Fulham defender Zesh Rehman hopes his emergence as a Premier League regular will serve as an inspiration to young British Asians who dream of becoming professional footballers.
The 21 year-old has so impressed Chris Coleman since stepping in to replace the injured Ian Pearce against Liverpool in October at Craven Cottage that he has kept his place in Fulham’s first team.
Rehman is refusing to let his taste of the big time go to his head, however.
“I’m being sensible about what I do. I’m not going to run around burning myself out or anything. I just want to keep my levels up and stay in the side.
There’s a lot of temptation from my mates and other stuff but this is one way of staying away from it. This is what I’ve been working for since I came here when I was 13. I’ve always wanted to be a footballer and always had confidence in my own ability. I never thought it would be easy and you have to have people showing faith in you.
Rehman’s parents are from Pakistan and he is well aware of his status as the first Premier League player of Pakistani descent.
“People remind me that I’m the first Asian to really make it in the Premiership but I don’t really think about it as a big thing. I think quite a lot of things stop Asians making it. Firstly is the fact there is no role model, no one to look up to. Also, we get stereotyped a lot as being too weak or not having the right diet. People also presume we like cricket more. Generally you just feel people are judged even before they have been watched.”