One of the most renowned soccer players from Pakistan is in Sacramento this week trying to land a contract with Republic FC.
Kaleemullah Kahn, a captain on the Pakistan national team, played last season for Dordoi Bishkek, the top club in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. Last season, the forward was voted the league’s top player and was its leading scorer, with 18 goals in 17 matches, while helping that country’s perennial power to the league title.
With the Pakistan National Team, he has scored four goals in 25 games played since 2011. He scored 31 goals in 2012 and 33 more in 2013 for Kahn Research Laboratories in the Pakistan Premier League.
“He sees Sacramento and Republic FC as a good fit for him,” said Adel Saad, his agent with the Bay Area-based KoraStars. “He is really impressed with the style of play, and that it’s a team that he thinks can bring out the best in him. He knows Preki is an experienced coach who had achievements with Chivas in (Major League Soccer). And it’s not just about coming to America and being on a good team, it’s the environment around you. Sacramento has a large and supportive Pakistani community; so he feels comfortable here.”
Khan watched Republic FC’s 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders 2 on Saturday with Sacramento technical director Graham Smith. It helped him to get a feel for Preki’s possession-style, attacking system, though he’s also seen a number of matches online.
“It’s my dream to play here,” Kahn said. “I want to be a good player here, so I thank (Preki) for giving me the chance.”
He got a full indoctrination to the intensity of Preki’s fast-paced practice on Tuesday. At the end of the 90-minute workout, he had a bag of ice on his left ankle.
“It’s no big problem,” he said. “I twist it a little. It will be good in two days.”
Preki said it’s too early to make a decision on whether Kahn will stick with the team.
“We’ll need some time to assess him,” Preki said. “Obviously, he’s never been in this type of environment and comes from a different culture. We’ll give him time to settle in. We’re not pressed for time.”
Pakistan does not have much soccer history and is 173rd in FIFA’s latest world rankings. But agent Saad said Kahn is a transformational player who can help open the doors for other top Pakistani players to showcase their abilities in America and Europe.