KARACHI: Army will begin their title defence when they lock horns with Nushki’s Baloch FC in their Group A opener of the National Football Challenge Cup which will explode into action at Punjab Stadium in Lahore on Monday (today).
In other matches of the day, Higher Education Commission (HEC) will take on Police at Fame FC Ground, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) will meet Karachi United at Punjab Stadium while Falcon Company will face Huma FC at Fame FC Ground.
All teams will observe one-minute silence in their opening matches before kick-off to honour former Pakistan captain Wali Muhammad and football legend Diego Maradona. Both passed away recently.
The event carries 28 teams which have been divided into seven groups of four teams each.The top two teams from each group and the two best third-placed teams will make it to the round-of-16, which will be followed by the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
The PFF Technical Director Daniel Limones said the National Challenge Cup will bring back in action the best teams and players in the country and will be a boost to the domestic football scene after Pakistan Football Federation League ‘B’ Division.
“Men’s football activity is back. We need it. Let’s hope that the actual world situation is also helpful to improve our system.”
‘The News’ has learnt that KRL are the only side to have held a couple of months camp for the event. Armed forces also have been able to remove the rustiness with inter-services event. But SSGC, one of the strongest sides, have not been able to prepare.
“Because of various issues we have not been able to prepare the way we should have,” SSGC coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’. However, he said that he kept communicating with the players and hopefully all will be in good physical shape.
Updated participating teams according to their groups:
Group A: Pakistan Army, Baloch FC Noushki, Pakistan Police, HEC
Group B: NBP, Karachi United, Huma FC, Falcon Company
Group C: KRL, KPT, Popo FC, Saif Tex
Group D: PCAA, Afghan FC Chaman, Baloch FC Quetta, Lyallpur FC
Group E: Wapda, Pakistan Navy, Asia Ghee Mills, SA Farms
Group F: SSGC, Masha United, SA Gardens, Wohaib FC
Group G: Pakistan Airforce, SNGPL, Hazara Coal Company, Nimso FC