Pakistani football fans have had very little to cheer over the last couple of decades, and with the sporting landscape tending to be dominated by the likes of cricket, field hockey and kabaddi, the Pure Falcons rarely get a look in. However, in 2018, under the guidance of head coach Jose Antonio Nogueira, they reached the semi-final stage of the South Asian Football Federation Championship. Although they eventually crashed out of the tournament at the hands of India, it was viewed as notable progress, and we take a look at how various members of the squad have progressed since the conclusion of the competition.
2018 SAFF Championship
Great start for Pakistan as they beat Nepal in a nail biting game 2-1.
Bashir (36′ Pen.) & M Ali (90+6′) goal scorers for Pakistan. #SAFFSuzukiCup2018 pic.twitter.com/fq0cR2bdPo
— Akber Ali (Z) (@AkberAJaffri) September 4, 2018
Rehman was undoubtedly one of the more high profile members of the Pakistan squad, and the experienced defender is probably best remembered for his successful spells at QPR, Gillingham and Bradford City. He began his career at Fulham and clocked up over 20 top flight appearances during his time at Craven Cottage. The West London outfit have recently returned to the top tier, although they’ve struggled during the first half of the 2020-21 season. Scott Parker’s side are 2.14 for relegation in the latest English Premier League odds, and Rehman will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on the progress of his former employers.
More recently, he’s been plying his trade in the Hong Kong Premier League, and in 2020, he was appointed head coach of Southern District. Although he has yet to officially hang up his boots, he has tended to solely concentrate on his managerial duties since taking up the role. He also remains a prominent figure at the Asian Football Network, having landed an ambassadorial role over a decade ago.
Ex #Gills defender @Zesh_Rehman is moving back to the Hong Kong Premier League, today securing a move to Southern District. All the best. pic.twitter.com/1SChbgs7Dz
— GillsInTheBlood (@GillsInTheBlood) June 14, 2017
The talented shot-stopper was part of the 2018 squad, and made a number of important saves throughout the course of the tournament. The Copenhagen-born goalkeeper has remained in his homeland throughout his entire career, and following his international heroics in Bangladesh, he made the switch from Greve IF to AB Taarnby.
Unfortunately, the Pure Falcons star, who has been capped 15 times, has endured a difficult season and hasn’t been helped by his side’s questionable defending. He’s conceded 29 goals in 13 appearances with his current employers averaging just 0.46 points per game.
Away from the field, he’s been working with the media team at Football Pakistan, and recently conducted an interview with current Bangladesh NT captain Jamal Bhuyan.
The 34-year old striker has followed a very similar path to his international teammate and is also a regular starter for AB Taarnby in the Danish third tier. He is yet to find the back of the net in 853 minutes of competitive football this season, however, he has been credited with three assists, the last of which came on November 14th 2020.
The powerful defender was a regular from the bench during the 2018 SAFF Championship, and unlike many of his compatriots, he hasn’t opted to play his football in either Pakistan or Denmark. Qazi was based in Santa Ana, occasionally featuring for La Maquina before switching to A.S Los Angeles the following season. His appearances have been limited in recent months due to the suspension of last season’s National Premier Soccer League, however, he’ll be hoping to establish himself in the starting XI once the campaign gets back underway in mid-2021.
Although the majority of the 2018 squad still compete domestically in the Pakistan Premier League, and a handful are currently searching for employment; these four players continue to carry out their profession in a variety of leagues around the world.
The 2018 South Asian Football Federation Championship may be regarded as a relatively low-profile event, however, Pakistan’s progress in 2018 was viewed as a significant step forward, and they will be remembered for playing their part in a hugely entertaining tournament.