Zesh Rehman: The key to surviving Asia

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As an import you are expected to be a leader, set an example of ultimate professionalism, help the locals and be a difference maker.

Sometimes the environment may not be as professional as you are used to but you should never drop your standards because you will get found out if you do.  

If you can work with the management and help make useful suggestions which can slowly help improve the standards, it’s a step in the right direction.

Never carry a know-it-all attitude and be careful not to undermine key personnel at the club.


Make sure you never slack off as an import


This is where the bonding is done and where titles and trophies are won.

In successful teams the locals and imports muck in together. At Kitchee and Pahang, the imports would sit with the locals during meal time and genuinely take an interest in them and their lives which helped build the team spirit but more importantly the family atmosphere.

Whenever I returned from London from the off season break, I would bring back souvenirs for the players, families, coaches & management. Small gestures can often go a long way in terms of winning over hearts and minds.

The language barrier is not a barrier if you make an effort and have some fun with it. In Hong Kong the import lads used to speak "ching-lish" which is a modified version of English and Chinese.


Enjoy the experience, he says

It’s basically speaking English in the most simplified version so the local boys understood it, it was very useful on the pitch for us and helped immensely with the banter.

In Malaysia, I played a season in centre midfield with Hafiz Kamal, I used to have fun with him when talking English.

We would take turns to make runs into the box to try and score, we knew exactly when and who was making the run because the dialogue was as simple as "you go I stay" or "I stay you go".

Simple but extremely effective as we contributed 15 goals between us from midfield.



Always be ready to connect with the people around you. Photo: Zesh Rehman

While in Asia, players will meet dozens of people from the football and business world which can help them later down the line.

It’s important to make an effort to get to know people in order to create a new network of contacts.

When I left the UK I stayed in touch with the coaches and clubs in the England which helped me return back to play here recently with Gillingham.

It’s not a case of out of sight out of mind. With the network in Asia, players are able to take ownership of their careers and help to get a move themselves by staying in touch with coaches, management and agents.

Part of this area also covers the media, players should keep the PR machine rolling and share their experiences of Asia.

I didn’t have an Instagram account before I came to Malaysia but quickly created one in order to give the fans some insight into my life in Malaysia and also to create a connection between us.