Fit-again Kaleem eyes another foreign contract [The News]

Fit-again Kaleem eyes another foreign contract [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: Still having a contract with Iraq’s Premier League club Zakho FC, Pakistan’s experienced professional footballer Kaleemullah is weighing different options and is expected to move to some other foreign club in near future as he has received offers from clubs of various countries.

“I have received offers from Qatar, Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi FC, clubs from Russia and the United States. I am reading the situation and then will decide where to go,” Kaleem told ‘The News’ in an interview on Monday from his hometown Chaman.

The 29-year-old Chaman-born striker told his club during his recent visit to Iraq that he would inform them soon about his future intention. His contract with Zakho FC is about to expire in a month.

“I recently visited Iraq as I had been invited by Zakho for a meeting. The league was on but I was not fit. I discussed with them some issues and there were also some payment issues with them which have been cleared,” Kaleem said.

“I cannot say whether I will continue to serve Zakho. I have offers from various regions,” Kaleem said. Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi was the first club for which he played way back in 2014-2015. It was his professional football debut.

Kaleem scored 20 goals in 22 matches for Dordoi in Kyrgyzstan’s top league. Dordoi’s head coach was Zavisa Milosavljevic of Serbia, who also served as Pakistan’s head coach for a couple of years in 2013-2014.

Kaleem’s next stints were with the US clubs Sacraminto Republic and Tulsa Roughnecks from 2015-2017. From 2017-2019, he played for Turkey’s clubs Serhat Ardahanspor and Igdirspor before moving to Iraq where he had stints with Al-Najaf and Zakho.

Asked about his intention to re-join Dordoi, Kaleem said they had said whatever he demanded the club would meet. “Yes, they are open to me and want me to return and are ready to pay decently,” said Kaleem, who aims to play professional football for a few more years. “I am just 29 and can play for a few more years. I am focussing on my fitness and will try to return to competitive football by the end of this year,” he said.

Kaleem received a shin injury during the last year’s league with Zakho FC which left the player unsettled for more than a year. “The shin injury unsettled me a lot. I developed the injury in the 2020 league in Iraq. It was the last game of the league with Zakho last season,” he recalled. “I underwent treatment. Thank God I am perfectly fit now,” he said.

Kaleem was not happy with the current situation of Pakistan football. “This is a big issue,” he said. “The players have suffered the most. No one feels for the players whose careers have been destroyed,” said Kaleem, also a former KRL player.

“Look SAFF Cup is in operation in the Maldives these days and we are not there. Because of our low status in football, SAFF Cup is our identity but now due to Pakistan’s suspension we are not playing there. I feel a lot of pain for our players who have been passing through tough times,” Kaleem said.

“During SAFF Cup our players could have received league offers from foreign clubs. Had our football been active during the last six years, 50 to 60 players would have got the experience of playing in foreign leagues. Our several age-group batches lost the opportunity to develop their careers. We wasted a complete generation,” he lamented.

Kaleem said he intended to establish an academy in Karachi. “I plan so and InshaAllah will do it as we need academies for game development,” said Kaleem, who is set to get married in the next couple of weeks.

Published in The News, 5 October 2021