Pakistani Star Selected to Play in American Soccer Team
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Sacramento, CA: In a first of a kind news item concerning the sport of soccer in America, Pakistan’s Kaleemullah Khan has been selected and has signed a contract to play for the Sacramento Republic FC team in California’s Capital City. In a press release dated June 18 th the team announced that “Sacramento Republic FC have agreed to a contract with forward Kaleemullah Khan. The Pakistan Men’s National Team captain is believed to be the first Pakistani-born player to sign a contract with a professional US-based soccer club, based on current record keeping. The signing of Kaleemullah demonstrates the continued mission of Republic FC to bring the best players from around the world to our Capital City,” said Republic FC Technical Director Graham Smith. His scoring prowess is well documented, but it may also still take a little time for him to both learn the style of play in the US in addition to Preki’s coaching style. Kaleemullah joins Republic FC after spending last season with Dordoi Bishkek of the Shoro Top League, the Kyrgyz First Division. He appeared in 17 matches for Dordoi Bishkek, who went on to win the Shoro Top League title. Kaleemullah was the MVP and Golden Boot winner after leading the league in scoring with 18 goals in 2014.”
Report that a player from Pakistan has been selected to play professional soccer (called “football” in the home country) is certainly a matter of both rejoicing and surprise. When anyone from Pakistan makes it in the world of sports, it is great news. But Pakistanis have historically been well-represented only in the world of Cricket, Field Hockey and Squash and have once been past world champions in all three. Other sports are played in the country including some which Pakistanis have competed in at the Olympic sports level, but medals in them have been rare. And soccer playing has not been one of them. It is a sport passionately played and followed in Pakistan’s geographically largest province-Baluchistan, and also one with the smallest population. And within that province Football-Soccer has been the greatest passion amongst the “Pakistani-Africans”, the Makrani Baloch, but the game is also played amongst the two major ethnic groups of the area, and Chaman born forward- Kaleemullah Khan is certainly the biggest star from amongst them to reach American shores.
Mine was an interesting reaction when I was first contacted a couple of months ago by our friend M. Jawaid from the San Francisco Bay Area who informed me that Adel Saad, the manager of a Pakistani soccer player who was going to try out for the Sacramento Republic FC, needed assistance in getting him set up in our city. I immediately took the opportunity to get him in touch with members of both the local Pakistani American Sports and Cultural Organization (PASCO) and the Pakistani American Association of Sacramento (PAAS). And the rest as they say is history because our community has welcomed Kaleemullah wholeheartedly and has even started to attend Sacramento Republic soccer games for the first time. Thanks to both organizations and Kaleemullah’s skills we now have something else to look forward to in this area besides Sacramento Kings basketball and our River Cats baseball team games!
With the addition of Kaleemullah, the Sacramento Republic FC now has players from 12 countries on its roster including the USA, Ireland, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Liberia, Northern-Ireland, Serbia, Montenegro, El Salvador, Liberia and now proudly Pakistan. “Our” player has officially played his first game for the Republic recently and we wish him all the best from here on. Go Kaleemullah!