Having won the League for the last three years, trophies are something which the KRL FC side is quite familiar with. Not only that, but the reigning champions also managed to reach the final of the AFC Presidents Cup in 2013 – a first for Pakistani football and a good sign that football is finally progressing in the country.
Arguably the two figureheads of that campaign were striker Kaleemullah and winger Mohammad Adil, both of whom impressed mightily for both club and country last year.
Since then the duo were eyeing a move abroad and finally completed a switch to Kyrgyzstan giants FC Dordoi Bishkek in February, another major milestone for Pakistani football, although it will severely impact KRL FC’s chances in the upcoming NBP National Challenge Cup.
“Kaleemullah and Adil were both worthy match winners for us, performing well for the last three years,” said KRL FC manager Tariq Lutfi in an exclusive interview with FootballPakistan.com
“Without them, playing in the Challenge Cup will be a challenge,” he added.
Furthermore, the National U-22 side has been training in Lahore for the past couple of days, further lowering KRL’s chances, as the side provides the majority of football stars for the Pak Shaheens, something which Lutfi is proud of, but claims that it could hamper their chances in the AFC Presidents Cup in May.
“The National Team will go to Palestine in May and they have 5-8 players of ours. So that makes it difficult to train. We have taken 3-4 players from the market and we are looking at them, but without Adil and Kaleemullah will be a big loss,” continued the former National Team coach.
Lutfi also claims that KRL is currently in the process of rebuilding the squad and that is something which is going to take time, so expecting a win in the NBP National Challenge when they are not even reigning cup holders will be a difficult ask.
“We are rebuilding the team, people do not know details about our problems.We are going into the Challenge Cup, but we are not reigning champions. It’s not that we are scared; it’s a life of the coach, we have to rebuild the team. But people will be thinking that without Kaleem and Adil, how will they perform,” claimed the veteran tactician.
Lutfi also added that first-choice goalkeeper Saqib Hanif is expected to miss out on the Challenge Cup due to a recurring injury and thus needs to rest, so that he can be fit for the AFC Presidents Cup campaign.
“We might not have Saqib Hanif, as he has a recurring injury. So we want him to rest. He never recovers fully, so we want him to take a breather before May.”
Skipper Samar Ishaq is also nursing a long-term injury and will miss the Challenge Cup; thereby putting pressure on Kamran Khan to perform, who himself was injured in the recent practice game against Islamabad XI, but Lutfi is eager to salvage pride ahead of the tournament in Karachi.
“Samar Ishaq is injured. Kamran will have to lead; he himself also suffered an injury. But we will have to salvage our pride,” claimed Lutfi.
The former Pakistan trainer also opened up about the possibility of signing foreigners, but claimed that owing to KRL’s sensitive nature, they simply can’t do that, however if the system was revised under the AFC licensing criteria, he would definitely look to bolster his squad with foreign options.
“It is difficult to sign foreign players. Ideally, we should sign some, but for KRL is difficult. Club Licensing is already being done by the AFC. Clubs will then need to have local support and they are working on that pattern with sponsorships.”
Lutfi also added that while K-Electric signed Nigerian striker Oludeyi Sunday and were tough contenders for the League, it remains to be seen whether they can outperform everyone to come out on top in Karachi.
“K-Electric signed a foreigner, they might get another. At present it is difficult for KRL, but the future has to be this for a professional setup. K-Electric wanted to win the League and now let’s see what happens in the National Challenge Cup,” Lutfi was quoted as saying while exclusively talking to FootballPakistan.com