Zidane Iqbal becomes Manchester United's first British South Asian player with Champions League debut

Zidane Iqbal becomes Manchester United's first British South Asian player with Champions League debut
2 min read
09 December, 2021
The 18-year-old Mancunian of Iraqi and Pakistani descent came off the bench during a Champions League group stage match on Wednesday to make his first-team debut for the Red Devils.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder was born in Manchester to an Iraqi mother and Pakistani father [Getty]

A teenage footballer of Iraqi and Pakistani descent made history on Wednesday when he became the first British South Asian to play for Premier League side Manchester United.

Zidane Iqbal made his first-team debut for the English side during a Champions League group stage match against Swiss team Young Boys, coming off the bench in the closing minutes of the game.

"Alhamdulilah always and forever," read part of a caption of a post on his Instagram page marking the debut.

The 18-year-old attacking midfielder was born in Manchester to an Iraqi mother and Pakistani father.

Iqbal said his father was key to his interest in football as a young boy.

"I used to go watch him play football when I was younger, and I kind of joined in sometimes... I used to watch him every night, then I joined my own club and then I got picked up by United," he told children earlier this year at the Manchester primary school he attended.

He has been part of Manchester United for more than ten years, having come up through the team's football programme for children and young adults.

He signed a professional contract with Manchester United in April, the first British South Asian player to do so.

Manchester United sat pretty at the top of its Group F and was already through to the round of 16 before Wednesday's match, so interim manager Ralf Rangnick used the game to showcase the team's young talent, giving two other Manchester United Academy players their professional debut as well.

Iqbal's international career also looks full of opportunity, with the youngster eligible to play for England, Iraq, and Pakistan's national teams.

He played for Iraq in the West Asian Football Federation's under-23s championship, captaining the team for one match. The team made the tournament's semi-finals.

Iraq's football federation is pinning hopes for its team's future on young players like Iqbal, not least after a disappointing Arab Cup performance by the senior team, who crashed out of the tournament in the group stages.