By Andile Dladla and Mandla Dladla
It is true that fortune favours the brave and this has been clearly demonstrated by Faeez Khan who simply upped and ventured to an unknown destination to pursue his career and he has not looked back since.
Khan was playing and enjoying his football in South Africa initially with Santos, then later Milano United in the lower division before finding himself with Tshakuma FC while they were also campaigning in the GladAfrica Championship.
But a feeling of unfulfillment and a spirit of adventure caught up with Khan who woke up one day and decided to venture into unchartered territory. He packed up his bags and headed for China during December to a country where he had heard nothing but good stories about their football set-up and satisfactory remunerations.
But again, it is also true that the grass is usually not greener on the other side as he walked the streets of China for almost six months, searching for a club without success. He had gone there without a plan and without an invitation from any team but driven by a desire to leave the country and start afresh somewhere.
“I started making friends and joined some players involved in futsal,” recalls Khan. “But in truth I was getting desperate as my personal funds were running low and without an income in a foreign country, just did not sit down well with me.
“Fortunately I was introduced to someone in another city who was looking for a football grassroots coach and I accepted the offer without hesitation. It became the greatest three months of my life.
“The funny thing is that while coaching, the owner of the club was unbeknown to me, searching for a club for me,” says the 28-year old defender.
“Eventually I went for a trial at Topfung FC and I signed after three days. I then went on to play for Yeh FC also in China but then encountered problems as Africans were subjected to stringent visa issues and I had no option but to leave.
“I debated long and hard about whether I should come back to Mzansi or proceed to another country. I just felt that I couldn’t come back home and instead opted to try my luck in Thailand.
“I lived at a B&B for a month searching for a team and the window for signing players was fast closing in Thailand with only four days to go. I then met a guy who helped me get a team at Phattalung City and for a year I played for Phattalung FC.”
Khan’s reputation as a non-nonsense defender spread far and wide and he soon received an offer in Cambodia where he signed for a team called Army FC. He played there for six months.
While turning out for the team, he attracted the attention of Visakha FC.
“Visakha is a very good team and they are a professional team and I felt at home from the first day. I am having a great time and have never enjoyed football as much,” says the former Milano United player.
According to Khan, the club has big ambitions. They have qualified for the Asian Football Confederation Cup playoffs and would be preparing for that tournament sometime this year as the Corona pandemic has turned everybody’s life upside down.
The Cambodian league has two really big derby teams – Phnom Penh Crown FC and Buengket FC. Their games are sold-out affairs and remind me of the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates FC and Kaizer Chiefs FC.
Khan plans to establish an Academy when he retires to assist in the development of aspiring youths, particularly from East London where kids there do not have as many opportunities as youngsters from Gauteng or other big cities like Durban and Cape Town.
“I made it out of South Africa alone with nobody helping me so I have an idea of what it’s all about and what needs to be done in order to survive and make it on that road. I have also met a couple of good people along the way that could help with that.”
As a parting shot, Khan emphasized the importance of learning foreign languages and adapting the culture and traditions of a foreign country that you are living in.