Zidane Iqbal became the first British South Asian footballer in Manchester United history after stepping off the bench in the Champions League game against Young Boys.
The 18-year-old trained with the first team on Tuesday, before taking his place on the bench for Wednesday’s visit to the Swiss side, with qualification and first place in Group F already secured.
Iqbal – wearing shirt number 73 – came on in the final stages of the match, replacing England international Jesse Lingard.
The Manchester-born midfielder, who has Pakistani and Iraqi origins, became the first British South Asian to sign professional contracts at Old Trafford in April and is now the first footballer in the community to play for the club .
Talk to MUTV after the game Iqbal said: “It’s amazing, I have worked my whole life for this opportunity, it is a dream come true, this is just the start and I hope I can keep moving forward.”
Ralf Rangnick has confirmed that Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson will both start for United, but did not give much on Tuesday on the rest of his squad roster for the day.
“Even if we play with a few new players or new players, it’s still important that we win the game,” United’s interim manager told reporters.
“And, by the way, the first game in this group that we lost to Young Boys and so we still have to make up for that and it’s clear, whatever kind of players we start tomorrow we really want win the game .”
Manchester-born Iqbal spent more than a decade with United, playing in the early years before joining the club in the founding phase.
The attacking midfielder is well regarded by United’s coaches and has cemented his place as a regular Under-23 player despite being one of the youngest members of the squad.
Why England might miss Iqbal
Sky Sports News revealed last month that England are at risk of missing the United teenager, with Iraqi soccer chiefs keen to secure the teenager’s services at senior international level.
Iqbal was called up to play for the Iraqi Under-23 team at the WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) championship last month, helping them reach the semi-finals ahead of their elimination against Saudi Arabia. Iqbal also played against the United Arab Emirates and took on the captain’s armband before scoring against Lebanon.
He is eligible to represent England, Iraq and Pakistan at the internationals, but has never been called up to an England squad.
The teenager scored for the club’s youth against Sunderland in the EFL Trophy last month, and went on to score United’s opener in their 4-2 UEFA Youth League victory over Italian side Atalanta.
Iqbal is one of five British South Asian Premier League players on a full-time professional contract alongside Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, Aston Villa’s Arjan Raikhy, Tottenham’s Dilan Markanday and the defender of Wolves Kam Kandola.
Iqbal is the first British South Asian footballer to play for an England side in the Champions League in 19 years, following Michael Chopra’s appearance for Newcastle United at Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002/03 season.
“Monumental for South Asians in the game”
A spokesperson for the official English fan group Apna England said Sky Sports News: “It’s obviously a proud moment for everyone associated with Manchester United Football Club, but it’s also absolutely monumental for South Asians in the game.
“Zidane Iqbal is an exceptional talent, whose commitment, work ethic and dedication to reaching the highest level have been recognized by one of the greatest clubs in world football.
“With urgent action required to tackle the inequalities that persist in football, there is no better way to inspire change than by highlighting those who are leading the way in our game.
“Seeing Zidane Iqbal make history will undoubtedly inspire millions of people around the world. It is a great day for the community – and a great day for football.”
Another step taken in 2021
Iqbal’s appearance in the Manchester United squad is the latest milestone in arguably the most important year on record for the British South Asian football community.
In March, Sky Sports News helped rewrite history by announcing that Luton Town great Ricky Hill was not only the fifth black player but also the first British South Asian to represent England at senior level when ‘he ran for the Three Lions in the’ 80s.
A month later by Sky Sports News also revealed that Bhups and Sunny Singh Gill would become the first British Southeast Asian match officials to preside over the same league game, with the pair making history at Ashton Gate when Bristol City hosted Nottingham Forest.
This was followed in May by the historic appearance of Sunderland Sikh-Punjabi twins Amar and Arjun Singh Purewal at Wembley before Hamza Choudhury became the first British footballer from South Asia to win an FA Cup winning medal.
Sky Sports News also revealed that Anwar Uddin becomes the first former British player from South Asia to sit on the FA Council.
In October, Dilan Markanday made a pioneering appearance for Tottenham when he came off the bench against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League, and last week Fort William boss Shadab Iftikhar made history as the first British South Asian to manage in Scottish senior football.
British South Asians in Football
For more stories, articles and videos visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Soccer page on skysports.com and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Air sports digital platforms.