Unfit Jaffar to miss National Challenge Cup

KARACHI: The country’s experienced goalie Jaffar Khan will miss the National Football Challenge Cup which will explode into action at Bahawalpur on Wednesday (tomorrow) 15 May 2013.

Jaffar, the skipper of Army, is yet to recover from the knee injury that he developed in a game of the Inter-Services slots here at the Naval Sports Complex in March.“I am not playing in the Challenge Cup as I don’t want to take risk although I have recovered a great deal and will start jogging in a couple of days,” Jaffar, also Pakistan team skipper, told ‘The News’ on Monday.

Imran Mani will serve as Army’s skipper in his absence. KESC skipper Mohammad Essa, who is also nursing a knee injury, may miss the initial few matches.

“Essa is yet to recover and he may not play the initial few matches,” KESC manager Zabe Khan said. The event, which will conclude on May 26, will be conducted at two venues, the Dring Stadium and a venue in its vicinity.

Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), the winners of the last four editions, will defend the title.The 16 teams have been bracketed in four pools.

Group A: KRL, Habib Bank, Pak Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA) and Ashraf Sugar Mills.

Group B: KESC, WAPDA, SSGC and Police.

Group C: Army, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), National Under-18 team and Bhatti United FC from Faisalabad.

Group D: Pakistan Air Force (PAF), National Bank, Bahawalpur and Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Two teams from each group will qualify for the quarter-finals to be held on May 21 and 22 followed by the semi-finals on May 24, while the play-off for the third position will be conducted on May 25 followed by the final on May 26.

Almost all the teams have reached Bahawalpur, which is in the grip of hot and humid weather. The coaches said that their players would have to struggle a lot to cope with the conditions.

Two matches each will be played daily at both grounds, which the officials said had enough grass on them.

On the opening day, the runners-up of the last two editions KESC will lock horns with Police, WAPDA will face Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), PIA will take on National Under-18 team, while Army will meet Bhatti United FC.

KRL, who qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup final round after whipping Yeedzin FC of Bhutan 8-0 in their last outing in Philippines on Sunday, were scheduled to return late Monday night. They have a good chance to defend the title because their players are in good form.

The national under-18 side, which has players from the team that won the under-16 SAFF Cup in Nepal a couple of years back, will be featuring in the event for the second time. Their coach Hasan Baloch is confident of a good show. “We have a good side as all the players have already played for Pakistan and I hope we will qualify for the knockout stage,” Hasan told ‘The News’ on Monday.He said that they had also got two new players, defender Mohsin from Navy and right full-back Adeel from ZTBL. “Much will depend on our first game against PIA,” said Hasan.

KESC’s coach Akbar Ali is also hopeful of a fine show from his team. “You know we ended as runners-up in the last two editions but we are anxious about Mohammad Essa’s availability as he is suffering from a knee injury that he developed in the last round of the Premier League,” Akbar said.

“Essa will come to Bahawalpur on May 15. If he is not fit, it will be a big blow for us,” said Akbar. KESC, who used to depend on keeper Jehangir Khan, have roped in KRL’s senior gloveman Ghulam Nabi.

National Bank coach Nasir Ismail said that he had yet to see the fitness of his nine out-stationed players. “The local boys are fit as they underwent training in Karachi and also featured in local tournaments. But I don’t know about the physical condition of our out-stationed players as we were not able to hold a combined camp for the event in Karachi due to elections,” Nasir revealed. International midfielder Abdul Aziz will serve as NBP skipper.

from: Alam Zeb Safi [The News]