Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FC Twente Signs Iraqi Captain Nashat Akram

When Iraq shocked the Asian football world by beating Saudi Arabia in the 2007 Asian Cup final, I had expected many of the Iraqi football players to gravitate into the European leagues. Players like Younis Mahmoud, Hawar Mullah Mohamed and Emad Mohamed would not look out of place in the Bundesliga or EPL. Nashat Akram was also one of those earmarked for the big time.

However that expectation did not materialise, most of the Asian Cup winners still ply their trade in the Middle East and Egypt. Well all that is about to change with the biggest star in Iraqi football moving to the Eredivise. This was reported in ESPN Soccernet website:
Dutch Eredivise club FC Twente Enschede have signed Iraq national team captain Nashat Akram on a three-year contract.
The 24-year-old midfielder, who already has 75 caps to his name, joins as a free agent from Al-Gharafa of Qatar and will officially become a Twente player after the Confederations Cup in June.
Akram, who had a trial with Manchester City last season, told the Twente website: ''This is a dream come true, to play in Europe. FC Twente is a good club with a big coach. I want to develop further at FC Twente and grow together with the club.''

Coach Steve McClaren added: ''We've been following Nashat for a year. He's a young and very talented player, who has bags of experience given his age.''
Akram can look forward to testing himself at the highest level next term after McClaren, in his first season with the club, guided Twente to a place in the qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

Over the past two years, Nashat has had trials in England with Sunderland and Manchester City. City's then-manager Sven Goran Eriksson was very impressed with him describing him as an elegant midfielder but could not sign him due to work permit rejection. No such problems over in Holland and FC Twente has secured an intelligent, modern-day midfielder who combines creativity and tireless workhorse in one package. He also weighs in with his fair share of goals. One of those rare breed who can be a bit of everything from tackling to goal scoring.

Nashat Akram was instrumental in Iraqi's first Asian Cup triumph in 2007. He was magnificient throughout the competition. His superb playmaking abilities meant that he had a hand in almost all of Iraq's goals in that competition. He was named Most Valuable Player in that final. Individual honours also followed him. He was named "Best foreign player 2005-2006" while playing in Saudi Arabia Premier League. He was the Iraqi player of the year in 2006 and 2008. He has won the Iraqi, Saudi and Qatari leagues. He is also an Emir of Qatar Cup winner this year with Al Gharrafa.

And so FC Twente has an Asian star who is both a winner and a very experienced footballer able to handle pressure games. Without a doubt, Nashat Akram is a big-game player. I do think that Holland is a great place for Asian players. It has been a favoured destination for a number of Asian footballers over the years. Singapore's Fandi Ahmad, Korea's Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo and Japan's Shinji Ono have enjoyed significant successes and fan appreciation in the laid-back environment of Holland. Rest assured, FC Twente fans will not be disappointed.

Enjoy this video documentary on Iraq and Nashat Akram courtesy of Football Asia.

With the skills that Nashat possesses, he will be a success in Holland, providing him with a possible springboard to the English Premier League. Hopefully, with him leading the way, more Iraqi footballers will find opportunities in Europe. Younis Mahmoud and Emad Mohamed, two skilful and powerful strikers, must surely feel that their time will come.

Nashat could be the catalyst for Iraqi football much like Ali Daei was for Iran. The Bundesliga successes of Ali Daei paved the way for players like Mehdi Mahdavikia, Karim Bagheri and Ali Karimi. There is no doubt that Nashat has the personality and ability to repeat an "Ali Daei" phenomenon.

With so much talent in Asia just waiting to be noticed, it might not be too long for Malaysians to be plying their trade in Europe.

Good luck Nashat, make Asia proud...


Anonymous said...

Nashat will take the Dutch league by storm!

FanZine said...

I hope so bro, I hope so...paving the way for the rest!

Yazeed said...

iraq beat saudi in the asian cup final in 07 not australia.
Nashat is a gifted player, wish him the best

FanZine said...

Thanks Yazeed for the note. You are right it was Saudi Arabia, have made the changes.
Keep a lookout on Nashat.

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