Sports Correspondent – The News
KARACHI: A 25-member team of Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) left Karachi for Colombo on Sunday night to feature in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup Group A first round matches at the Sugathadasa Sports Complex in Colombo from May 7-11.
International defender Kamran Khan will lead the side, while Zia-us-Salam will be acting as his deputy.
Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra Limited of Bangladesh, Ugyen Academy FC of Bhutan and Sri Lanka Air Force FC are the other teams in the group. All these three teams in the group will be competing for the first time. However, it will be the fourth appearance for KRL who became the first club from Pakistan to play the final of the third-tier continental club slots last year.
KRL lost to Balkan FC of Turkmenistan 0-1 in the final in Kuala Lumpur last year.
KRL will begin their campaign on May 7 with the game against Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra Limited of Bangladesh, followed by their matches against Ugyen Academy FC of Bhutan on May 9 and Sri Lanka Air Force FC on May 11.
Two leading teams from the group will make it to the six-team final round to be held in September. Because this is the last edition of the AFC President’s Cup, the six outfits which will move into the final round will become eligible to appear in 2015 playoffs for the AFC Cup.
KRL will be missing their five key players, Kaleemullah, Mohammad Aadil, Bilawal-ur-Rehman, Saddam Hussain and skipper Samar Ishaq, who is battling fitness problems.
KRL manager Ayaz Butt told ‘The News’ that if their frontline clicked they would get their target. “Although we are missing our five key players, I am confident that if our frontline converted chances we would qualify for the next round,” Butt told this correspondent here at the Jinnah International Airport. However, Butt was upset over the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) decision not to release Saddam Hussain for the Sri Lanka tour. “We had requested PFF to give us Saddam for one match but our request was turned down. You know, we can only request,” Butt said.
Both Saddam and Bilalwal are in Pakistan team camp for the Al-Nakba International Football tournament to be held in Palestine from May 10 to 19.
KRL squad: Saqib Hanif, Tanvir Mumtaz, Shahid Nabi, Mohammad Naved, Ihsanullah, Kamran Khan (captain), Mohammad Shahid, Zia-us-Salam, Mohammad Salman, Mehmood Khan, Mohammad Dawood, Rizwan Asif, Mohammad Abid Khan, Murtaza Hussain, Naeem Raza, Mohammad Qasim, Saadullah, Yasir Afridi, Mohammad Zeeshan.
Officials: Tariq Lutfi (head coach), Sajjad Mehmood (assistant coach), Ayaz Butt (manager), Mohammad Shahid (physiotherapist), Saeed (trainer), Mohammad Ali (media manager).