By Natasha Raheel,
KARACHI: “We couldn’t be happier; we finally know what it feels like to lift this trophy,” said K-Electric captain Essa Khan. They had fought tooth and nail, put in four long years to get here, but this time around, they were not to be foiled.
Essa, speaking at the occasion, was over the moon along with the rest of the K-Electric squad as they officially lifted the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) trophy after playing out a 1-1 draw with defending champions KRL at the KPT Stadium on Wednesday.
K-Electric, who had already confirmed top spot before the league’s conclusion, were crowned champions for the first time after failing to take the trophy in the previous three seasons, even though they had come close in the previous two.
“It took us four very tough years to get this trophy,” Essa told The Express Tribune. “All of our hard work has paid off. We are finally champions. I would especially like to thank our supporters from Lyari and Lighthouse, who came to see every match of ours. This trophy belongs to them.”
A former KRL player, Essa said that playing for a department that is focused on improving the standard of the game brings additional responsibility, including striving for professionalism and the top spot. And for that, having a vision is crucial.
“In Pakistan, football is not the primary sport, but I’m glad I have a director like Zabe Khan, who listened to my suggestion when I told him that we needed to sign foreign players,” said Essa.
He explained that Zabe made efforts to contact agents in Nigeria, who helped bring Sunday Oludey and Wilsom Obayuni to Karachi.
“It’s amazing to win a title here with K-Electric,” said Sunday. “We are just happy to be here. I’ll make sure I come back for more stints. This is my second season and I loved playing in Pakistan. I wanted to score in the last match, but it’s all a part of the game so you can’t predict anything.”
Meanwhile, Wilsom claimed his time in Pakistan has been a happy one. “I enjoyed the season a lot and although we are going back to our country, I’m taking a lot of great memories,” said Wilsom. “I’ve played in leagues in Italy and Oman before, so I do feel that football in Pakistan needs more publicity and the standard needs to improve.”
Essa nodded in agreement with Wilsom’s comment, stating that in the 11 years since the start of the league, the clubs and the federation have not received sponsors.
“We are paying around $1,500 to foreign players per month, other than their accommodation and miscellaneous expenses. But it’s really sad that the departments and clubs don’t get their money back. As a footballer, we still have to introduce ourselves, people don’t recognise us at all,” said Essa.
On another note, the skipper added that K-Electric would now represent Pakistan at the Asian Football Confederation Cup qualifiers this year.
Increased prize money
The Chaman-based midfielder praised the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for all its efforts. K-Electric pursed Rs1 million after ending their campaign as winners while Pakistan Army received Rs700,000 as runners-up and third-placed PAF took away Rs500,000.
Last year’s winners had received Rs800,000.
Like Essa, PAF coach Arshad Khan said that the prize money is a motivating factor. “It’s incredible because this is the first time that my team has finished among the top three sides in the league; we are ecstatic. And to receive this amount makes a lot of difference, my team is more motivated now.”
PAF also ended their run as the highest-scoring team with 24 goals in 22 matches.
Meanwhile, K-Electric’s Chitral-based striker Muhammad Rasool was the top-scorer with 22 goals in 22 matches. The 29-year-old bagged Rs100,000 for his efforts, while the player of the tournament accolade was split between PAF’s Mansoor Khan and Muhammad Mujahid, who will share Rs150,000 between them. Wapda’s Muhammad Muzammil was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
FIFA chief acknowledges K-Electric
FIFA President Sepp Blatter congratulated K-Electric in a letter to PFF President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat.
He wrote, “Please pass on my own personal congratulations, along with those of the whole football family, to K-Electric on their performance. A national league victory is a wonderful occasion and opportunity to draw satisfaction from the job well done. I know that behind this success is the belief and effort of everyone involved. I urge K-Electric to continue their work leading the way on path of success.”