By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
Although hailed as the lowest continental competition in the Asian region, the AFC President’s Cup offers Pakistani clubs the chance to compete with their counterparts from emerging nations.
And this year, reigning Pakistan Premier League champions KRL have really showed their money’s worth in the group stages, carving out two solid wins against Global FC (Philippines) and Yeedzin FC (Bhutan), while they shared the spoils with Dordoi Bishkek in a 2-2 draw.
When you look at some of the football they played, they really did deserve to be in the latter stages, but this is where champions are made.
Having faced Dordoi earlier this year, the Rawalpindi-based side will know what they are up against. And Palestine’s Hilal Al-Quds will not do them any favours either, but this KRL side has plenty of creativity up-front and have been in incredible form.
Not only that, but most of their players were in Pakistan’s squad for the SAFF Championship and thus they are quite well prepared ahead of the daunting challenge in Malaysia.
And for coach Tariq Lutfi, winning the Asian accolade will go a long way in answering his legion of critics that have built up since shoddy reigns with the Pakistan team.
Some insiders actually point to KRL manager Ayaz Butt as the reason why the side are progressing so quickly and of course their dearth of talent is unquestioned.
Samar Ishaq was the best local centre-back in Pakistan’s SAFF Cup campaign, Saddam Hussain mightily impressed as a defensive midfielder, while Adil rocked the wings and looks poised for a move abroad.
Besides scooping up top local talent, including Muslim FC’s highly-rated hit man Saeed Khan this summer, KRL have the best facilities in the country and that has played an integral in galvanizing their array of stars for domestics as well as international competitions.
And they now face a task, which is not impossible by any means, but will surely make the team immortal if they achieve it in the next few days.