No regrets on joining second-tier Bahraini club: Ahmed [DAWN]

No regrets on joining second-tier Bahraini club: Ahmed [DAWN]

Umaid Wasim – DAWN

KARACHI: Pakistan international defender Mohammad Ahmed doesn’t believe his move to Bahrain’s second-division side Isa Town FC is a step down in his career.

Ahmed joined Isa Town on a one-year deal from Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) side Wapda on Saturday as the national team’s tour of Bahrain came to a close.

“The move provides me with a platform to perform even better,” Ahmed, who will receive US$2000 a month during his stint with Isa Town, told Dawn from Bahrain on Saturday.

“I might be playing in the second-division in Bahrain but if I perform well here, it will hopefully give me the opportunity to sign for a bigger club in the future.

“I could’ve waited for other offers but the fact that Isa Town really wanted me was crucial for me in helping me make my decision.”

The 26-year-old Ahmed became the fourth PPFL player to earn a foreign move this year, joining Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) trio of Kaleemullah, Mohammad Adil and Saddam Hussain who have joined Kyrgyzstan giants Dordoi Bishkek.

But while Kaleem, Adil and Saddam can hope to play in Asian club competitions next year, Ahmed will have to wait a little longer for his continental bow.

That too will depend on how far he goes with his club.

“Naturally, I’d love to play in the AFC Champions League or the AFC Cup,” Ahmed added. “The level of competition there helps to improve a player.

“Our [Isa Town’s] first target is to earn promotion [to the first division] and then we’ll see where it takes us.”

To qualify for AFC competitions through the Bahraini Premier League, Ahmed — and Isa Town — will then have to finish in the top two.

The domestic champions earn a berth in the playoff round of the Champions League — Asia’s top-tier club competition — while also earning a place in the group stage in the second-tier AFC Cup along with the second-placed team.

And according to Ahmed, that is a big leap from the PFFL where only the champions earn a spot in the President’s Cup which is the continent’s third-tier competition.

“At least here, there is hope that I can play on Asia’s biggest stage and an opportunity to show my talent on a greater level,” Ahmed, who helped Wapda finish third in the PPFL last year, said.

“There is a truly professional set-up here and there are very good facilities to train. Hopefully, I can be an example for the youngsters.”

Prior to the tour of Bahrain where Pakistan played two matches against domestic champions Riffa Sports Club and East Riffa, Ahmed also impressed in the two-match friendly series against India in Bangalore.

Pakistan lost the first game 1-0 before winning the second 2-0. In Bahrain, the first game against Riffa SC ended in a 1-1 draw while they also drew 2-2 with East Riffa.

Pakistan were scheduled to take on another local side Al Hidd on Saturday but that match was called off.

The friendlies were arranged to provide the national team with preparation ahead of the Asian Games, slated to be held in the South Korean city of Incheon from Sept 19.

The football competition, though, will begin from Sept 14 with Pakistan drawn alongside North Korea and China in Group ‘F’.

While the team returned to Lahore on Sunday, Ahmed stayed behind in Bahrain where he will play a match for his new side on Monday before returning home on Tuesday. He will then rejoin Isa Town after the Asian Games.

“The Asian Games provide us with a good opportunity to test ourselves against the top teams in the region and hopefully provide us with an indication as to where we stand in the continent.”

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2014