South Asians in Football: Norway’s Ghayas Zahid on becoming a cult hero after Nations League heroics

It was a aggressive worldwide debut that will by no means have occurred however Ghayas Zahid seized his likelihood at making historical past, etching his identify into Norwegian folklore in the method.

Norwegian authorities had banned the nationwide crew from travelling to their penultimate Nations League recreation in Romania final month, ordering your entire squad and workers to quarantine for 10 days after defender Omar Elabdellaoui returned a constructive Covid-19 take a look at.

To keep away from forfeiting their ultimate match in Austria three days later, Norwegian soccer authorities handed the reins to U21 boss Leif Gunnar Smerud – he scrambled collectively 18 gamers from throughout Europe, who dashed to Oslo for Covid-19 testing earlier than flying to Vienna for the sport.

Ghayas Zahid ghosts previous Austria and Bayern Munich midfielder David Alaba

APOEL Nicosia midfielder Zahid was amongst those that answered his nation’s emergency name, earlier than taking to the pitch and becoming a good greater hero as he gave Norway’s unlikely lads a second-half lead in Vienna.

“The reaction [from the Norwegian public] was amazing even before we played the game,” Zahid advised Sky Sports News.

“You may see the curiosity was unbelievable. And then whenever you play the sport and also you see the response after and you discover out that in the Nations League this 12 months this was the sport with probably the most viewers so you may see the curiosity in this recreation.

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“After the game I think everybody had a lot of interest from the media and you could really see that people really appreciated the effort we put in.”

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Zahid: It was particular


Norway worldwide Ghayas Zahid hopes his goalscoring heroics can encourage South Asian heritage gamers from the world over to push on and make it on the highest stage

Adrian Grbic equalised deep into injury-time to disclaim Norway probably the most unlikely of victories, however Norway’s gamers had already cemented their hero standing – none extra so than Zahid, who grew to become the primary participant of South Asian origin to attain for his nation.

“I’ve known for a long time [that no South Asian had netted for Norway at senior international level],” mentioned Ghayas, whose solely earlier worldwide look was as a Ninetieth-minute substitute in a 2018 pleasant in opposition to Panama.

“Since we have been children, we knew there haven’t been a lot of gamers from my origin, from Pakistan, who’ve come via in Norway, and performed on the highest stage in Norway. There are a few of us, we’re not many – so you already know that, you’ve gotten that in your head.

APOEL's Ghayas Zahid lays the ball off forward of Real Madrid's Marcelo in a Champions League recreation on the Bernabeu

“Also when I got my move out of Norway, I also started to understand that I have possibilities to do some things that very few people from my origin have done, like when I played in the Champions League or on the national team now.

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“I knew once I was going into these video games that there aren’t a lot of individuals from my origin which have completed that earlier than and. That makes it [the goal] a little bit particular.”


Former striker Emile Heskey talks concerning the love of soccer among the many South Asian neighborhood in his hometown Leicester, and the way gamers like Hamza Choudhury can encourage the subsequent technology

Zahid eyes massive South Asian breakthrough

Sky Sports is championing better visibility of South Asians in the sport, and Zahid – who’s the primary participant of Pakistani heritage ever to play in the Champions League – is eager to see extra gamers from South Asian backgrounds make the breakthrough on the prime stage.

“I would really love that there would be more players from my origin that come through,” he mentioned.


Former Premier League striker Michael Chopra says he’s stunned he has not been requested by soccer authorities to assist encourage the subsequent technology of South Asian footballers

“I know there is a lot of talent – also in British football – there is a lot of talent from [players whose families come from] Pakistan and India. Some of them get through, some of them don’t.

“It’s a little bit related in Norway. I performed with a lot of individuals from my origin, for instance, who have not made it to the highest stage in Norway and have the expertise, however perhaps cannot get there.

There are one or two [top-class South Asian heritage footballers] in Norway, and I hope in the long run much more will come via.”

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