By Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: National champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) on Tuesday were drawn with defending champions Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Taipei as the draws were announced for the group stage (qualifiers) of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup to be held in different countries of the continent this year.
Cambodia, Tajikistan and Pakistan will host the group stage competitions from May 3-13. Pakistan will host Group A, which also includes Dhanmondi Club Limited of Bangladesh and debutants Erchim FC of Mongolia, at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore.
In 2007, Pakistan hosted the AFC President’s Cup in Lahore, which was won by Dordoi-Dynamo of Kyrgyzstan who beat Mahendra Police Club of Nepal 2-1.
This is the second time that KRL will be featuring in the event. They took part in the third-tier continental club slots in 2010 in Myanmar, but failed to qualify for the semifinals. After beating Naga Corp of Cambodia 2-1, KRL lost to Tajikistan’s Vakhsh Qurghonteppa 0-1 and went down against Renown Sports Club of Sri Lanka 1-2.
WAPDA are the only Pakistani club ever to have qualified for the semifinals—in 2009 edition of the AFC President’s Cup at the Dashrath Stadium in Nepal.
KRL coach Tariq Lutfi is optimistic about his team’s chances of qualifying for the final round. “I am optimistic that we will be able to make it to the final round. I am also going to revamp the team. A few young players are being inducted in place of a few seniors,” added Lutfi, also a former Pakistan coach.
“We will be very careful about the last year’s champions Taiwan Power Company. But we have a chance against Mongolia’s Erchim FC and it is yet to be seen how many professional players are playing in the Bangladeshi club,” Lutfi said.
“We will try to hold camp, if possible in Lahore, for the whole April to make better preparations for a tough assignment,” he said. Last year’s runners-up Phnom Penh Crown FC of Cambodia have been pitted against Dordoi-Dynamo of Kyrgyzstan, Nepal Police Club and Yeedzin FC of Bhutan in Group B, while Tajikistan’s Istiklol FC and Turkmenistan’s Balkan FC, who were in Group A in the last edition’s final stage, were again placed together in Group C along with Al Amma’ri Youth Club of Palestine and Sri Lanka’s Ratnam Sports Club.
Two teams each from the three groups will qualify for the final round which will be staged from September 24-30 at a venue yet to be decided.
Group A: KRL Football Club (Pakistan), Taiwan Power Company (Chinese Taipei), LSJ Dhanmondi Club Limited (Bangladesh), Erchim FC (Mongolia).
Group B: Phnom Penh Crown FC (Cambodia), Dordoi-Dynamo (Kyrgyzstan), Nepal Police Club (Nepal), Yeezdin FC (Bhutan).
Group C: Istiklol FC (Tajikistan), Balkan FC (Turkmenistan), Al Amma’ri Youth Club (Palestine), Ratnam Sports Club (Sri Lanka).