Natasha Raheel – Express Tribune
KARACHI: Pakistan Premier Football League champions KRL returned to Islamabad yesterday from their historic campaign in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup where they finished as the runners-up.
Touted as the under-dogs before the start of the tournament, KRL sprung surprises with their wins against two-time champions FC Dordoi and Hilal al-Quds to become the first Pakistan club to qualify for the final.
Despite their 1-0 defeat against Balkan FC in the final, coach Tariq Lutfi said it was an achievement, adding that his team has proved that Pakistan has football talent and hard work can lead to success.
“Ours was an all-Pakistani club, the players and the management,” Lutfi told The Express Tribune. “Our achievement has only proved that we can perform well in the international competitions without the help of foreign coaches or players.
“Our performance has sent out a strong message to all the Asian countries that Pakistan can produce a good team that can compete well against the top sides. We lost the final only by one goal when most people thought that our opponents would score at least three to four goals against us.”
Lutfi said he was not disappointed with his team’s defeat in the final but was, in fact, encouraged to see it showed signs of improvement.
“I don’t see our defeat as a disappointment. Balkan FC is a strong side and my players did well to contain them,” he added.
“My players were a little intimidated by them, we even felt like amateurs compared to our opponents but we still put up a fighting performance and I am very proud of that.“
KRL, who scored 14 goals in the tournament and conceded only two, earned a cash prize of $25,000 as the runners-up.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2013.