Anyone who follows me or like-minded Fulham fans will be aware of the Kasami Army, a brother/sisterhood (siblinghood?) dedicated to supporting the Swiss beast that is Pajtim Kasami. Not only were our believers’ faith rewarded with a start for the midfield wizard, but he blessed his supporters with a goal, and a winning one to boot, to leave Fulham starting the season with a surprising, but satisfying, win away at Sunderland.
Alright, that’s a little tongue in cheek (although the Kasami Army thing is real), but there’s definitely a chunk of supporters who have wanted to see more of Kasami ever since he was frozen out after missing that pen against Chelsea back in 2011. After looking bright initially, the ex-Palermo man – only 19 at the time – saw less and less minutes on the pitch, and with Ruiz embedded firmly in the first XI and a loan move to Switzerland manifesting itself last season, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Kasami’s time at Fulham was up.
However, he was given quite a few minutes in pre-season. Still firmly stuck behind Ruiz mind, but enough to suggest there was a part for him to play in the first team squad. Nothing suggested a start in the first game of the season however, so it was a surprise with Jol named him in the XI against Sunderland, ahead of Ruiz in the pecking order, playing in his favoured attacking midfield position. I felt as if he took his opportunity with both hands besides the goal, showing impressive strength (noticeably more than Ruiz), touch and positional awareness. He perhaps should have dropped deeper to be involved with play more, especially since we struggled on the ball, and this is an element in which Ruiz excels, but on the other hand it was nice seeing Berbatov with support once in a while.
I feel Kasami is a player of considerable potential, battling with Pastore for a first team slot at Palermo before attracting interest from (and rejecting a move to) Juventus in 2012. Going forward he has very few weaknesses to his arsenal: he can dribble, pass and strike a ball on top of being athletically very impressive, and it’s always been a case of honing that ability. Perhaps Jol doesn’t trust him in a deeper midfield position – it was telling that Taarabt dropped in to the centre of midfield as we attempted to tighten up against Sunderland, with Kasami moving out to the left, but it again showed Kasami’s versatility of being able to play out on either wing – which is a shame because it is in the centre that we really need a player like Kasami, and whilst that continues Ruiz, Dejagah, Taarabt will all likely be ahead in the pecking order.
When you are given opportunities you have to take them and that’s precisely what Kasami did. I loved the energy and exuberance he provided, and his personality is really endearing. However, while the Kasami Army have won this battle, have we won the war? This season will tell us. There doesn’t seem to be an issue between manager and player (I really loved how when Kasami scored he ran straight to the manager and gave him a huge hug), and I just hope that Jol will reinstate him to the bench as a valid option at least for the squad since the number of minutes he’s received in the last 20 months have been criminally low. But let’s also remember he’s still only 21, the same age a rejuvenated Kacaniklic made his breakthrough after a loan spell, and perhaps we have been a little impatient to see him. It was a huge statement of trust to put Kasami in ahead of Ruiz, or even Bent or Karagounis, despite international fatigue, and I hope that Kasami can make a real impact on the first team. I really would like to see him succeed, and can only wonder if scoring his first goal for the club is symbolic of a new dawn.
Seize the day Kasami, and best of luck for the season!