Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: The Premier League champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) will start their preparation for the AFC President’s Cup first round from Thursday (tomorrow) at the KRL Ground in Rawalpindi.
“Three of our players have reached here, while the rest will assemble tomorrow and we will properly begin our training from Thursday,” KRL manager Ayaz Butt told ‘The News’ from Islamabad on Tuesday.
KRL have been placed in Group A with Sri Lanka’s Air Force SC, Sheikh Russel Krira Chakara Limited of Bangladesh and Ugyen Academy of Bhutan.
The Group A matches will be held in Colombo.
Butt said the e-mail they received from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) showed that KRL would play their matches from May 7 to 11. “The e-mail indicates that we will face the Bangladesh club on May 7, followed by our games against the teams from Bhutan and Sri Lanka on May 9 and 11, respectively,” Butt said.
This will be the fourth time that KRL will appear in the continent’s third-tier slots.
Last year, KRL lost to Turkmenistan’s Balkan FC 0-1 in the final.
KRL have a testing time ahead in the President’s Cup in the absence of their star front-runners Kaleemullah and Mohammad Adil, who are playing for Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi Bishkek on loan.
“If we had the full squad we would have a much better chance. But still we will try our best to qualify for the final round,” Butt said.
The KRL management has recruited defender Naveed Ahmed who used to play for HBL, striker Murtaza Hussain (Mehran Club, Islamabad) and defender Daniyal (Ravi Club, Islamabad).
“I am also in contact with Izharullah (ZTBL) and hopefully he will also be roped in,” Butt revealed.
“There is no restriction on recruitment in our department and we are desperately looking for quality players,” Butt said.
KRL would be lucky if they got their unfit skipper Samar Ishaq back in the team. “Samar will join us tomorrow. We will watch how fit he is,” Butt said.
Samar missed most part of the Premier League and the subsequent National Football Challenge Cup due to a knee injury.
KRL looked a shadow of their true self in the NFCC and exited at the quarter-finals stage.
Coach Tariq Lutfi is expected to join the team on April 10 or 11.
Butt said if his team qualified for the final round they would have both Adil and Kaleem for the decisive stage.
“I have talked with Kaleem and Adil. They may join us in the final stage,” Butt said.
This is the last edition of the President’s Cup. Two outfits from each group will make it to the final six-team round, to be conducted in September.
The six teams which qualify for the AFC President’s Cup final stage will enter the 2015 AFC Cup play-offs.
“If we got the nod of our management we will try to fly to Colombo two or three days before our round begins in order to acclimatise with the conditions there,” Butt said.
The Group B slots will be held in Philippines from May 1-5. The Group C competitions will be held in Mongolia from May 6-10.