Reasat Islam Khaton, 31, was born in Dhaka and later moved to Germany, where he began his football career. He played in the Welsh Premier League for Llanelli Town AFC, making him the first Bangladeshi to ever play in the top division for a European country. We recently caught up with him to find out more about his work.
How were you first introduced to football?
Our family left Bangladesh when I was around five. We moved to Germany in 1996 as refugees, after living in Russia for a year. My relationship with football began in a camp. None of the refugee kids there knew German. Football was our only means of communication, and we became best friends. My family went through severe hardships. Yet, we made it through and settled in Germany. Not knowing German was a challenge during my first few years at school, but I learnt the language very quickly because of my football practices.
How did your career in football begin?
A teacher at my school said that I had the skills for professional football and I should focus on it. Soon after, I joined a small local club named Freiburger FC, at the age of six. When I was 14, I was chosen to play for SC Freiburg of Bundesliga, one of the best football academies in Germany. That's where my football career took off.
What were some of the major challenges you faced as a professional footballer?
When I suffered from a knee injury, and I genuinely felt my career would end, since it is very unlikely for any player to make it to the top three divisions after their mid 20s. Despite that, I played in the fourth and fifth divisions for a few more teams in Germany, including KSV Hessen Kassel, FSC Lohfelden, FC Schwalmstadt, SC Wiedenbrück, Chemnitzer FC, BV Cloppenburg, and SV Seligenporten. Soon, I left the German clubs altogether and played in the top division of the Philippines football club, Pachanga Dilliman FC. When I returned, I joined Germany's Lithuanian second-division team FC Stumbras, before joining the Northern Irish team, Carrick Rangers, and eventually, the Welsh team, Carmarthen Town AFC. Finally, I signed up for Llanelli Town AFC and played in the Welsh Premier League, which is the top division in the Wales Football League pyramid. After Llanelli, I joined Molynes United in Jamaica in September 2019, in the premier division. By then, my injury had deteriorated, and I had to return to Germany for a surgery. My doctors and physiotherapists did their best for my fast recovery, and now, my knee is nearly healed.
Who are some of your football heroes?
Brazillian footballer Rivaldo is my favourite player, but my ultimate sports idol is boxer Muhammad Ali. He is an inspiration in both my career and my everyday life. I must also mention Mirko Dickhaut, who works for the Bundesliga club, Hertha Berlin, and Thomas Stratos, who worked for the Greek National Team. I look up to them because they are brilliant tacticians and they always find the right words to motivate the players.
How do you prepare yourself prior to a big match?
I usually go for a walk in a forest, listen to music and have a big bowl of pasta before a game. But once I am in the match, the adrenaline takes over, and the nervousness leaves me. I also love having my father around whenever I am playing in the field, but he cannot attend a match if it is away from Germany.
What are your future plans?
I aim to play in every continent in the top division, and eventually, I would like to be a football coach or agent.