Akram: Proud to be a pioneer
Several players use major international competitions as platforms on which to earn a transfer at club level. This, however, was not the case with Iraq midfielder Nashat Akram, who joined Dutch Eredivisie runners-up Twente just days before the kick-off of the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009.
To some, his decision was premature, but the 24-year-old does not agree. "I have no regrets of joining them before the Confederations Cup," Akram told FIFA.com. "I want to thank Twente for their trust as they wanted me to play for them last year, but I had a contract with Al Gharafa and couldn't move."
"I had two other offers from European clubs but I preferred to join Twente because I saw their desire to have me with them. They are also a big team and they have a big fan base in the Netherlands and a great coach as well."
Akram's spell at Twente will not be his first overseas, given that he has turned out for Saudi sides Al Nasr and Al Shabab, Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, and most recently Qatari champions Al Gharafa. He nevertheless believes his next move will be totally different.
"This move is a challenge for me," said Akram. "Playing for teams in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar is different from the European teams in terms of standard. But I believe in my abilities and I hope that I can do everything to help the team."
"I will be the first Iraqi player to play in the Eredivisie and I hope that I can show the qualities of the Iraqi footballers. I was the first Iraqi player to play in Saudi Arabia and this opened the chance for other players from Iraq to play there. I hope my next step will give more chances to other players."
Akram believes his personal routine will aid him settling in to live in the Netherlands, although he concedes the language barrier may be a problem.
"I'm a professional and I have a certain schedule every day," he explained. "I wake up early before logging in to my official website where I reply to questions from my fans or even read their criticism and I usually spend four hours there before going to training.
"At night I usually go out with my team-mates to cinemas or coffee shops and I really enjoy doing these things. I don't think that this will change because I'm a professional player and it will not affect me to live in another environment. At the beginning, I might have language problems but I hope I can fit in quickly."