Pakistan’s star striker Kaleem wants to play leagues in Qatar, Saudi Arabia

Kaleemullah (right) led Pakistan to a 2-0 series winning triumph against India in Bangalore in 2014.

From AZ Khan

KARACHI:  After playing leagues in a number of countries around the world Pakistan football team former captain and the premier striker Kaleemullah has now set his eyes on playing leagues in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“I want to play in Qatar and Saudi Arabia leagues because there opportunities are good,” Kaleem told in an interview.

“Their leagues are strong due to presence of more solid professional players. Their leagues are of high rank in the entire Asia, so I will make my best effort to play in those leagues to further hone my skills and enrich my experience,”

the 27-year old forward said.

Starting his professional career through a stint with Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi Bishkek in 2014-2015 season Kaleem went on to represent US clubs Sacramento Republic and Tulsa Roughnecks in the United Soccer League (USL) before playing for Turkish clubs Serhat Ardahanspor and Igdirspor and Iraqi clubs Al-Najaf FC and Zakho FC.

He is currently associated with Zakho. His contract expires in June.

“In January league had stopped in Iraq. My contract with Zakho is  upto June. If league does not start then my contract will be expired. I have  been in talks with new clubs. Which league starts at which time and when it will end so these things will become clear in the coming months,” Kaleem said.

When asked about his professional journey and how it started and how much it has benefitted him Kaleem said it was a solid stint.

“Yes, I had thought. It’s normal when a player watches matches on television and so he wishes that how fantastic it would have been had he played in that particular league,” Kaleem said. “I always thought that I have to play football, solid football, and to play for the country and raise national flag,” the striker said..

“But the biggest issue was that our former players had not played in foreign leagues and so we did have platform how to go abroad. But time changed and from Pakistan winger Mohammad Adil went abroad. And it inspired me and I thought if Adil goes abroad I have also the capability to go abroad and can play in foreign leagues,” Kaleem recalled. “I changed my thoughts and I started struggle, trained hard, coaches also supported me and they advised me that I should go abroad as I have the capability,” Kaleem said. 

“When I was hired by Kyrgyzstan’s club Dordoi Bishkek it paved way for me. I treaded that path, went to the United States and then never stopped. Now I feel very well when I play in foreign leagues, in a professional environment, huge stadiums, professional coaches, trainers and getting experience by playing with foreign players,” he explained.

Kaleem said that playing in foreign leagues is a huge boost for him.

“The type of exposure I get through foreign leagues is not less than international matches. League abroad is very tough. For me there is huge charm in football. Now I don’t feel any pressure when I go with Pakistan team unlike in the past when we would feel a sort of pressure. Hardly we would play three or four matches in a year and when we would go abroad  we felt pressure and would return after losing the games,” he said while referring to his Pakistan’s journey. “We lacked confidence. But when you play abroad it instils in you confidence and this also enhances your self-belief,” Kaleem said.

He reiterated that Pakistan direly needs professional league, adding, PSL type league is on card after the COVID-19 pandemic will end.

“Already we have talked to people of private sector and those people have agreed on holding a PSL type league but due to COVID-19 we have suspended the things. When this menace will end we will inform media what type of league we are going to hold,” the seasoned player said.

“Only the PSL type league can promote football in Pakistan. When league will become professional the youth will be inspired and they would set their aim of becoming part of that league. They will be motivated. After cricket football is more followed in Pakistan. I understand that football league is the most important,” he said.

He said that for the last eight years his own province Balochistan which is producing the gem of talent was ignored.

“Balochistan has been the solid players producer in Pakistan. Almost every time we have seen that four to five players in the Pakistan team would belong to this province. But the way Balochistan has been ignored for the last eight years the whole province has been affected,” Kaleem said.

“If we see the Premier League so four clubs in that pool of elite teams belonged to Balochistan. Their league matches were shifted to Lahore and Multan. If you put the matches of the clubs in other province then who will meet their expenses because in Balochistan there are no such sponsors supporting football,” Kaleem said.

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