Pakistan debut will mean everything to Otis Khan, says South Asians in football trailblazer Jimmy Khan | Football News

Playing for Pakistan “will mean everything” to Grimsby Town attacking midfielder Otis Khan, South Asians in football legend Jimmy Khan has told Sky Sports News.

Sky Sports News exclusively revealed on Monday that Otis Khan’s international clearance was on the verge of completion, with the Pakistan Football Federation confirming the news the following day.

He is expected to be named in the squad for a four-nation series in Mauritius next month, before travelling to India where Pakistan will play the host nation in Bengaluru in their opening match of the 2023 South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF).

Vitoria Guimaraes defender and former England youth captain Easah Suliman is also expected to feature at the SAFF Championship, alongside British-Pakistani teenager Harun Hamid, who spent last season at QPR.

Former Blackburn Rovers academy footballer Jimmy Khan was one of the first overseas-based diaspora players to turn out for the Pakistan national side, making his debut for the Shaheens back in 1989.

A well-known figure on the Lancashire football scene, Jimmy played in the North West Counties League for teams including Darwen and Clitheroe, and even had a stint playing club football in Finland.

Jimmy, who is a UEFA A Licence coach and now sits on the FA Council, told Sky Sports News: “It was one of the greatest moments of my life [to play for Pakistan] and I know it will mean everything to Otis.

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“We need to see more role models like Easah and Otis and I hope they can use some of their stardust to talk about how proud they are to play for the country.

“There are still major challenges around infrastructure and grassroots football. Seeing Easah and Otis play for Pakistan will give so many kids real hope, especially because they have heard of clubs like Aston Villa [where Suliman turned professional] and Manchester United [where Otis played academy football].

“It will mean a lot to people all across the world, particularly those that are involved in football and have been involved in football, but haven’t been afforded the opportunity to develop.”

Jimmy Khan’s international debut almost fell through after initially suffering with illness on arrival in Pakistan, before the team’s manager at the time, Burkhard Ziese, was sacked days before a match against UAE – a game in which Khan would ultimately represent Pakistan.

“I remember everything,” he said looking back at the build-up to his international debut a little over 34 years ago.

“I remember the heat, struggling to acclimatise, and the whole training camp. We didn’t do very much training at the time and I was already an FA Level 2 coach, so I would end up taking a lot of extra sessions where we would practise things like set-pieces.

“I remember the national anthem, but only moments during my debut because it went by so quickly. It was all so surreal and just a wild moment. I hope Otis and Easah can make the most of it and soak it all up, because it flies by in a blink. It’s a great opportunity and I am really happy for them.”

Pakistan’s women’s team returned to the international arena at last year’s Women’s SAFF Championship in Nepal.

Doncaster Rovers Belles attacker Nadia Khan, who Sky Sports News revealed had received international clearance just in time to fly to Kathmandu for the tournament, made history in Pakistan’s final group game against Mauritius, becoming the first woman to score four goals in an international match for the nation.

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