Zidane Iqbal made history on Wednesday becoming the first British South Asian footballer to play for Manchester United at senior level.
With Ralf Rangnick’s side already through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League, the manager used several young first-team debutants against Swiss side Young Boys at Old Trafford in a 1-1 draw.
Robbie Savage’s son Charlie, 18, was one of those players and made some of the headlines, but the impact of Iqbal, also 18, was a major landmark – with plenty of reaction from fans on social media to his 89th minute appearance.
Midfielder Iqbal is a local Manchester lad from Withington, born to a Pakistani father and Iraqi mother. After being with United since he was young, he signed his first professional contract in April.
Recent figures suggest that – despite making up about 7% of the British population, only 0.25% of professional footballers are from any British Asian background.
In terms of the British South Asian population, this is the first time that a footballer of that heritage has played for an English club in the Champions League since Michael Chopra played for Newcastle United during the 2002-03 season.
What did Iqbal say about his debut?
Iqbal told MUTV: “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.
“It was crazy, I was waiting for the ball to go out, embracing it all, looking at the fans. When I came on the loud cheer from the fans was unreal.
“It was more excitement. Last night I just about slept. I was just embracing it all really. I was hoping to get a touch. I did thankfully. I really enjoyed it.”
Who is Zidane Iqbal?
Iqbal represented United’s U18s and U23s prior to his senior debut. He wears the number 73 shirt.
He could be eligible to play for England, Iraq or Pakistan. Earlier this year the teenager represented the Iraq U23 side in international friendlies.
BBC Sport’s Simon Stone says Iqbal is also a talented Futsal player who has been coached by his FA level two qualified dad Aamar. His younger brother Yahya is also a talented footballer.
Iqbal is also part of the PFA Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme and attended two events during the summer to connect with peers – as well as giving up his evenings on a number of occasions this year to share his experiences with younger peers via zoom, which has been described as “inspiring” for some of those families.
Iqbal recently spoke to BBC Sport about his future prospects.
On his namesake Zinedine Zidane. the legendary former France and Real Madrid midfielder, Iqbal said: “To be honest, when I was younger I didn’t really think anything of it.
“But, as I got older, I found out there was a great, great player called Zinedine Zidane.”
“It’s good knowing I might be a role model. I’d want to be a good one.”
Reaction on social media
There was a lot of positive reaction to his inclusion in the side on social media.
One Manchester United fan said: “To my young British Asian brothers and sisters, it can happen.”
Another said: “If I was six, seven, eight years old right now, I’m looking at my TV, going ‘oh my God, this guy looks like me, he’s from my end and he’s playing for Manchester United,’ it’s huge.”
Amongst all the celebrations, one man who was very proud was dad Aamar.
It will be exciting to see where Iqbal goes from here. In the meantime, history has already been made.