Q: Zesh you recently signed for Muangthong United the champions of the Thailand Premier League. Having played in all four divisions of English football, how does the experience of playing in Thailand compare?
ZR: “After making my debut in Thailand last week at The National Stadium in the Thai Version of The Charity Shield I can honestly say I loved the experience. The passion from the 40,000 fans in the crowd made it a day to remember and topped off a momentous day by becoming the first British Asian and Pakistani International to play professional football in Thailand. The Standard over here is very good, several players in my squad could play in the football league if given the opportunity.”
Q: What are your overall impressions of Thailand as a Country?
ZR: “I am currently living in Bangkok, otherwise known as the City that never sleeps! The weather is great, the food is very healthy and the people are friendly. I have been made to feel very welcome by all my new team mates, the fans and the locals. I think they appreciate that I have come over here to ply my trade. I have adapted to life well over here, and quickly becoming familiar with my surroundings. The club have helped to make the transition of moving from the UK as smooth as possible.”
Q: Have any members of the team experienced racism either while playing or in their every day life there?
ZR: “We have a very diverse squad with players from The Ivory Coast, France, Slovakia, Finland and of course Thailand. It’s been a wonderful insight learning about their different cultures and beliefs. It’s great to have so many different cultures under one banner, that's the beauty of football it can unite people from all walks of life. I don't think my team mates have experienced any Racism in Thailand because it has such an array of people here which helps when integrating together.”
Q: The manager of Muangthong is Carlos Roberto de Carvalho who represented Brazil internationally as a player, how does he compare to other managers you have worked with?
ZR: “I have been fortunate to have worked over 10 different managers in England, you learn from each of them. The manager I have right now is very tactically astute, his philosophy is very much that of the great Brazil teams of past World Cups, he believes in playing total football and passing the ball through the opponents! I am looking to learn as much I can from him and improve as a player.”
Q: The Zesh Rehman Foundation which you set up to encourage young people to get in to football is going from strength to strength. What is the latest with the Foundation and the pilot programmes in schools?
ZR: “The Foundation is continuing to grow in the UK, the pilot stage is now complete. 10 schools in the Bradford District have taken up the projects which are to be delivered in school hours. We have recently expanded the Foundation to Manchester and are in the process of working with professional clubs to help take it to the next level. As long as kids benefit in some way them I’ll be happy regardless of where of where I am located in the world.”
Q: What do you see as the future for the Foundation?
ZR: “I have a great team taking care of the Foundation, my Brother Riz is over seeing the day to day developments. We are hoping to have an overseas launch in Thailand in the next six months or so. We see the Foundation spreading across the UK and reaching out to kids from all backgrounds to help inspire to do more and become more using football as the vehicle. We are taking it at a steady pace to ensure that we deliver quality and make the kids experiences as memorable as possible.”
Jan 2011 interview