There is now more than one Zidane.
This week, Manchester United starlet Zidane Iqbal made his debut for the Red Devils.
A late replacement in the 1-1 draw against Young Boys, the Iraqi Under-23 international made history as the first South Asian footballer to don the famous red jersey.
However, it wasn’t United legends like Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo who inspired Iqbal growing up.
Former Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil was Iqbal’s idol due to his Muslim background.
Iqbal was asked on the official Manchester United website who he admired as he worked his way up the club.
“Mesut Ozil, because he’s a Muslim like me. Just seeing another Muslim footballer is a good thing,” he said.
âThe trip is different for everyone, and I can tell you it’s not easy. It’s like a roller coaster, up and down. You just have to enjoy the ride and all that. who should be is meant to be. “
While the box-to-box midfielder has also revealed that Dutch Barcelona ace Frenkie de Jong is someone he likes to model his own game on.
The exciting talent was born in Manchester to a Pakistani father and an Iraqi mother.
“I come from a hard working family. My parents always work hard, my brother, my grandparents
“When we came to this country they all inspired me to give my best in everything I do.”
At the grassroots level, he played for Sale United, until he was chosen by United scouts to join their academy at the age of just nine – the youngest age legally allowed.
His former coach Stewart Hamer had previously praised Iqbal’s attitude towards the Manchester Evening News.
âHe had a good attitude, he was always ready to learn and he was playing with a big smile on his face,â he said.
âHe was very happy to do everything we asked him to do.
“Everyone had their part being a goalie, for example, and he would have taken their part in the net like everyone else.”
Even at the age of six, he was running around the opposition, which his coach deemed “unfair”.
“We’ve had quite a bit of success if you can call it that at this point, and Zidane was at the heart of that,” Hamer continued.
âThere were times when we would play six-a-side competitions and he basically tore it up.
âWe took it out and substituted it because it wasn’t fair to the other side.
“Or sometimes we would put it in the goal so it wouldn’t be the source of danger.”
INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL APPEALS
Being born in UK, Iqbal could represent England.
But, for the moment, it is Iraq that is taking advantage of the clever youngster.
In September he was called up for the first time to their U23 squad.
A month later, he took on the role of captain in a 2-2 draw with Lebanon, scoring his first goal.
There are reports that the Iraqi Football Federation is desperate for Iqbal to commit his future to the national team.
In August England manager Gareth Southgate stressed the importance of bringing more British South Asian players into the game.
âSometimes the Asian voice got lost in the anti-discrimination argument,â Southgate said.
“And when you look at the percentages of the population we’re talking about, those are high numbers. Frankly, that’s a big pool of talent that we lack in football. We don’t have a lot of qualified English players. who play anyway, their academy clubs are always looking for talent.
âIt’s like any other business. If you are only choosing from a smaller portion of the population, then what are you missing?
“What I have noticed with the England team in recent seasons is that the dynamic in terms of supporters coming towards me has changed a lot, a lot more Asians coming towards me, talking about their pride in the team, talking about the diversity of the team
“It couldn’t be more powerful if someone from the Asian community was on the team as well, and we had this greater representation at all levels.”
Could Iqbal be the pioneer to make this breakthrough? Manchester United fans certainly hope so.