Zidane Iqbal’s former football manager says the teenager was so good when he was younger that he was forced to put him on goal for the sake of the other boys.
Manchester-born Iqbal, whose mother is Iraqi and whose father is Pakistani, made history Wednesday night when he stepped off the bench in the Champions League match against Young Boys to become the first British South Asian to play for the Manchester United.
Before joining United a decade ago, Iqbal played at Sale United under Stewart Hamer, who began coaching the pioneer when he was a U5 player.
“When we played a few matches of six-a-side football [as he got older] would do very well. He would have stood out, ”Hamer said Sky Sports News.
“We got to the point where sometimes we had to take him off the pitch for fairness to the opponents because he was too dangerous on the pitch and didn’t feel right for the others. We had a trial, even in four, five and six where the boys played in all positions.
“So everyone took the part and played in goal and Zee was going into goal often enough for us, and he was happy to do it. I still have visions of Zee standing in goal and leaning against the post, waiting for something to happen!
“But he never changed. He’s just very focused on his football career. And what happened [with him making his Manchester United debut] so far it has been just the icing on the cake. But that’s just the beginning of the story, hopefully. “
Iqbal “deserves everything”
Hamer, who spent 24 years at Sale United, added: “It was a great experience just to have him under our care and guidance, and it’s been great to know him ever since.
“It was fantastic when he first came to Manchester United and, to be honest with him and his family, they stayed in touch, right up until his United debut, which is good.
“I’ve seen some of his games at the academy from when he was a brawler to his debut. It was great to see this development, but he deserves it all.”
“Monumental for South Asians in the game”
This was stated by the official England supporters group Apna England Sky Sports News Iqbal’s surprise appearance for Manchester United was a great day for football
“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,” a spokesperson said.
“Zidane Iqbal is an exceptional talent, whose commitment, work ethic and dedication to reach the highest level have been rewarded by one of the greatest clubs in world football.
“With urgent action needed to address the inequalities that persist in football, there is no better way to inspire change than to highlight those who are leading the way in our game.
“Seeing Zidane Iqbal out there making history will undoubtedly inspire millions of people around the world. It’s a great day for the community and a great day for football.”
Why could England lose Iqbal?
Sky Sports News last month he revealed that England faces the prospect of losing teenager United, with Iraqi football bosses keen to secure the teenager’s internationally top-notch services.
Iqbal was called up to play for Iraq’s U23 team at the WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) championship last month, helping them reach the semi-finals before their elimination in Saudi Arabia. Iqbal also played against the United Arab Emirates and took the captain’s armband before scoring against Lebanon.
He may represent England, Iraq and Pakistan internationally, but has never been called up to an age-group English team.
The teenager scored for the club’s youth against Sunderland in the EFL Trophy in October, and scored United’s first goal in the 4-2 UEFA Youth League win against Atalanta.
Iqbal is one of five British South Asian Premier League footballers on a full-time professional contract alongside Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, Aston Villa’s Arjan Raikhy, Tottenham’s Dilan Markanday and Wolves defender Kam Kandola.
British South Asians in football
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