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Otis, Suliman Keen To Improve Pakistan’s Standing | Bengaluru News

Otis, Suliman Keen To Improve Pakistan’s Standing | Bengaluru News

Bengaluru: From the riches of English football to the unknown pastures in Pakistan was no deterrent for the likes of Otis Jan Mohammed Khan, who learnt football at Manchester United, and Easah Suliman, who began with Aston Villa and went on to captain the England team to the Euro U-19 title. They are determined to help their homeland improve its standing in world football. “When I was 16-17, I was at Sheffield United, and I got a call to play for Pakistan. But then, I wanted to make a name for myself in England,” said Otis. “After 10 years in professional football in the UK, I believe this was the right time to come and compete for Pakistan and help everybody with my knowledge and experience. In hindsight, I should have come a bit earlier,” added Otis, a key player in the Pakistan team that has nine overseas players. “We have got players playing in Portugal, Denmark and England. So, we keep helping the local players to bridge the gap. Lot of players speak Urdu, so our manager Yusuf, who speaks both English and Urdu, will translate for me. It helps while doing the team analysis and telling the players about their positioning, when to release the ball etc. It’s all about getting the knowledge across to the players,” he said. Otis, who loves to play for Asian clubs, knows that it’s going to be a tough road ahead for Pakistan. “We have got the World Cup qualifier in October, and Pakistan have never won one. That’s a big goal for us. The tournament in Mauritius and the SAFF Championship will help us to gel as a team and get us ready for October.” The story of Otis’ journey is captured by the tattoos that fill his arms. “This is me with my dad, these are a few quotes, me as a young boy playing football with the Manchester skyline in the background,” he said pointing to the tattoos. “It’s nice to look at these and get motivated. It helps in adversities like in the match against India when you are 1-0 down, then 2-0, 3-0 and then 4-0. But I’ve been told never to give up no matter what the scoreline is,” Otis said, adding that the last time he lost 0-4 was when he turned out for Grimsby Town in the FA Cup match against Brighton. “Being in Manchester United as a kid, I was fortunate to meet Cristiano Ronaldo a few times and watched him play early in his career. I was at the Manchester United academy for 11 years (from 6 to 17). They gave us tickets to watch the matches, watch the first team — Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand – train so we could learn and ask questions.” Returning to Pakistan after a long stint in Europe, Otis said Asian clubs are now on his radar. My grandad was born in Delhi and then we moved to Faisalabad. I definitely want to play in Asia, including in ISL clubs. I’ve friends who have played in India. I’ve watched a few games of BFC as their manager Simon Grayson had managed in England before and I know (Sunil) Chhetri who is a celebrity over here. A real inspiration for Indian kids. It was nice to take the pitch with him.” Suliman, a big fan of Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulakar, admitted that he had watched more of IPL than ISL. “When we talk about India vs Pakistan, it is always about cricket, especially in Birmingham. But this game (against India) was a special occasion and I posted it on my Instagram. “I loved the atmosphere. Of course, we were booed but that was expected. But there was no hostility and bad blood. It was a game played in high spirits. I really enjoyed it. Even the one incident on the pitch, that was nothing to do with the players. We thought the reception would be a bit hostile, but it has been really good.” After making his debut for Pakistan in the four-nation tournament against Kenya, Suliman also feels it’s payback time. “A week after my marriage (May 30), I was out directly with the team in Mauritius. Two days after making my debut, I got the honour of captaining the national side,” he said. Suliman, who was at Aston Villa for 13 years after joining as an eight-year-old, said it’s a different ball game being a professional. “I was involved in the U-17 World Cup, U-17 Euros and U-19 Euros and played with Mason Mount and Alexander Arnold. But to break into the national team you have to play in the top 5-6 clubs in England regularly.”

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  • June 25, 2023