By Umaid Wasim,
KARACHI: Following their exploits at the AFC Cup Playoff Qualifiers last week, K-Electric are breaking new ground.
The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions won Group ‘A’ of the playoff qualifiers of Asia’s second-tier club competition last week in Thimpu and are now looking at becoming the first side from the country to reach next year’s tournament.
And to aid their preparations for the playoff, K-Electric will be taking part in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Championship in Bangladesh in October.
“This will be vital experience for the players ahead of the AFC Cup playoff and give the team more exposure,” K-Electric’s Sports Head Zabe Khan told Dawn on Monday.
The Sheikh Kamal Championship from September 17-30 is being hosted by the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) and is modelled like the SAFF Club Championship — an event which promised a lot for the football in the subcontinent but never took off.
BFF chief Kazi Salahuddin, who is also the president of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), has for long vowed to hold the SAFF Club Championship but his plans have never been realised.
“I hope to launch it [SAFF Club Championship] in 2015,” Salahuddin told Dawn in an interview last year. “The idea is to model it on the UEFA Champions League [Europe’s premier club competition].”
The Sheikh Kamal Championship is more or less modelled on the same format. It will see three sides from Bangladesh, two from India and one each from Nepal, Maldives and Pakistan.
And the hosts want the top teams from each country.
“We prefer top club team from your country for the said competition,” BFF secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag said in the invite to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
The eight participating teams will be split into two groups with the two top teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals.
And Zabe, whose side made their continental debut at the AFC Cup Playoff Qualifiers following their maiden PPFL title last season, is looking forward to the prospect of K-Electric squaring off against the top sides of the region.
“We really wanted to be champions of Pakistan and having achieved that, a lot of doors have opened for us and hopefully the players will make the most of it,” he added.
“Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club [Bangladesh champions and Group ‘B’ winners of the AFC Cup Playoff Qualifiers] are a team we will likely face in the playoffs for the AFC Cup and they will also be involved in the tournament so it will be good to see how we measure against them.”
The format of the playoffs for the AFC Cup hasn’t been confirmed by Asia’s football governing body as yet. There are eight other teams in the playoffs for the AFC Cup with the teams equally divided into the East Asia and West Asia zones.
Dawn wrote to the AFC inquiring about the format but did not receive any reply till the filing of this report.