Zesh Rehman

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Zesh Rehman
Zesh Rehman York City v. Bradford City 1.png
Rehman playing for Bradford City in 2009
Personal information
Full name Zeshan Rehman
Date of birth (1983-10-14) 14 October 1983 (age 31)
Place of birth Birmingham, England
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 12 in)[1]
Playing position Defender
Club information
Current team
Pahang FA
Number 6
Youth career
1995–2003 Fulham
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2006 Fulham 30 (1)
2003–2004 Brighton & Hove Albion (loan) 11 (2)
2006 Norwich City (loan) 5 (0)
2006–2009 Queens Park Rangers 50 (0)
2007 Brighton & Hove Albion (loan) 8 (0)
2008 Blackpool (loan) 4 (0)
2009 Bradford City (loan) 17 (0)
2009–2010 Bradford City 54 (2)
2011–2012 Muangthong United 34 (1)
2012–2013 Kitchee 64 (2)
2014– Pahang FA 54 (6)
National team
England U18 (–)
England U19 (–)
England U20 (–)
2005– Pakistan 18 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 9 June 2014.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 9 June 2014

Zeshan "Zesh" Rehman (Urdu: ذيشان رحمان‎; born 14 October 1983)[2] is a British-Pakistani professional footballer who plays for Pahang FA in the Malaysia Super League as a defender.

He was the first British Asian to start a Premier League match and is the first to have played in all four divisions of professional football in England. He also plays for the Pakistan national football team and was the first Pakistani international footballer to play professional football in England, Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia,[3][4] as well as the first Pakistani international to play in the AFC Cup.[5] He has played over 300 senior career games in four different Nations. Over 100 of those games have been played in Asia. (http://manage.mmail.com.my/story/it-was-divine-intervention-believes-zesh-80939), (http://www.fourfourtwo.com/my/features/rehman-craving-fulham-escape). He started his career at Fulham and made a total of 21 league appearances. During his time at Fulham he had loan spells at Brighton & Hove Albion and Norwich City. Having previously represented England at under-18, under-19 and under-20 levels, in 2005 he made his debut for Pakistan. A transfer to Queens Park Rangers followed and he went on to make 46 appearances for the club. During his three years there he went on loan to Brighton & Hove Albion, Blackpool and Bradford City.

The third transfer of his career involved him moving to Bradford on a free transfer in June 2009. So far Rehman has made fifteen appearances for the Pakistan national team and has participated in the World Cup 2010 qualifiers. Outside of football he is known for being an ambassador for Kick It Out and the Show Racism The Red Card campaign.

Early life[edit]

Rehman was born on 14 October 1983 in Birmingham.[6] His father is Khalid Rehman.[7] As a child in Birmingham he played for his local Sunday league team, Kingshurst.[6] He was brought up in the Aston area of the city and often played football on the streets in addition to representing his school, his district and his county in football.[4]

Club career[edit]


When he was just twelve years old he was spotted by a scout[4] and moved with his family to London where he joined the Fulham Academy. He progressed through the junior, youth and reserve teams at Fulham, which led him to sign his first professional contract.[8][9] He made his debut for Fulham in 2004 in the Premier League at Anfield against Liverpool, and by doing so he was able to garner some media attention from British Asian groups by being the first British Asian player to play in the top division of English football.[8] Although a centre back by trade, Rehman was used as a holding midfielder as well as right back in his career at Fulham.[10]

Rehman started his career at Craven Cottage

In the 2003–04 season, when he was 19 years old, he was sent on loan to Brighton & Hove Albion, initially for one month until November,[11] however this was extended to three months ending in January 2004.[12] He made eleven league appearances, scoring two goals.[6] Following his loan spell with Brighton came to an end, Rehman signed a new contract, which will keep him until 2006.[13] In January 2006 he signed for Championship club Norwich City on loan for the rest of the season as defensive cover for the injury-hit club.[14] He made five starts for them.[15]

Having made 30 appearances in all competitions for Fulham, 26 from the starting line up and four as a substitute, Rehman had to consider his options if he was to get regular football. Although he had two years remaining on his contract, he wanted to play regular first team football, and as a result, he decided to spend the next two seasons getting as much experience as possible.[16] He scored once for Fulham, in a League Cup tie against Lincoln City on 21 September 2005.[17]

Queens Park Rangers[edit]

On 8 August 2006, just prior to the start of the 2006–07 season, Rehman signed for Championship club Queens Park Rangers (QPR) from Fulham on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee.[18] After completing his move, Rehman said, "All I want to do is play; the money doesn't interest me anymore. I could have sat at Fulham and just been happy to pick up my wages but that's not what I am all about."[19]

QPR had only just avoided relegation the previous season and had a new manager in Gary Waddock in charge.[20] In his first season at QPR, Rehman made 27 appearances.[10]

Towards the end of the season Rehman was sent on loan to former club Brighton & Hove Albion for a month where he gained more first team football experience.[21] He made his debut on 24 March 2007 in a 0–0 draw against Huddersfield Town.[22] He ended his loan stint by playing the full 90 minutes, and earning a yellow card in the process, for the final game of the League One season in a 1–1 draw at Cheltenham Town on 5 May 2007, claiming an assist for the opening goal.[23] He featured in eight full games during his loan spell.[6]

Returning to QPR at the start of the new season, chances were limited. The 3–1 victory over Leicester City on New Years Day 2008 was Rehman's 50th game in all competitions since leaving Fulham in 2006.[24] Rehman finished the 2007–08 season in the starting line for QPR against the Championship's new champions, West Bromwich Albion.[25]

Blackpool (loan)[edit]

Rehman joined Blackpool in a six-month loan deal on 31 July 2008, along with teammate Daniel Nardiello, who joined the club on a permanent basis, while Blackpool defender Kaspars Gorkss moved to QPR in exchange.[26][27] He made his debut for Blackpool as a second-half substitute for Jermaine Wright in a 2–0 defeat at League Two club Macclesfield Town in the first round of the 2008–09 Carling Cup on 12 August 2008. He was used as an emergency striker due to injuries to three of the club's strikers.[28] He made his league debut the following Saturday, in a 1–1 draw at Norwich City, coming on early in the second half to replace defender Danny Coid.[29]

Three months into his loan spell, in early October, Rehman said of his move to play for Blackpool: "I'm quite glad to get away from all the hustle and bustle of London. I really like it up here in Blackpool; it's a good club with an ambitious young manager. Hopefully, over the next few months I can convince Simon Grayson I'm worthy of a long-term contract."[19] On 31 December he returned to QPR after having made three league appearances, all of which were as a substitute.[15]

Bradford City (loan)[edit]

On 26 January 2009, Rehman signed a loan deal with League Two club Bradford City, which was to last until the end of the 2008–09 season.[30] Rehman had turned down a chance to move to Luton Town and team up with Mick Harford, who was previously the assistant manager at QPR, and said he was only prepared to drop down to League Two if he joined Bradford City,[31] whose new ambassador Omar Khan helped to engineer the move.[32] Rehman said of the move, "I was only prepared to drop down the leagues to play for this club. I spoke to the manager and chairmen and I know they want to get Bradford back up to where they belong. I’ve been involved in relegation battles in the past and it's nice to be joining a club pushing for promotion – that's a good pressure to have."[33] He made his debut the following day in a 1–0 defeat to Bury at Gigg Lane, and in doing so became the first British Asian to play in all four divisions of professional football in England, something which he described in his online blog as "a momentous occasion" and expressed his hope that it inspires the next generation of [British] Asian footballers.[34] He played at left back, coming in for Luke O'Brien, who had taken ill on the day of the match.[35] He made his home debut on 31 January, playing at right back, in a 2–0 home win over Grimsby Town at Valley Parade.[36] In March he turned down the chance to play for Pakistan in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifiers in order to help Bradford's push for promotion.[37]

Bradford City[edit]

"It's all about feeling wanted and appreciated as a player and this feels like my club."

Zesh Rehman, 20 May 2009.[38]

After being released by QPR on 19 May 2009,[39] Rehman signed a two-year deal with Bradford City on 19 June, saying of the move, "My gut feeling told me to sign for Bradford and I've absolutely no regrets. From day one I felt at home here. I'm fortunate enough to have played in all the divisions and I see this as the next step of my journey." The Bradford manager, Stuart McCall also revealed that Rehman had taken a large pay cut by joining the club, adding, "Zesh is certainly not signing for Bradford for money—he wants to be a success here, and it will be great to have him on board."[40] He scored his first goal for the club in a 2–2 draw with Barnet on 19 September 2009.[41]

Rehman was named club captain and team vice-captain at the start of the 2009–10 season and went on to play 42 games and skipper the side on 35 occasions during the season.[citation needed] He won the PFA Player in the Community awards on 25 March at The Football League Awards in recognition of his work as club captain in engaging the local community into the club across all levels.[42] He later became club captain.[43]

At the start of the following season new manager Peter Taylor kept Rehman as club captain hailing him a "supremely professional individual and a superb ambassador for the football club".[43] However, in December 2010, he was stripped of his captaincy and placed on the transfer list following a disciplinary matter.[44] He had played only 12 games up to that point of the season and said in the days before, "I'm not going to lie, it's left a bad taste in my mouth having to watch the last few games from the bench", but added, "At the end of the day, the manager has to pick the team that he thinks can win and you have to respect that and get on with it."[45]

Muangthong United[edit]

Rehman signed a two-year deal with Thai Premier League side Muangthong United on 19 December 2010.[46][47][48] He made his debut on 30 January 2011, in the King's Trophy against Chonburi Sharks at the Suphachalasai Stadium; his new side lost 2–1.[49] His appearance made him the first Pakistan international to play in Thailand.[50] He played 30 games for Muangthong.[citation needed]


Rehman signed a deal with Hong Kong First Division League side Kitchee on 11 January 2012.[51][52][53] He made his debut in a 2–1 win over Sun Hei on 31 January.[54] Rehman scored his first goal for his new club in the AFC Cup against Song Lam Nghe An of Vietnam.[55][56] Rehman won his first piece of silverware of his Hong Kong career by playing a leading role in Kitchees 2–1 League Cup win over cloes rivals TSW Pegasus at the Mong Kok Stadium on 15 April 2012.[57][58] Rehman helped Kitchee retain the Hong Kong First Division League title with a 4–1 victory over Biu Chun Rangers in the last league game to clinch the title, it was his second trophy for the club and it put them in pole position to complete the domestic treble in Hong Kong[59] Rehman and Kitchee finished the season in impressive fashion by overcoming Pegagus after penalties to win Hong Kong FA Cup Final at The Hong Kong Stadium. The victory was a historic moment for the club as Kitchee were crowned domestic treble winners, a feat that has never been matched by a Hong Kong club.[60][61] Rehman made it into the Hong Kong BMA First Division League team of the season at The HKFA Annual Awards dinner.[62] On 29 August 2012 Rehman played the full game in a pre-season friendly against Premier League giants Arsenal in front of a 40,000 crowd defending admirably as the Hong Kong Champions drew 2–2 with the Gunners at The Hong Kong Stadium.[63][64] The excellent performance by Kitchee gained praise from Arsenal Manager Arsène Wenger.[65] on 11 May 2013 Rehman won his fourth piece of silverware as a Kitchee player by helping his side retain the Hong Kong FA Cup in a hard fought 1-0 victory over last years beaten finalists Pegagus.[66] On 14 May Rehman helped Kicthee to progress to the quarter finals of the AFC Cup by beating Malaysian Super League Champions 2-0. It was History created for Kitchee to progress to this stage of regional competition.[67] On 26 May 2013 Rehman helped Kitchee beat Tuen Mun 3-0 in the final of the play off to ensure his teams passage into the AFC Cup 2014. It was Rehman's 55th game for the club.[68]

Pahang FA[edit]

In November 2013, Kitchee announced that Zesh had left the club for Malaysian side Pahang FA.

Zeshan, 30, who is popularly known as Zesh, was recommended by Damion, who knew him from his playing days in England.

The former Pakistan international stands at 6 ft 2in, Zesh last played for Kitchee in the Hong Kong First Division. He was the first British Asian to start a Premier League match and is the first to have played in all four divisions of professional football in England.

In December 2013 it was announced by Pahang FA that Zesh joined the club on a two-year deal ahead of The Malaysian Super League 2014 season. In total Rehman played 64 competitive games for Kitchee winning four titles and helping to create history for the club by reaching the last 8 of the AFC Cup.

His contribution was recognised by Kitchee President Ken Ng, who was quoted as saying: "We are very sorry to see Zesh go but understand the reason why. It is a step he should take, with his future and family in mind. Zesh has contributed to the Kitchee success in the last two years by strengthening our defense. His friendliness with everyone in the team also helped to create a good team spirit. We congratulate him on his new move to Malaysia and wish him every success for the future" His new employers were very pleased with their new recruit, Zainal Abidin Hassan ex Malaysian International legend and key figure with in Pahang FA commented: "We are delighted Zesh chose to come to Pahang ahead of several other teams. He brings with him vast experience, leadership and a winning mentality which is exactly what we are looking for. We hope he can use his International and AFC Cup experiences to help us step up a level domestically and regionally. His professionalism and presence will be an asset for our young squad"[69][70]

Zesh made his official debut for Pahang on 17 January at The Darul Makmur stadium in The Charity Shield final against Lions XII from Singapore in front of 35,000 fans. Pahang won the game 1-0 with Zesh putting in an outstanding performance to get his career in Malaysia off to the perfect start.[71][72]

On 5 April 2014 Zesh score his first league goal for Pahang with a towering header in the 2-0 victory over T-Team which saw Pahang finish the first round of games in the Malaysian Super League in top spot. http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Sukan/20140406/su_01/Tok-Gajah-kembali-ke-takhta-Liga-Super

On 30 May 2014 Zesh put in a commanding performance in the 1-0 victory in the FA Cup semi final 2nd leg against arch rivals JDT to help secure Pahang a spot in the final. http://www.goal.com/en-my/news/3896/malaysia/2014/05/30/4849273/pahang-21-01-jdt-southern-tigers-hit-by-butterflies-in-their?ICID=SP_HN_1

A week later on 7 June Zesh helped Pahang win The FA Cup beating Felda United 2-1 at The Shah Alam Stadium in front of 60,000 fans. He assisted the winning goal for team mate Dickson Nwakeame in the last minute. The trophy win was his 6th in the past 2 and a half years. http://www.goal.com/en-my/news/3896/malaysia/2014/06/07/4867254/pahang-2-1-felda-united-elephants-hit-two-late-goals-to-lift?ICID=SP_HN_1 Zesh scored his 3rd goal for Pahang in the final group stage of the Malaysia Cup against JDT 2 on 2 September 2014, helping Pahang secured their place in the quarter final stage of the prestigious cup.[73]

On 11 October Zesh scored the crucial equaliser in the Malaysia Cup quarter final second leg to help Pahang advance onto the semi finals of the competition.[74]

Zesh and Pahang reached the Malaysia Cup Final after beating Kedah FA 5-0 in the 2nd leg at home on 24 October 2014 http://www.pahangfa.com/main/en/2013-03-01-08-53-54/334-pahang-reach-malaysia-cup-final

Zesh scored a decisive penalty in the Malaysia Cup final on 1 November 2014 at Bukit Jalil National Stadium against JDT in front a 100,000+ crowd to help Pahang become Champions for the second season in a row. The win was his 3rd trophy win in one season in Malaysia and his 7th in 3 seasons in Asia. http://www.goal.com/en-my/news/3896/malaysia/2014/11/01/5688391/jdt-2-2-pahang-pen-3-5-ten-man-pahang-retain-malaysia-cup http://www.nst.com.my/node/48927

International career[edit]

Rehman originally represented England, and played for them at under-18, under-19 and under-20 levels.[75] Becoming the first English-born Pakistani to don an England senior football shirt seemed too far away, however, due to lack of first team opportunities at Fulham. Due to his Pakistani parentage, and because he possessed dual Pakistani and British nationality, Rehman also qualified to represent Pakistan, and he eventually opted to play for them, as he considered it to be a more realistic option.[76] A lot of British Asian groups were against this and wanted him to fight more for an England place to set a standard for English-Asian youth.[19][76]

It was, however, an unrealistic aspiration.[19] With that in mind, and with the blessings of his father, Rehman was approached by Malik Riaz Hai Naveed a young football manager and made his international debut for Pakistan in a 1–0 win over Sri Lanka in the 2005 South Asian Football Federation Championship on 7 December 2005 at the Peoples Football Stadium in Karachi.[77] Rehman described his international debut as one of the best memories he has in football, adding, "The reception I received from the first moment till the last was unforgettable. I felt loved, appreciated, respected and wanted and most of all the interest in football really grew immensely."[78] Pakistan ultimately reached the semi-finals before losing out to Bangladesh 1–0.[79]

In that short space of time Rehman helped to raise the profile of the game in Pakistan, encouraging youngsters to play the game and also help to raise the profile of Pakistan in the United Kingdom and on a global stage.[80]

Rehman was named in the Pakistan squad for the World Cup 2010 qualifiers against Iraq in October 2007, and played the match in Lahore but could not help contain the current Asian champions Iraq from winning 7–0. In the second leg on 28 October he captained Pakistan to a 0–0 draw.[77]

Due to club commitments and injury he had to miss out on the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers for Pakistan, a situation that proved costly for the national team as defensive blunders cost them the chance of qualifying despite a promising start to the campaign.[81] He also had to withdraw from the squad for the SAFF Championship 2008 when he came down with food poisoning.[80]

After nearly four years out, Rehman returned to the Pakistan team for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers where he played twice.[82][83]

Rehman questioned the decision to leave Chopra out of the England squad

Rehman caused some controversy in 2007 when in an interview with the British weekly newspaper the Eastern Eye he said that players of Asian descent should consider sticking to their roots rather than dreaming of playing for England. Rehman pointed to Michael Chopra, then with Cardiff City, who had been overlooked to play for England despite being the top scorer in the Championship, yet David Nugent, who was then at fellow Championship club Preston North End, was picked. Rehman claimed "Why wasn’t (Chopra) picked ahead of Dave Nugent? He's the top goal scorer in the Championship but he can’t get in (the England set-up). So he needs to maybe look at his decision and go play for India instead of hanging on to the dream of playing for England, because it's not going to happen, end of discussion."[76] Rehman though criticised Eastern Eye for how they reported his views, saying, "I’m pleased with my decision (to play for Pakistan) but I had a problem, especially with Eastern Eye. You said I turned my back on England. I didn’t like the way that came across. If [as an Asian] you are not getting opportunities (to play for England) when you are playing in the Premier League, then Asian players are always going to be overlooked. When it comes to it, they need to stick to their roots."[84]

In September 2013 Rehman represented Pakistan at the SAFF Championship which was held in Nepal. He played all of the games for Pakistan who narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot despite beating Bangladesh in the last group game.[85] His commanding displays during the tournament earned him a place in the Team of the Tournament.[86] In October 2013, Rehman captained Pakistan in both games, in The Peace Cup held in the Philippines, he score the winning goal in the opener against Chinese Taipei.[87][88]

International goal[edit]

Scores and results list Pakistan's goal tally first.
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 13 October 2013 Panaad Stadium, Bacolod  Chinese Taipei 1–0 1–0 2013 Philippine Peace Cup

Personal life[edit]

Rehman has said that, his "sole purpose in trying to be a success as a professional footballer is to inspire other Asian players to follow my lead and achieve their goals."[19] He is an ambassador for the Asian Football Network (AFN), a grassroots community-led initiative designed to support and facilitate the development of grassroots Asian football in the UK.[89] He has also worked with the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) to try to increase the number of British Asians taking up a career in professional football, and has attended meetings with the PFA in order to achieve this goal.[90] In January 2007 he took part in the London 'One Game' initiative held at The FA headquarters in Soho Square, London.[91] He has also been involved in the Show Racism The Red Card campaign and he has taken part in Chelsea's "Search for an Asian Star" campaign.[4] On 12 July 2008, he took part in the Islam Expo event at the Olympia exhibition centre in West Kensington, London, a four-day event whose primary purpose was to build bridges between Britain's Muslim communities and the rest of society. Rehman took part in a panel giving feedback from his own experiences about the positive use of sport.[92]

In April 2008, Rehman appeared on the United States based Afghan satellite television network Noor TV and Bangladesh-based Islamic TV discussing being a Muslim footballer and how it is possible to pursue a career in football while sticking to Islamic roots. On 20 April 2008, he was a guest on the BBC Asian Network radio station show Breakdown revealing his favourite Desi music tunes.[93] In May 2008, Rehman was awarded the Community Commitment Award at QPR.[94] In April 2008, Rehman took part in a radio documentary on BBC Radio 1Xtra about British Asians in football which followed his "journey from playground to Premier League".[95]

In May 2010, he launched The Zesh Rehman Foundation at Valley Parade to encourage children from all backgrounds to participate in football and sport to better themselves.[96] He was named as one of the 50 World Cup Bid Ambassadors for The FA's World Cup 2018 bid, entered the Show Racism Red Card Hall of Fame,[97] and was invited onto the PFA management committee by Gordon Taylor.[98]

In September 2011, he launched his iPhone application aimed at helping players who move overseas with the language barrier.[99]

In 2014, he was named as on the special South East Asia contributor for the ESPN South East Asia section by writing blogs and columns about football in the rapidly growing football region of Asia.[100][101] Rehman wrote his second blog for the ESPN South East Asia section a few days after his side recorded victory in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals. [102]

Rehman is a regular blogger for the PFA website in the UK, sharing his view on football in Asia, equality issues within the game and health and wellbeing for footballers.[103][104][105]

He lists snooker, cinema and socialising as hobbies. He is also fluent in Punjabi and Urdu, as well as English.[16] He has a brother, named Rizwan, who played for Brentford, but was forced to retire early due to an injury.[19]

Career statistics[edit]


Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
2003–04 Fulham Premier League 1 0 - 1 0 - 2 0
2003–04 Brighton & Hove Albion Second Division 11 2 - 2[nb 1] 0 - 13 2
2004–05 Fulham Premier League 17 0 2 0 4 0 - 23 0
2005–06 3 0 - 2 1 - 5 1
2005–06 Norwich City Championship 5 0 - - - 5 0
2006–07 Brighton & Hove Albion League One 8 0 - - - 8 0
2006–07 Queens Park Rangers Championship 25 0 1 0 1 0 - 27 0
2007–08 21 0 - 1 0 - 22 0
2008–09 Blackpool 4 0 - 1 0 - 5 0
2008–09 Bradford City League Two 17 0 - 0 0 - 17 0
2009–10 40 2 1 0 1 0 - 42 2
2010–11 8 0 1 0 3 0 - 12 0
Thailand League FA Cup League Cup Asia Total
2011 Muangthong United Thai Premier League 30 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 34 0
Hong Kong League FA Cup & Shield League Cup Asia Total
2011–12 Kitchee First Division 9 0 4 0 4 0 8 1 25 1
2012–13 27 0 4 2 0 0 8 0 39 2
Malaysia League & Shield FA Cup Malaysia Cup Asia/ASEAN Total
2014 Pahang FA Malaysia Super League 21 0 7 1 10 0 0 0 38 5
2015 Pahang FA Malaysia Super League 8 0 4 1 0 0 4 0 16 2
Total England 160 4 5 0 16 1 0 0 179 5
Thailand 30 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 34 0
Hong Kong 35 0 8 0 3 0 16 1 64 2
Malaysia 30 0 11 2 10 3 4 0 54 7
Career total 255 4 24 3 29 4 22 1 337 14



As of 5 September 2013.[108]
National team Year Apps Goals
Pakistan 2005 4 0
2006 2 0
2007 2 0
2008 0 0
2009 0 0
2010 1 0
2011 3 0
2012 1 0
2013 5 1
Total 18 1


  1. ^ The two cup appearances for Brighton in 2003–04 were in the Football League Trophy


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External links[edit]