'Asian origin footballers to stick to their roots'
Former Fulham striker Rehman of Pak. origin says players of Asian descent should consider sticking to their roots than dreaming of playing for England.Updated: Apr 13, 2007, 19:22 IST
While the likes of Indian origin footballers like Michael Chopra and Harpal Singh are making a splash, former Fulham striker Zesh Rehman of Pakistani origin says players of Asian descent should consider sticking to their roots rather than dreaming of playing for England.
Rehman was touted as an inspiration to British Asians after being the first to break into the English Premiership League but many were disappointed after he decided to play for Pakistan rather than stick it out for an England spot.
"I¹m pleased with my decision (to play for Pakistan). If (as an Asian) you are not getting opportunities (to play for England) when you are playing in the Premiership, then Asian players are always going to be overlooked. When it comes to it, they need to stick to their roots," Rehman said in an interview to Eastern Eye.
According to Rehman, Cardiff City striker Chopra being overlooked was a perfect example of how Asian players have no chance of playing for England.
"Chopra has been on top form with Championship side Cardiff City and currently is the top goal scorer in the league. But he was not even considered for England¹s games against Israel and Andorra," said Rehman.
"So he (Chopra) needs to maybe look at his decision and go play for India instead of hanging on to the dream of playing for England."
Rehman played for Pakistan in December 2005 and said the reception he got from the fans was heartfelt.
"I enjoyed it. Before I went, there were only 4,000 people turning up for the games. But when I went to Pakistan, 25,000 turned up. Now you tell me if interest is not there, the market is not there. It¹s all there, it¹s just infrastructure that needs working on and players need to play in other countries," he pointed out.
"It¹s going to take time but I think it can be done. Some of the (Pakistan) players can definitely play in the Championship or even League One. It¹s that sort of standard but the style of football is more different."
Rehman has had mixed fortunes as a professional footballer. He came through the Fulham youth academy and got his real taste of first-team football during his loan period with Brighton during the 2003-04 season.
He enjoyed a purple patch at Fulham the next season, but found himself out of favour during 2005-06, with manager Chris Coleman favouring senior players over the young Rehman.
He moved to QPR club on a three-year contract at the beginning of this season and was a regular starter, but has failed to make the squad in the past couple of months.
Rehman said he moved to Brighton on loan to get regular first-team football. He believes that he can still cut it at the top level but just needs a manager who can show faith in his ability.
"I know I¹m good enough to play in the Championship and the Premiership. I just need to play more regularly," he said.