Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) manager Ayaz Butt said on Tuesday that they sacrificed the interest of their department for the sake of the country.
He said KRL fielded a depleted side in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup in Colombo because two of their main players were with the national team and two were playing in Kyrgyzstan’s league.
“Keeping in view the financial position of our players, we allowed Kaleemullah and Mohammad Aadil to play for Dordoi Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan’s league,” Butt told ‘The News’ in an interview after returning from Colombo. “Secondly, we gave some of our players to Pakistan team for an unofficial tournament in spite of the fact that we were going to play crucial AFC President’s Cup first round matches. We eventually failed to move into the final round,” said the manager of the Premier League champions.
In the Group A first round matches held at the Sugathadasa Sports Complex in the Sri Lankan capital, KRL finished third in their four-team group after they tasted a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka Air Force SC the other day.
They had held strong Bangladesh’s Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra Limited to a goalless draw in their opener on May 7 before they overwhelmed Bhutan’s Ugyen Academy FC 3-0 in their second outing on May 9.
Sheikh Russel and Sri Lanka Air Force SC not only made it to the final round of the third-tier continental club slots to be held in September but also made a cut for the AFC Cup play-offs to be conducted in 2015.
KRL were also without their skipper Samar Ishaq and Saadullah, who were nursing injuries. Their two key players, the prolific Saddam Hussain and Bilawal-ur-Rehman, were engaged with the Pakistan team who are currently playing in the Al-Nakba International tournament in Palestine.
When asked why they were not given their players by Pakistan coach Mohammad Shamlan for the AFC assignment, Butt said: “We had twice written to Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for relieving our key player Saddam for the Colombo tour and we held face to face meeting with Shamlan three times, but our request was turned down. We can only make a humble request and cannot do anything else.”
However, he warned that if they ever faced a similar situation again they would involve their top management before taking the final decision. “Pakistan were featuring in an unofficial tournament in Palestine. Had they relieved Saddam, his presence could have been productive for us in Sri Lanka,” Butt said.
“This is no excuse for the way we delivered in Sri Lanka, but Saddam is a fine player who can be used at any position and we could have even beaten Bangladesh had we got his services,” Butt said.
When quizzed about the fate of Kaleemullah and Aadil, Butt said he was waiting for them till July.
“They both have told me that they would return in July and I am waiting for that. I don’t know exactly whether they want to join KRL or a club in Bahrain. I am not sure they will join us. But if they did not join us we would definitely continue with our bid to rebuild our side and seek their replacement,” said Butt.
According to sources, Shamlan is trying to strike a deal for the two with a Bahraini club.
The official said they had recruited a few young players and would try to hire four or five more as they would have to defend the Premier League title.
Commenting on KRL’s huge loss against Sri Lanka Air Force SC, Butt said the early goals demoralised the team. “We conceded three goals in the start, which demoralised us. After that we missed three open net chances. We direly felt the absence of a strong striker. After scoring three goals the Sri Lankan side started playing with a packed defence. It normally becomes very difficult to recover when you go down so miserably in the initial stage of the game,” Butt said.
“It was really a golden opportunity for us as success in the first round could have put us in the AFC Cup play-offs. It’s a huge loss for KRL and the country,” Butt lamented.