Manchester United talent Zidane Iqbal in position of unique pressure
When Zidane Iqbal made his first-team debut for Manchester United there was a lot of attention on him as the club’s first-ever British South Asian player.
Clearly, there is more to the 18-year-old midfielder than his heritage, but the Iraq international, who was also eligible to play for England and Pakistan, is understandably going to be a role model for many.
According to the BBC, only 0.25% of professional players in this country are from British Asian backgrounds, compared about 7% of the national population.
Outside of Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, who is of Bangladesh-Grenadian heritage (BBC), there are few examples for the various communities around the UK to look to for representation, with the last player to feature in the Champions League being Newcastle’s Michael Chopra almost two decades ago.
Iqbal therefore could be excused for feeling a weight on his shoulders.
Following his late substitute appearance against Young Boys in December he told MUTV, via Sky Sports: “It feels amazing, I’ve been working my whole life for this opportunity, it’s a dream come true, it’s just the start and hopefully I can keep pushing on.”
Subscribe to Football Insider TV now
Although he has not featured again under Ralf Rangnick as yet, there should be plenty of time, as he only signed his first professional contract in April last year.
In a creative central role, he has made various appearances in Premier League 2, following his breakthrough last season.
Pressure is huge on young players to break into the first team at any level, let alone at Old Trafford.
He has made that crucial first step and the hope will be to add to that before the end of this term, with a view to joining the squad on a more regular basis next year.
Iqbal will no doubt be aware of the progress he represents for many, which is a lot for any teenager to take on.
But he has made impressive strides so far, and has his place in United history however far he goes.
In other Football Wonderkids news, Southampton hope to sign two young players from Chelsea.