Umaid Wasim – DAWN
LAHORE: After a dismal season where three-time defending champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) finished sixth, the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) side parted ways with head coach Tariq Lutfi.
Lutfi’s was released after his contract expired on Monday with the KRL management deciding not to go for the option of a renewal.
His departure is the latest from the 2013 AFC President’s Cup finalists who have seen key players Kaleemullah, Mohammad Adil, Sadam Hussain, Saadullah and Bilawal-ur-Rehman leave for pastures anew in wake of their success at both national and continental level.
With the loss of those key players, Lutfi tried to keep KRL in amongst the big teams but ultimately it was a task too much for him with a side which almost lost its spine.
“I got a call today from [manager] Ayaz Butt telling me that my contract hasn’t been renewed,” Lutfi told Dawn on Monday. “It’s upsetting for me because I took KRL to a new level and now I haven’t been given a chance to help the team regain its former glory.”
The former Pakistan gaffer took over at KRL in 2011 and inspired them to their second title overall with a team which boasted the supremely talented defensive duo of Kamran Khan and Samar Ishaq.
They blossomed further with Lutfi introducing the likes of Kaleem and Adil who terrorised the defences with their exciting skills to help them retain their domestic crown.
Later that season, came the ultimate highlight of Lutfi’s coaching career as he led his side to the final of the President’s Cup – Asia’s third-tier club competition – where they lost 1-0 to Balkan FC.
They managed to win another PPFL crown before the team disintegrated with Kaleem, Adil and Saddam moving to Kyrgyz giants FC Dordoi whilst Saadullah and Bilawal-ur-Rehman joined second-tier Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).
The pressure was on Lutfi to help the side match their recent successes but there will be no doubt that he will leave a much larger void to fill than what was left by the departures of their key players.