KARACHI: Kaleemullah hopes his move to FC Dordoi Bishkek will open the doors of Europe for him.
The Pakistan striker becomes the second player to leave Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) for the Kyrgyz giants in the space of a month following the transfer of winger Mohammad Adil earlier in February.
“I want to work hard at Dordoi and it is a good chance for me to play professional football,” Kaleem, who will leave for Bishkek on Friday, told Dawn on Monday.
“It is a great chance for me to grow as a player and if I perform well there, I might get an offer from Europe as well,” the nifty striker who idolises Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi, added.
Kaleem has signed a five-month contract worth $10,000 with the two-time AFC President’s Cup winners having impressed them with his performances in Asia’s third-tier club competition last season.
He scored the winner as the KRL defeated Dordoi 1-0 in their match of the final group phase en route to reaching the final where Kaleem and his side lost 1-0 to Balkan FC.
“During our match with Dordoi, their vice-president was there and he saw me play,” Kaleem informed. “A few weeks earlier they contacted me and the club and we sorted out the transfer.”
Kaleem, who played in Pakistan’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Lebanon in an international friendly last week, also had an offer from a club in Bahrain. “After the Lebanon game, I was mulling two offers,” he said. “But I chose the offer from Dordoi because the league in Bahrain doesn’t start until July.”
Pakistan’s Bahraini head coach Mohammad Al Shamlan had been keen on sending Kaleem, voted PPFL’s best player last season, a move to a club in his country.
However, Kaleem was keen to test himself in Kyrgyzstan first before a move to Bahrain. At Dordoi, he will also be re-united with former Pakistan coach Zavisa Milosaveljic — the Serbian who was replaced by Shamlan last year.
“I have a contract with Dordoi till July so let’s see what transpires after that,” he said. “If they are still interested in me I might get a chance to play in Bahrain but for now my focus is on doing well for Dordoi.”
He also thanked the KRL for supporting him during his career.
“I won three PPFL titles with the KRL so they have a very special place in my heart,” he said. “It is the KRL who have got me where I am.”
Kaleem might also return to the KRL at the end of his contract with Dordoi.
But he will miss KRL’s National Challenge Cup campaign and the first round of the AFC President’s Cup. The Challenge Cup is scheduled to be held from March 25 to April 12 while the first round of the President’s Cup is from May 1 to 11.
With Dordoi not involved in Asian competitions, Kaleem would not be cup-tied for the final group phase of the President’s Cup if KRL get there and he returns to Tariq Lutfi’s side.
Lutfi said that although he would be without two of his best players in Kaleem and Adil for the Challenge Cup and the President’s Cup, these were good times for Pakistan football.
“We will be missing two of our match-winners this season but nevertheless it is good that players from the country are attracting the attention of Asia’s bigger clubs,” Lutfi told Dawn on Monday.
“It shows that football is progressing in the country and these are exciting times. Similarly, if Kaleem and Adil do well at Dordoi, it will be good projection of the KRL and the work we’ve been doing here.”
Lutfi, who might also lose another of his star players in Saddam Hussain to a foreign club, said it was natural for top clubs to lose their best players to bigger sides.
“We’ve won three successive PPFL titles and became the first side from Pakistan to play in an Asian competition so of course our players have caught the eye of the scouts who were there,” he said.
“Now, we [KRL] will have to re-build our side and hopefully groom more match-winners like Kaleem.”