Like many players in the Isthmian Football League, the international break is not something that greatly impacted the footballing calendar of Whitehawk’s Imran Kayani.
That was until he got a call from an unknown number over in Pakistan…
“I was just at university working as normal, and then this number comes up on my phone,” said Kayani, “so I thought I’d give it a call back, and thankfully I did, seeing as it turned out to be someone from the federation telling me they were interested in having me join up with the next camp.
“Only problem was that the date the camp started was the day after tomorrow! So, I had to get straight on the phone to Whitehawk to check if they were okay with me heading off for the games.
“But I needn’t have worried; everyone at the club was buzzing for me, especially the gaffer.”
With flights booked and bags packed, the 21-year-old only had one thing left to do, play one more game that night for the England Football Accredited club.
“It was a bit of a rush to say the least,” said Kayani, “but I love playing so I didn’t think twice about it, even though it meant that I was getting back home at midnight and then leaving again a few hours later to catch my flight first thing.”
Next thing Kayani knows he’s on the plane, flying out to prepare for the biggest game of his life, a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.
“I think it all only started to sink in when I got to the hotel and started to meet the rest of the players,” said Kayani.
“When I arrived, it was just the local players there, and they were speaking to each other in Urdu, and thankfully I can also speak Urdu, so that really helped settle me in, because I was able to chat and get to know them all.
“They were saying how when players had previously joined up from abroad, they didn’t speak the language, and found it difficult to integrate with the rest of the lads.
“For me though, as soon as I arrived, I just wanted to get out training and playing, so I could show them what I could bring to the team.”