By Alam Zeb Safi,
KARACHI: K-Electric’s newly-hired England-based coach Majid Shafiq and players Irfan Khan and Shani Abbasi reached Karachi on Friday to join the camp which will begin here at the Steel Mills ground on Saturday (today) to prepare for the 2016 AFC Cup play-off qualifiers Group A to be held in Bhutan from August 11-15.
“Yes, Majid, Irfan and Shani reached today. Other players have also started assembling in Steel Town and tomorrow we will start training,” K-Electric’s Head of Sports Marketing and Brand Activation Zabe Khan told ‘The News’ here on Friday.
Skipper Mohammad Essa, Chitral-born striker Mohammad Rasool and midfielder Mohammad Riaz also reached the port city on Friday.
The players are staying at a guest house of the Steel Mills. The team has only two weeks for training before flying out for Bhutan on August 8.
This is the first time that K-Electric will be featuring in any AFC event. They won their maiden league title last season.
Majid Shafiq, an Oxford graduate, will serve as head coach. Hasan Baloch and Akbar Ali will serve as his deputies on the tour.
K-Electric have been placed in Group A with hosts Bhutan’s Druk United and Mongolia’s Khoromkhon FC.
K-Electric will face Druk United on August 11 and Khoromkhon FC on August 13.
Five-time Kyrgyzstan champions Alga FC have been placed in Group B with Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club of Bangladesh and Casa Benfica of Macau. The group slots will be held in Bishkek.
The winners of each group will move into the next year’s play-offs.
The fate of Nigerian players Oludeyi Sunday and Wilson Segun is not yet clear because of the NOC issue. But Zabe is hopeful that they will get NOC from the interior ministry on Monday and by Wednesday or Thursday the two will be able to reach Karachi to join the camp.
“The man in the interior ministry who will give us NOC is on leave and will resume his duty on Monday. On Monday, he will issue NOC and on Tuesday the Nigerians will apply for visas; the next day we will send tickets,” Zabe said.
Coach Hasan Baloch said that 21 players had been invited for the camp. A meeting of the officials and captain Mohammad Essa was scheduled to be held on Friday night.
“We will hold a meeting tonight and discuss the plan,” Essa told this correspondent.
“We will be able to train for 28 sessions here. We will also get a couple of days in Bhutan ahead of our first game and it is sufficient time to catch rhythm,” Essa said.
“Playing at a high altitude will not be a problem. Although the oxygen level will be a bit low, we will adapt to the local conditions in a couple of days,” said Essa, a former Pakistan captain.
Essa, who will play in Bhutan for the first time, said that his side would make it to the next year’s play-off. “The Mongolian club may give us fight because their football standard is better than Bhutan,” Essa added.
Discarded international striker Rasool faced great problems in reaching Karachi from flood-hit Chitral.
“I faced tough time. After reaching Chitral from my village I contacted the pilot of the helicopter in which PTI chief Imran Khan had come to Chitral. I told the pilot that I am a national player and want to join K-Electric’s camp in Karachi. He allowed me on the helicopter and I reached Islamabad from where I came to Karachi by air,” Rasool said.