"More light has been shone on Pakistan football"
Amidst the most popular sport in the world, Pakistani footballers have been quietly challenging the status quo.
Their journeys, triumphs, and the sheer audacity of their dreams provide a captivating glimpse into the emergence of Pakistani talent on the global stage.
The UK has perhaps been the trailblazing nation when it comes to giving South Asian players the chance to shine.
The foundations laid by them have led to more Pakistani footballers chasing the opportunity to play on the world stage.
As we delve into these football prodigies, from Abdul Arshad to Harun Hamid, a layer of cultural diversity is being added to the landscape of this great sport.
These young athletes, driven by a love for the game and a connection to their roots, are reshaping narratives and challenging stereotypes.
Through their determination, they beckon a new era where Pakistani footballers can be a global force.
Meet the rising star of Pakistani football, dynamic midfielder Harun Hamid.
Born in 2003, this English-born talent has already carved out an impressive career, leaving fans eagerly anticipating what’s to come in the future.
Harun’s journey began at the age of 11 when he stepped into the illustrious Queens Park Rangers academy.
He not only secured a starting role with the under-18 side in 2022 but also marked his debut for the reserve team the following season.
In a move that highlighted his potential, Harun embarked on a one-month loan to Kingstonian in the Isthmian League Premier Division in February 2023.
Maintaining eligibility with QPR, he was set to dazzle in his debut against Hastings United.
However, fate took an unexpected turn when QPR decided not to renew his contract, leading to his release in June 2023.
A new chapter unfolded as he signed with St Albans City, a National League South club.
With new challenges ahead, Hamid is poised to make his mark and elevate his game to new heights. He also proudly represents the Pakistan international team.
His debut in 2023 against the Maldives earned praise from manager Shahzad Anwar for an acrobatic shot that nearly changed the course of the game.
Speaking about his journey so far with the team, he told the BBC:
“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.
“But the opportunity came, and to play on the world stage in front of huge crowds is a dream come true.”
The summer of 2023 saw Harun make history by securing Pakistan’s first-ever victory in a World Cup qualifying match.
His debut goal in a 1–0 win against Cambodia solidified his status as a game-changer for any match.
Harun’s dedication to the game and his role as a mentor in the Asian inclusion initiative shows his commitment to the sport’s growth.
Abdul Arshad is one of the most promising Pakistani footballers.
Currently gracing the stage as a winger for Hellerup IK, the Danish-born talent has an explosive style of play.
Abdul’s meteoric rise began in 2022 when he clinched the Second Division U19 League title with B.93.
Standing out as the team’s top scorer with 20 goals, his eye for the net was clear.
In November 2021, Abdul made his senior team debut in the Danish Second Division against FA 2000, garnering attention from the media.
He then lept to Danish First Division side HB Køge and it didn’t take long for him to establish himself as a regular in the senior team.
However, he left the side at the end of the 22/23 season and joined Hellerup IK.
With a reputation for flair, speed, and a keen eye for goal, Abdul’s arrival at Hellerup IK is anticipated to inject a new level of excitement into the team.
His already-established journey meant it was a matter of time before fans saw him on the international stage. And, Pakistan came calling in March 2023.
Making his international debut in a hard-fought 1-0 defeat, Abdul showcased his versatility and adaptability on the grand stage.
With a knack for goal-scoring, a flair for the dramatic, and a commitment to evolving his game, Abdul is set to take the football world by storm in the coming years.
The electrifying forward, Imran Kayani, currently dons the colours of Whitehawk.
This English-born talent is set to make waves on both the domestic and international fronts.
Kayani’s footballing path commenced at the tender age of 11, dazzling in the ranks of Chelsea Elite until the age of 16.
Royal Russell recognised his potential, offering a scholarship that allowed him to hone his skills full-time while pursuing his A levels.
During this period, he left a lasting impression representing England Schoolboys, scoring on his debut against Wales.
In 2020, Kayani took the next step in his career, signing with the Sutton United youth academy.
Having sought valuable first-team experience with a loan spell at Bedfont Sports, he went on to make 26 appearances for Slough Town in the 21-22 season.
2023 marked a significant move for Kayani as he joined Dover Athletic, displaying his ambition for higher challenges.
However, the narrative took a thrilling turn in September 2023 when he inked a deal with Whitehawk.
The home debut was nothing short of spectacular, with Kayani finding the net in a resounding 4–0 victory against Redhill during the 23–24 FA Cup qualifying rounds.
Scoring four goals in his initial three matches, he has become the talk of the town.
Speaking to the BBC, the player noted:
“A lot more light has been shone on Pakistan football.
“There’s a lot of British Asian talent in the UK, in the academies.
“We really want to push Pakistan in a good direction.”
Declaring his intention to play for Pakistan, he played for the team in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Making his international debut against Saudi Arabia, Kayani’s journey now includes representing the country close to his heart.
Abdullah Iqbal is a rising defensive force who plays for Danish First Division club B.93.
The defender started playing at age seven when he stepped into the youth academy of the side.
He spent his formative years there, briefly venturing to Brøndby IF before returning to captain the under-19 side at B.93.
His promotion to the first team in 2021 marked the beginning of a remarkable chapter, highlighted by a debut victory over Brabrand IF.
The 21-22 season saw Abdullah playing a pivotal role in the squad’s near-promotion to the First Division, setting the stage for an even more impressive follow-up season.
In a standout performance, he scored the opening goal in a crucial 2–1 away victory against Esbjerg, securing promotion to the coveted First Division in 2022.
Abdullah earned his first senior international call-up for a friendly against Nepal in 2022.
His journey with the Pakistan national team continued with appearances in the Mauritius Four Nation Cup and the 2023 SAFF Championship.
A defender with a keen eye for the game, his goal tally is poised to climb as he continues to evolve.
There’s no denying that Abdullah is one of the keenly watched Pakistani footballers who could grace one of Europe’s elite leagues soon.
Dribbling into the spotlight is midfield maestro, Rahis Nabi.
Nabi’s journey began on the hallowed grounds of West Bromwich Albion’s youth academy, where he showcased his potential.
A highlight during his youth career was scoring in a single game for Sunderland in April 2017, offering a glimpse of the magic he’d bring to the pitch.
Nabi took his talents to the senior level with Alvechurch in the Southern Football League Central Division and his impact was immediate.
The standout moment was a free-kick goal in a thrilling derby victory over Halesowen Town.
This performance marked the beginning of a prolific season, earning him the coveted title of Player of the Month.
Following stints at Alvechurch and Redditch United, his thirst for new challenges led him to Cyprus.
Here, he trained with Digenis Akritas Morphou, culminating in a significant move to the Cypriot Second Division in September 2023.
Initially a member of the England Under-17 squad, Nabi embraced his Pakistani heritage, joining the ranks of the Pakistan national team.
He truly announced his arrival on the world stage with a stellar performance against Tajikistan in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification, netting his first international goal.
Although, Rahis Nabi isn’t the lone star in his family.
As the youngest of three British Pakistani brothers, including Adil Nabi and Samir Nabi, who also navigated through the West Bromwich Albion academy, football excellence seems to run in their veins.
With a flair for creativity, a goal-scoring instinct, and a hunger for new challenges, Nabi embodies the spirit of the modern footballer.
Perhaps becoming a household name when it comes to Pakistani footballers is Easah Suliman.
The proficient centre-back currently graces the Azerbaijan Premier League with Sumgayit FK.
Hailing from the Hall Green area of Birmingham, Suliman began playing football at eight years old at the prestigious Aston Villa Academy.
In January 2015, amidst interest from football giants Bayern Munich and Liverpool, he solidified his allegiance to Aston Villa with a two-year professional contract.
His dedication didn’t go unnoticed, making his senior debut under Steve Bruce in a League Cup victory over Wigan Athletic in 2017.
But, in pursuit of growth, he embarked on loan spells at Cheltenham Town, Grimsby Town, and Dutch Eredivisie side FC Emmen.
The pinnacle of Suliman’s youth career came when he played a pivotal role in England Under-19s’ triumphant UEFA European Under-19 Championship campaign.
His leadership skills were evident.
He’s the first player of Asian heritage to captain England at Under-16, Under-17, and Under-19 levels.
The starman then joined Vitória SC and became the first player of Pakistani descent to play in Portugal’s top flight.
2023 marked a new chapter as Azerbaijani Premier League club Sumgayit FK secured Suliman’s services.
In his debut, he contributed to a 4–1 victory over Sabail and scored his first senior professional goal in a 2–1 win against Gabala.
As the first British Asian to captain an England side at any level, his heart led him back to his Pakistani roots.
His debut for the national team in June against Kenya and subsequent selection for the 2023 SAFF Championship solidified his commitment to fostering football in Pakistan.
In interviews, he openly discusses his British Pakistani heritage, his Muslim identity, and the support of his family from the city of Mirpur.
This along with his determination to open doors for future generations of Pakistani footballers is a testament to why he could become a footballing icon.
The emergence of Pakistani talent signals a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.
As the footballing world turns its gaze towards the future, these rising stars invite us to witness the evolving chapters of their careers.
Their stories challenge us to rethink assumptions and celebrate the diversity inherent in the sport.
These players are not just athletes but torchbearers of a footballing renaissance.