Player of Pakistani origin lights up Europa League
KARACHI: Remember the name: Etzaz Hussain.
The young Norwegian footballer is the first footballer of Pakistani origin to feature in the main rounds of a European club competition.
On Thursday, the 19-year-old who plays for Norwegian side FK Molde made his fourth appearance in the UEFA Europa League — Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Molde lost the game 2-1 to Romanian side Steaua Bucharest but one of the highlights of the game was Etzaz’s sublime skill.
His efficient passing and creativity had Steaua defenders on their toes throughout the match as he created chance after chance but unfortunately for him, and Molde, defeat meant that their chances of progressing from Group ‘E’ suffered a blow.
With two games to go, Steaua are almost through with 10 points with German side Vfb Stuttgart second on five followed by Danish club FC Copenhagen on four and Molde bottom of the group on three.
Etzaz’s performance came on the very day Pakistan named defender Omar Malik, another Norway-based player in their squad for their international friendly against Singapore on Nov 19.
How Etzaz has not come on the radar of Pakistan’s football authorities and specifically the country’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic, who has shown great affinity towards the induction of overseas talent, remains a mystery.
Etzaz is no ordinary talent. He’s been touted by Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen as one of the finest talents for the future and his coach at Molde, former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer agrees.
In a recent interview with Norwegian news agency NTB, Solskjaer said: “[Etzaz] Hussain is a good footballer who likes to play big games. He has good skills and is also developing.”
Signed by Manchester United’s academy when he was 16, Etzaz signed a professional contact with the English giants in 2011 but after just three months, he was back in Norway with Valerenga.
A fall-out with the Valerenga officials meant he was on the move again, this time to fellow Tippeligaen side Frederikstad.
In the summer of 2012, Solskjaer, who was Etzaz’s coach during his time in United’s academy, signed him up for Molde.
“He has a winning mentality which is one of the reasons why I have brought him here,” Solskjaer had said at the time of Etzaz’s unveiling at Molde. “He is of course a great talent, but his mentality is first class.”
And Etzaz has repaid Solskjaer’s faith with interest.
He has made the central midfield position his own with his enormous racing capability and an effective passing game. Just two weeks ago, he scored the winner in a top of the table clash with Rosenberg.
With two rounds of the season to go, Molde hold a one-point advantage over second-placed Stromgodset and Etzaz is looking towards celebrations at the end of the season.
“It would be great to win something in Norway and to get my first real trophy,” Etzaz told Norway’s regional newspaper Romsdals Budstikke in a recent interview.
“Hopefully it will be one of many.”
He has represented Norway at the U-17 level but football fans in Pakistan will hope that Etzaz chooses his country of origin over his country of birth at senior level.