Rehman: Asian football on the rise

Former Fulham star Zesh Rehman has noted a subtle shift in the organisation of Asian football.

Last Updated: 28/07/13 at 15:49 Post Comment

Zesh Rehman pictured playing for Bradford

Zesh Rehman pictured playing for Bradford

Former Fulham star Zesh Rehman has noted a subtle shift in the organisation of Asian football he feels will allow the continent to maximise its enormous interest in the game.

It has become commonplace now for top European clubs to head east during pre-season to earn vast amounts of money in front of thousands of adoring fans.

The problem for Asia has always been that most countries have found it impossible to translate that fervour for world class stars into genuine interest in the grass roots of the game.

However, in following Japan's lead, Rehman, who now plays in Hong Kong, believes change is afoot.

"More countries are starting to do what Japan did and go from the bottom to the top in terms of player development," he said.

"In most places it has been top to bottom but you don't do things properly like that.

"By doing it the correct way, Japan have been able to bring through the likes of Shinji Kagawa and other high quality players, which has improved them as a team.

"Providing they follow that example, given the love of football in the region, I expect other countries to follow suit."

It is now almost three years since Rehman quit England, having been stripped of the Bradford captaincy by Peter Taylor.

First the 29-year-old headed to Thailand for a year, an experience he enjoyed so much he recommended it to old pal Bas Savage, who is in Bangkok still.

Rehman quickly moved on, to Hong Kong and Kitchee, who are the opponents for Manchester United's final tour game tomorrow.

"It is a great life experience without taking the football into account," he said.

"The game across Asia is getting better and football is such a global sport I thought I would give it a try.

"It has definitely developed me as a person as well as a footballer."

At a time when debate is rife over whether Qatar can host a summer World Cup, United will find themselves playing in oppressive heat tomorrow; if the rain stops anyway.

Rehman accepts the adaptation process is not easy.

Ultimately though, he feels the problem is more mental than physical.

"You must make sure you keep hydrated because you lose an awful lot of fluid during a game," he said.

"But the key things is to have the right mindset.

"If you think negatively about it, it will affect your performance."

United will have as many problems with the pitch as they will the heat judging by the state of the surface for the final round of Barclays Asia Cup fixtures yesterday.

But David Moyes has insisted United will fulfil their fixture, which is good news for a 40,000 sell-out crowd, and Rehman as well.

"I was fortunate enough to play in all four leagues for Fulham and in doing so, played against Manchester United," he said.

"It is always special to play against them and I am really looking forward to doing so here in Asia."


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