KARACHI: Islamabad Football Association (IFA) became the first team from Pakistan to ever win the Gothia Cup China U18 event as they defeated hosts’ local club FC Zhaoqing Lixun 7-6 on penalties in Shenyang on Saturday.
IFA remained undefeated in the tournament where they played a total of six matches in the pool, crushing India’s Rising Sun Soccer Academy 12-0 in their fifth match.
IFA conceded a goal in the match against FC Zhaoqing Lixun in the 14th minute, while Mohammad Ahmed equalised in the 19th minute.
Both teams failed to take the lead till the end of the match pushing the match to a penalty shootout which ended with a 7-6 result in favour of the IFA.
The team faced Assega Sport Academy, India’s Rising Sun Academy, Bangladesh’s Youth Bangla, China’s FXR and Erdos FA Ethiopia en route silverware. They topped the U18 pool with an impressive performance scoring 25 goals and conceding only three in the six matches.
“It’s just exciting and we never expected this,” IFA official Zakir Naqvi told The Express Tribune. “We’ve prepared the team in a month’s time and they had the camp for 10 days before the event. In fact we are just happy that they have emerged as the best talent at one of the world’s biggest youth tournaments. We are extremely proud of each and every player.”
Naqvi said that the IFA made the team after having all the clubs affiliated with the association competing in a tournament.
“We had all the clubs send their teams to the IFA youth tournament a month ago so that we could pick the best players. We have more than 40 clubs registered with us, and it was a fair trial as well,” said Naqvi.
Kamran Khan and Yasir Sabir took care of the camp as the manager and the coach, respectively.
Meanwhile, Naqvi added that Syed Ali Iman, Hassam Khan, Nofil Hussain, Ehtisham Malik and Abid Ali had been outstanding for IFA in the tournament.
On the other hand Islamabad-based club Mehran FC was also competing in the U15 boys event and they finished on the fourth place in the group of four teams, while Karachi-based club Diya FC was competing in the girls U14 event.
The success at the Gothia Cup from Pakistani players is in contrast to the fact that Pakistan’s national U16 team is missing out on the 2017 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Nepal because of the Pakistan Football Federation’s controversial status.
“It is a great tragedy,” said Naqvi. “We use to have our boys play in the National U16 Football Championship. There used to be a chance of them being selected in the national team and represent the country, but none of it can happen, so we decided to send our team to Gothia Cup. It is an invitational tournament and we grabb all the opportunities that we get. However, the national team should have been a part of SAFF Championship,” said Naqvi.