Memories of Yaser Kasim making his debut for Iraq against China are now a distant memory for Iraqi fans. Then the star of Swindon, the Iraqi proved pivotal for the Lions of Mesopotamia, who outplayed their opponents in the crucial 2015 Asian Cup qualifier. Despite the two goals from Younis Mahmoud and another from Ali Adnan, Yaser walked away as the game’s hero. His calming influence dictated the play with minimal effort and his range of passing caused havoc for opposition defenders. Hakim Shakir uncovered a gem and Iraq had finally ended the long search for Nashat Akram’s replacement.
Over two years has passed since Yaser Kasim was last involved properly with the national team. His club form has suffered and the player’s name now goes unmentioned at both club level and national level. His reputation has been tarnished, with many seeing him as a sulk and a problematic individual to have in a dressing room. It’s rumoured the player is now prepared to transfer to the Iraqi league out of desperation to revive his dying career.
In the 2015 Asian Cup, of which Yaser Kasim was fundamental to Iraq’s impressive semi-final finish, Osama Rashid quietly waited for his opportunity to feature in the starting eleven. His performance at the tournament was subdued, without any memorable performances of note. However, then a youngster, Osama learnt from his opportunity and has gone on to establish himself at club level.
Both Osama and Yaser were present in Australia for the 2015 Asian Cup; however, their fortunes have taken different paths since. Whilst Yaser was the star of the show then, he now finds himself finishing the season with Northampton Town having played next to no football at the club, despite them being relegated from League One in the process. This is some way away from his previous form, where he was minutes away from signing for Swansea on transfer deadline day, only for the deal to fall through.
Osama Rashid started his career off in Feyenoord, one of the most respected clubs in European football when it comes to producing top young talents. Despite never making it to the first team, he had plenty of experience thanks to his time with Netherlands U17 and U19. Dropping down the tiers of Dutch football allowed him to gain valuable game time at a young age, where he progressed. It was at Alphense Boys where his form really flourished. His strong performances earned himself a call up by Radhi Shenaishil for the 2015 Asian Cup.
The sunny beaches of Faro, southern Portugal, were calling next for Osama. He gambled with his career and signed for SC Farense, then in the second division. Rather than staying in Holland and remaining in his comfort zone, he instead challenged himself and transferred to a small club in a league alien to him.
Osama hit the ground running and his stellar season helped his side challenge for a promotion spot. In 41 games, the midfielder bagged an impressive 8 goals and 8 assists. Ironically however, as his league form improved, he was casually pushed aside from the national team and he has barely featured since. It was around this time that issues around Yasir Kasim started to circulate. In hindsight, this would have been the perfect time to offer Osama the opportunity to fill the void left in the midfield, but instead, both expats were left out of the national team altogether.
Building on his success, Osama then tested himself in the top-flight of Bulgarian football. Lokomotiv Plovdiv signed the Iraqi on a two year contract despite interest from numerous Gulf clubs. Osama once again opted for the challenging route in order to better his career and progress as a footballer. Other may have taken the easy route and signed for a Middle Eastern side, with less competitive training and significantly better pay. However, despite a good start for Plovdiv, he struggled to maintain his form. The language barrier made settling down in Bulgaria difficult, as did missing preseason training with the club.
Returning to Portugal proved a masterstroke, where Osama established himself as one of the most promising midfielders in the country. Santa Clara had monitored him from his time at SC Farense and signed him when the opportunity arose. His first season was impressive and Osama molded himself into a complete box-to-box midfielder who is capable of defending, creating and scoring.
Centered in Santa Clara’s well balanced squad, Osama proved the catalyst to their historic promotion to the Primeira Liga this season. Numerous sides from the Portuguese first division attempted to sign him during the January transfer window but Santa Clara were extremely eager to hold onto their new star and demanded €1.5 million to put off any pursuers. Likewise, Osama wanted to remain loyal to the club where he was once again enjoying his football. Despite an serious injury during the season , he finished with an incredible 10 goals and 7 assists in only 31 games.
Osama will start the 2019 season playing in the Primeira Liga for Santa Clara. Despite the difficulties he endured during his career – including a transfer to Werder Bremen falling through and being continuously overlooked by the Iraqi national team, Osama’s work ethic and commitment to honing his skills have resulted in him being the first Iraqi to play in the Portuguese first division. What sets him apart from other footballers is his mentality and attitude to success. Rather than surrendering and feeling sorry for himself, as Yaser Kasim appears to have done after his Swansea move failed to materialise, Osama has progressed and developed continuously. The Iraqi national team have taken notice of his form at club level too, where Osama Rashid can become Iraq’s star at the 2019 Asian Cup. Meanwhile, it’s unlikely Yaser Kasim will even be considered for the squad. Football has a funny way of working out sometimes…