• Tuesday, May 17, 2022

FOOTBALL

Zidane Iqbal makes history as first British south Asian to play for Man United

Zidane Iqbal (R) of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Youth League – Group F match between Manchester United and Atalanta at Leigh Sports Village on October 20, 2021 in Leigh, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

HISTORY was created in English football when Manchester United was playing against Swiss team Young Boys this week. As Zidane Iqbal, 18, took the field as a substitute, he became the first-ever British south Asian to play for the top English club.

Iqbal’s feat came weeks after Dilan Markandey, another British south Asian footballer, made his debut for Hotspurs.

Wearing shirt number 73, Iqbal appeared on the field, substituting England international Jesse Lingard as the Champions League match was drawing to a close.

When the Manchester-born teenager signed a contract with United in June this year, he became the first south Asian to do so in the history of the club.

The contract capped the attacking midfielder’s decade-long association with United since his early years.

There are only four other British Asian footballers who are on full-time professional contracts with Premier League clubs – Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, Aston Villa’s Arjan Raikhy, Markanday and Wolves defender Kam Kandola.

“It feels amazing, I’ve been working my whole life for this opportunity, it’s a dream come true, it’s just the start and hopefully I can keep pushing on”, Iqbal, of Pakistan and Iraqi heritage, told MUTV after his debut match.

Football fans are delighted about his United debut.

Apna England, an English supporters’ group tweeted, “What a moment for Zidane and the family! Remember the date! A British South Asian just played for @ManUtd in a Champions League match!”

It said Iqbal will inspire millions of other youngsters.

“Seeing Zidane Iqbal out there making history will no doubt inspire millions across the world. It’s a great day for the community – and a great day for football.”

Born to a Pakistani father and an Iraqi mother, Iqbal is eligible to represent England, Iraq and Pakistan at the international level, although he has never made it to an England age-group squad.

Iqbal last month played for Iraq’s U23 side which reached the WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) Championship semi-finals where it lost to Saudi Arabia. He also played against the United Arab Emirates and scored against Lebanon.

He scored for United’s youngsters against Sunderland in the EFL Trophy last month and against Italian team Atalanta in a Youth League game.

Apna England described Iqbal as an “exceptional talent” and his United debut as a “proud moment”.

“This is obviously a proud moment for everyone associated with Manchester United Football Club but it is also absolutely monumental for South Asians in the game,” its spokesperson told Sky Sports News.

“Zidane Iqbal is an exceptional talent, whose commitment, work ethic and dedication to making it at the highest level has been rewarded by one of the biggest clubs in world football.

“With urgent action required to tackle inequalities that persist across football, there is no better way to inspire change than by highlighting those that are blazing a trail in our game.

“Seeing Zidane Iqbal out there making history will no doubt inspire millions across the world. It’s a great day for the community – and a great day for football.”

Eastern Eye

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