LAHORE: After 18 match days of jam-packed action, the 2020 National Football Challenge Cup concluded in Lahore today on Friday, 20 December.
A tense final at the Punjab Stadium saw WAPDA finally win their first major trophy in almost a decade when Larosh Khalid’s 75th minute strike proved sufficient to beat star-studded Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) 1-0.
Pakistan Army finished 3rd after Qadeer Hussain’s 6th minute goal was enough to beat Karachi Port Trust (KPT) 1-0 at Fame FC Ground for the 3rd/4th place playoff game that kicked off at 10am.
Under coach Tanveer Ahmed, a relatively young WAPDA side stuck with a game plan to neutralize Tariq Lutfi’s SSGC side packed with National Team level talents like Saddam Hussain, Saadullah, and Saqib Hanif.
Both sides tested each other’s defences but WAPDA always held firm and looked to hit on the break. Eventually, Larosh Khalid’s goal 15 minutes from time proved a bridge too far for SSGC.
SSGC still await a national level title having now lost consecutive National Challenge Cup finals – 2019 to Army and 2020 to WAPDA.
WAPDA’s last major trophy before today’s Challenge Cup final was winning the 2010 Pakistan Premier Football League. This was also the Lahore-based department’s first ever National Challenge Cup win.
The prize ceremony was attended by the likes of Col (retd) Farasat Ali Shah and Pakistan women’s team captain Hajra Khan who handed out the trophies and cash prizes.
WAPDA lifted the winners trophy and a cool Rs 500,000/- cash prize, SSGC got runners-up trophy and Rs 300,000/- prize, while Army got 3rd place and Rs 200,000/- prize.
SSGC captain Saddam Hussain was named Best Player of the Tournament, KRL’s Umair Ali picked up Highest Goalscorer with his 7 goal tally plus assists, WAPDA’s Abdul Basit Ghafoor named Best Goalkeeper. All three picked up Rs 50,000/- cash prize and trophies.
A total of 28 teams divided into 7 groups from across Pakistan – departments and clubs – took part in arguably the largest ever edition of the National Challenge Cup.