Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Jinnah Stadium Islamabad has been reinstated as one of the venues for the 11th Pakistan Premier Football League which will be held from September 20 to January 10 at different centres of the country.
Last season, only Karachi and Lahore hosted the marathon after the PFF decided to centralise the competitions due to various reasons.
The well-facilitated Jinnah Stadium, located inside the Pakistan Sports Complex, will host 26 matches out of the total 132. The venue was opted after the once tense relationship between the PFF and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) took a pleasant turn recently.
Karachi will host 69 encounters at KMC Stadium, KPT Stadium, Korangi Baloch Ground, Sharafi Goth and the newly-inserted Dr Mohammad Ali Shah Stadium.
Lahore will host 37 matches at Railways Stadium and Faisal Town Ground.
A top official of the PFF told ‘The News’ on Monday that Peoples Stadium, Karachi, was also expected to host some matches of the league in which only 12 teams will compete this year. There were 16 outfits in the last edition of the league.
This correspondent has learnt that if Balochistan clubs were able to prepare their grounds, one in Quetta and the other in Chaman, some matches could also be planned there.
KPT Sports Manager Shah Naeem Zafar told this correspondent that his team would not play its home matches at other venues because it had its own stadium.
“It is not right to give us our home matches at the other venues when we have our own lush green ground,” Shah pointed out.
The teams that will compete are holders Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), K-Electric, former four-time champions WAPDA, Pakistan Air Force (PAF), former champions Army, PIA, Chaman’s Muslim FC, KPT, National Bank of Pakistan, Chaman’s Afghan FC, Railways and Quetta’s Baloch FC.
Railways and Quetta’s Baloch FC have risen to the top league after emerging as the winners of their respective departmental and club sections of the second-tier slots last year.
After the reduction in the number of teams, the PFF has decided to increase the cash prizes and match bonuses.
On September 20, the last year’s runners-up K-Electric will face NBP in the opening show of the event at the KPT Stadium.
K-Electric are expected to field two Nigerian footballers this time.
On the other hand, four-time winners and holders KRL will be missing their three star players who are playing for Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi Bishkek.
Star striker and national team’s captain Kaleemullah, winger Mohammad Adil and midfielder Saddam Hussain play for Dordoi, managed by former Pakistan coach Zavisa Milosavljevic.
The first phase of the league will last till October 1. There will be ten days’ leave for Eid-ul-Adha and the league will resume from October 12.
This phase will continue till October 31 and four days’ rest will be given due to Ashura.
The event will then resume from November 5. The last phase of the competitions will be held in Karachi.