Iraq international Zidane Iqbal says he is 'a proud Pakistani and Mancunian' too

Zidane Iqbal is preparing to make his Iraq international debut today in a World Cup qualifier against Iran.

The match is a huge game for the 18-year-old to potentially feature in. The match kicks off at 2.30pm and while Iraq are adrift 10 points behind Iran in the group, the game between two neighbouring nations is expected to be a competitive one.

Iqbal made his Manchester United first team debut last year as a late substitute along with Charlie Savage, in the Champions League draw with Young Boys.

The midfielder represented Iraq’s under-23 side earlier this season and managed to get on the scoresheet.

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

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Choosing to represent Iraq was not an easy choice

Iqbal could have played international football for three different countries. He was born in Manchester and would have been eligible to play for England.

His dad is from Pakistan and his mum born in Iraq. Both countries wanted Iqbal to represent them, and in the end he went for the latter.

Speaking to the club website, Iqbal said: “I feel that this is the right decision for me in my career. It’ll be such an honour to represent Iraq. My family are proud of me and I just feel that it’ll be a forward step in my career, playing in the World Cup qualifiers, in big games. It’ll be a massive honour.”

Despite this, Iqbal is very proud of his multi-country heritage and says he is proud of the role all three of his cultural backgrounds has played in his life to date.

Iqbal explained: “I’ve grown up in Manchester my whole life so I’d say I’m a proud Mancunian. But I’m also proud of my heritage as well. I’m proud of being English, Pakistani and Iraqi.

“Me choosing to play for Iraq doesn’t mean I’m not a proud Mancunian or a proud Pakistani. I just feel this is the right opportunity for me as a player, the right step in my career and an honour, but it definitely doesn’t take away the fact that I’m a Mancunian and a Pakistani as well.”

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

Famous name, big talent

With a name like Zidane, the youngster is the type of player who catches attention on a teamsheet before he has even kicked a ball. As a representative of Manchester United, opponents will be additionally wary.

Iqbal has had a strong season to date, after last season saw him miss a big stretch due to injury. He has been a regular for the under-23s this season.

The young midfielder has scored in the under-23s league, in the EFL Trophy, and UEFA Youth League already this season, as well as getting a first team call-up and international call.

For the rest of the season it is all about keeping up this momentum, and then potentially getting the chance to go out on loan in 2022/23 and take the next step in his development.

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