KARACHI: Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) were off to a good start when they defeated Police 1-0 in their Group B opener of the National Football Challenge Cup at the Dring Stadium in Bahawalpur on Wednesday.
Striker Abdul Salam hit the winner in the 21st minute through a fine header on a cross from Abid Khan. KESC, the runners-up of the last two editions, were playing without their key striker Mohammad Rasool who was late to reach Bahawalpur, while skipper Essa is out of the team due to a knee injury. They were also missing their defender Hayatullah who developed a knee injury in a fall in his hotel room on Tuesday.
“It was a good victory,” KESC coach Akbar Ali told ‘The News’ from Bahawalpur after the match. “We missed four goals in the initial 15 minutes but overall it was a fine start which will help us in the coming matches,” Akbar said. However, he said that it was extremely hot and humid weather and the players had to struggle throughout. In the other game of the day at Ground No2, the four-time Premier League champions WAPDA whipped Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) 3-0 in their Group B match.
Chaman-born striker Jadeed Khan Pathan put WAPDA in the front with a splendid field effort in the fifth minute. At half time, WAPDA were leading 1-0. After the breather, WAPDA brought more discipline in their ranks, inflicting rallies from both wings that paid dividends as they scored two more goals inside ten minutes to end with a healthy triumph. Striker Mohammad Afzal hit the second in the 58th minute before Jadeed Khan completed his brace in the 68th minute.
“Although we have won I am not happy as I could not get the type of squad I wanted for the tournament,” WAPDA coach Syed Qasim Raza told this correspondent. “Inter-Unit competitions are held after every three years and the youngsters that took part in it recently have not been issued NOC, which is why I could not get their services,” Qasim said.
However, he said that still there were good players in his side. Out of 37 players, 13 or 14 were youngsters, which was a good sign for the team, he said.
Meanwhile, sources told ‘The News’ that the national Under-18 team, also featuring in the event, have been boarded at a hostel located inside the Dring Stadium which has few facilities, creating problems for the future stars of the country. “The Under-18 boys are spending tough hours here as there is no water in the hostel and no generator which could be used due to heavy unscheduled load-shedding,” an eye witness said.
“The players cannot sleep in the night due to hot weather and mosquitoes,” the source said. “It is pathetic that the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is treating its future stars in such a manner,” the source said. It is the same team that won the Under-16 SAFF Cup in Nepal a couple of years back, beating India in the final.