Alam Zeb Safi [The News]
KARACHI: WAPDA will begin preparations for their AFC President’s Cup campaign from Thursday as their players will start to gather for their training camp in Lahore on Wednesday (today).
WAPDA have been placed in Group C of Asia’s third-tier continental club competition which will be held from April 20-24 at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal.
But WAPDA’s pereparations have been hampered as they were expecting to play their group matches in May.
“We were expecting the slots in May, but the early schedule has put us in trouble,” WAPDA head coach Khalid Butt told ‘The News’ on Tuesday.
“We have invited 25 players to the camp which will begin with full force from Thursday (tomorrow).
“We have invited the best players and all are fit with the exception of experienced striker Arif Mehmood.
“Arif pulled his thigh muscles during Pakistanís engagement in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur last month but I hope that he will soon be fit for the event as we direly need him.”
WAPDA will start their campaign against Nepal Police Club on April 20, followed by their game against Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Taipei on April 22 and Nebitchi FC of Turkmenistan on April 24.
The President’s Cup is contested by the league champions of AFC’s 12 developing members which have been bracketed in three groups. The top two teams from each group will make it to the six-team final round which will be conducted at a centralised venue.
Group A competition, carrying Kyrgyzstan’s Neftchi Kochkor-Ata, Bangladesh champions Abahani, Sri Lanka’s Don Bosco Sports Club and Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Crown FC, will be contested in Cambodia from May 21 to 25 while Group B matches, featuring defending champions Yadanarbon of Myanmar, debutants Jabal Al Mukaber Club of Palestine and Tajik club Istiklol and Bhutan’s Yeedzin FC, will be played from May 13 to 17 in Yangon Stadium in Myanmar.
WAPDA, which will leave for Nepal on April 18, have less than two weeks for preparations but their coach said that he has devised a tough training schedule which will help his team catch rhythm ahead of the event.
“Time is running out but I have planned to train the players twice a day. Though I would not like to put an extra burden on them but we will be able to do practice of twenty days in only ten days,” Butt said.
However, he said that the hectic exercise will require balanced nutrition for the players.
“The players will need quality diet during these days. I am going to meet with the WAPDA administration tomorrow and will discuss with them what assistance I will need for the players during the training tenure,” Butt said.
Butt, who created history when he took his side to the semifinals of the 2009 edition of the AFC Presidentís Cup, is confident that his team will produce a good result.
“Though Nebitchi FC from Turkmenistan is a tough team in our pool but we are capable to beat the other two sides in our group to move ahead,” Butt said.
Because of the senior team’s engagement in the Kathmandu event, WAPDA will field its Multan unit team in the National Football Challenge Cup slated to be held in Faisalabad from April 14 to 27.