by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Pakistan football team captain and former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman has been appointed by Hong Kong Premier League Club Southern as head coach.
This is the same club for which the 36-year-old Zesh has been playing since 2017.
Zesh, who made his international debut for Pakistan way back in 2005, has earned 22 caps so far. Having completed his UEFA Pro Licence he has also emerged as a strong future coaching candidate of Pakistan team.
Although it may take some time befoer he may be given Pakistan team as a head coach but he has really placed himself at the pole position for this job after completing UEFA Pro Licence. And taking up the task as head coach of Southern will enable Zesh to also showcase his skills as a coach.
Pakistan’s coaching is on the radar of Zesh and he says if he is given the team he will try to turn the things around. “I have been playing for Pakistan since 2005. The first game was in the SAFF Cup in Karachi. Now 15 years later, I would still be involved with the team for many years. Yes, InshaAllah I would love to help the national team one day I would be a coach and would try to improve the FIFA rankings and try to qualify for the World Cup and try to win the SAFF Cup. But first things first; we need to sort out football in Pakistan and then try to improve the team,” Zesh told ‘The News’ in an interview.
Zesh believes Pakistan can go a long way if effort in the right direction is made. “InshaAllah, in future, if I also take the team I will give them some structure, some belief, that it is possible to beat first the South Asian teams like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan and the next step would be to try to get to the World Cup qualifiers,” Zesh said.
He said there is an immense talent in Pakistan but the players need exposure. “The talent in Pakistan is very good. The players just need more exposure, more training. Some players need to be playing outside Pakistan, in different countries, in Asia first, and that would really help them develop and improve,” Zesh said.
“First of all we need to send more players outside and get some foreign players in the league,” he was quick to add. “To boost Pakistan football I think we need to sort out the federation issues and organise who is leading the football there and then we start the league and try to get the confidence of the players back and organise friendly games with the national teams and build step by step. The first thing is to sort out football in the league,” the central defender said.
Zeeshan also appreciated the efforts of former Pakistan head coach and former Director Technical Shehzad Anwar. “Shehzad has served Pakistan football well. He is a pro licence coach and knows much about the game. He also helped to adjust some Pakistani players in foreign leagues and I think this is a great job,” Zesh said.
Zesh was confident he would enable Southern to improve with his new role as a head coach. “Yes, I am ready for the different role. I know the players very well. I have been playing with them and also have been coaching some of them already especially the young players. I feel very comfortable,” Zesh said.
Doing UEFA Pro Licence has helped Zesh not only to prolong his career with Southern but it also has given a sort of hope to Pakistan to have its own coach in future who has the experience of playing football in England, Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong and is aware of various complications of the game. “It’s good to have UEFA Pro Licence. It was a lot of work, lot of sacrifices to get that and now it’s good time to put it to practice. Our club Southern as compared to other clubs would be much smaller as far as budget is concerned. The target for our club is to try to integrate youth teams, to bring some academy boys to the first team, play good football, make the fans happy and try to win every game,” Zesh said.
“As compared to other teams we still have a very good squad. We lost some players because of the budget issue but still we have a team which can give other teams good fight in the league,” Zesh said.
Zesh, who captained Pakistan senior team in the World Cup qualifiers against Cambodia last year, still loves to represent Pakistan if there are games in future as he is still fit and has life in his legs. “I can still play and InshaAllah if the national team has more games and everything is organised I would still like to play,” Zesh said.