These 3 British-Pakistani football players are now aiming to do their best at reviving the game in Pakistan.
Football in Pakistan has been steadily gaining traction, with a growing community of enthusiasts and efforts to promote the sport nationwide. Although cricket dominates the sports landscape, football has found its place, particularly at the grassroots level. The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) oversees the development of football in the country, recently striving harder to improve infrastructure, youth programs, and competitions.
A recent electrifying triumph for the Pakistan football team gave many hope for football’s resurgence in Pakistan! A historic victory that has shaken the very foundations of the football world! After an astonishing 34-year wait, team Pakistan clinched their first-ever FIFA World Cup qualifier win, and boy, did they do it in style! While the team is now being empowered from the grass-root levels, 3 British Pakistani players have chosen to switch allegiance and return to their parents and grandparents country to play for their other home, Pakistan.
National football in the country has also been suspended twice by Fifa in the last four years for “undue influence from third parties”. The win against Cambodia was a much needed boost for football in Pakistan, after a difficult period which meant they did not play a home match for eight years.
Here are 3 British-Pakistani players taking on the brave task of reviving the football scene in Pakistan:
1. Harun Hamid
Harun Hamid, a 19-year-old player from the English second-tier side QPR, had not yet ventured into professional play in England before repping Team Pakistan. Harun played a crucial role and was instrumental in Team Pakistan’s World Cup Qualifier, prompting celebrations among millions of Pakistani football fans. His decisive goal secured a 1-0 triumph over Cambodia, marking Pakistan’s first win for the first time, in five years and propelling them into the second round of qualifiers for the sport’s premier tournament.
This triumph earned Pakistan the reward to face Saudi Arabia in a match, their highest-profile opponent to date, notable for being the only team to defeat World Cup champions Argentina in the previous winter’s tournament.
“We’re playing against the team that beat Messi’s Argentina and we don’t even have a pro league,” Harun said about the opportunity. “Growing up I didn’t even know Pakistan had a team if I’m honest, so I never thought I’d be playing for them one day,” he says. “But the opportunity came, and to play on the world stage in front of huge crowds is a dream come true.
Harun is joined by fellow British Pakistani players in the squad: former England under-19 captain Easah Suliman and Otis Khan, who currently competes for Grimsby in England League Two.
2. Otis Khan
27 year old Otis Khan began his football journey at the renowned Manchester United academy, where he spent 10 years from 2002 till 2012. However, the opportunity to make his professional debut arose in 2014 when he departed for Sheffield United.
Until recently, Khan has been a member of Grimsby Town, a club he joined in July of the previous year, competing in the third division of English football. His debut for Pakistan took place in June during a friendly match against Mauritius.
Despite being part of the Pakistani team, Khan encountered a setback just two hours before the Pakistan vs. Cambodia match, being informed that he would not be able to participate in the game against Cambodia. Khan’s eligibility to play for Pakistan stems from the birthplace of his grandfather was not confirmed. Despite the disappointment of missing out on a World Cup qualifier earlier in the month, the Grimsby Town midfielder, Otis Khan, remains optimistic about the prospect of returning to the Pakistan team.
“The conversation has been positive. Things are looking well at the moment. I’ve got a Pakistani passport and an identity card” he shared, hoping to receive his clearance soon.
3. Easah Sulaiman
25 year old Suliman was a member of the England squad that secured victory in the European Under-19 Championship in 2017. Following his tenure with Aston Villa, the talented player made a move to the Portuguese team Vitoria Guimaraes in January 2020 and subsequently went on loan to the second division club Vilafranquens.
Former England youth international Easah Suliman requested to switch his international allegiance to represent Pakistan and it was approved by Fifa. He played in the historic world cup qualifier against cambodia.
Easah Suliman’s new goal is to help Pakistan football team. He says: “It’s a long project, It’s not something that’s going to change overnight. They certainly have their ambitions to head in the right direction for all of us.”
Are you excited for football in Pakistan to be gaining momentum?