K-Electric’s big investments finally paid off as they won their maiden title of the Pakistan Premier Football League, which concluded on January 21 at KPT Sports Complex in Karachi.
K-Electric, led by former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa, had a few bad days in the start but made a smart recovery and kept the fine run till clinching the crown.
With this win, the Karachi-based company entered the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifying round play-offs to be held later this year.
Their key striker Mohammad Rasool played a major role in his team’s achievement as the Chitral-born discarded international fired the highest number of goals, 23, in the 12-team league.
But Nigerian striker Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday’s performance cannot be underestimated as it was he who helped Rasool upfront.
The nimble-footed Oludeyi never opted to stay out of the field even if he had an injury. The other Nigerian, Wilson Segun, who played in the defensive midfield, acted like a wall. This was the second season for Sunday and the first for Wilson for K-Electric.
Essa led the side by example. Keeper Ghulam Nabi, who was used as a frontline goalie in the absence of ailing Mohammad Jehangir, played gloriously.
K-Electric’s management deserves accolades as they took football seriously. K-Electric are the only team to have played with two foreign players.
Army, the 2005-2006 champions, ended as the runners-up. The soldiers, who played mostly with youngsters, seemed an impressive unit but they need to make technical improvement.
Pakistan Air Force (PAF), who ended fourth last season, also improved their rankings by finishing third thanks to superb performances from their strikers Mansoor Khan and Mohammad Mujahid, who shared the best player award.
This was the first time PAF finished at the victory stand.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) improved by two places, ending their journey at the fourth spot. They were mostly deprived of the services of their key striker Shakir Lashari, who was unable to play regularly because of illness.
But the worrying point for PIA is that their coach Shamim Khan is retiring in May. After losing their former coach Tariq Lutfi, who also got retired in 2011, the brigades will be losing Shamim now at a stage when they have come on to the winning track. Lutfi’s retirement did not leave much impact on PIA’s performance but losing Shamim will be too costly.
As there is no provision of giving extension, Shamim is expected to be replaced by former international Zafar Iqbal as head coach for the next season.
Former four-time champions WAPDA, who ended third last season, experienced a major slump, ending fifth after losing 3-0 to PIA in their last game in Sharafi Goth.
It is really a sad ending for a side which is known for its consistency. They have quite a few quality players, so their performance has really exposed the planning of the management.
Four-time champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) were the biggest disappointment of the season as they experienced a steep decline and ended at the sixth place — their worst-ever finish.
The transfer of their six key players to local and foreign clubs left them depleted. Tariq Lutfi failed to prevent his side’s decline. Making a comeback would be a real problem for the team as they have no more permanent vacancies which could lure good players to join them. The maximum salary they offer to a footballer is Rs35,000, which is not competitive. They also missed their skipper Samar Ishaq and defender Kamran Khan due to injuries.
If the team wants to reclaim its status, its top management will have to create more permanent vacancies and offer competitive salaries to footballers.
Moreover, they should also make a pool of colts to replace their ageing seniors.
In 2013 KRL ended as the runners-up in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup but the players were not encouraged by the authorities.
National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), who had finished ninth last season, wrapped-up their voyage at the seventh place. They missed their key striker Farooq Shah in the entire league due to injury, while other senior players also faced injury problems. They had to use their juniors, particularly in the last ten matches which was a good experience. If NBP focused on grooming their juniors they would turn out to be a much competitive side after a few years.
Chaman-based Muslim FC who had ended seventh last season finished eighth this time. The only club of the top league with good financial resources produced a few stunning wins against strong departments. The club has always faced problems as ahead of every season their top players are transferred to departments. But still the club did well.
Had they not missed Hayatullah in the final phase they could have ended at a much better place.
Karachi Port Trust (KPT), who had wrapped-up the last season at the eighth spot, slipped to the ninth spot this season. Dogged by injuries to their key front-runners Mohammad Bin Younis and Junaid Qadir, the club also faced immense problems in the defence. They will need fresh recruitment if they are to compete next season.
Jadeed Khan Pathan-led Afghan FC ended at the tenth place just as they had done in the last season. The club, owned by Dr Mohammad Ali, needs a good coach.
Railways and Quetta’s Baloch FC were demoted to the second-tier league. Both had risen to the top league last year.
Railways should either disband its football team or form a fighting lot by giving permanent employment to the players. How long would they run their team on ad-hoc basis?
Railways and Baloch FC will be replaced by Navy and Nushki’s Baloch FC in the next season. Navy and Nushki’s Baloch FC rose to the top league after winning their respective departmental and club legs of the second-tier league this year.
The league, as usual, had many faults. Besides abysmal refereeing standard, the authorities kept changing the schedule and venues which was against the rules. Army were given only four matches in Karachi while the rest of the Punjab-based sides had to play seven matches in the port city.
Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) failed to arrange live telecast of the last phase which it had planned.
The authorities did not take interest to market the competitions. In order to cut down the expenses of the participating units and to raise the viewership of the league the PFF should hold it at one city in future. But it should be on a rotation basis. For example, if Karachi hosts it one year, next year it should be allotted to another city.
The teams are financially not that strong to meet the expenses of moving from one province to another.
The PFF should at least allocate Rs10 million as prize money for the top three positions, which will make it more competitive.
Like K-Electric, other teams should also bring in foreign players which will not only help them but will also give lustre to the competitions.