players like Adnan to become an effective unit Pakistani football fans have been so desperate to see for years.