LAHORE: For Mohammad Adil, it’s a step towards achieving his dream; a step towards playing in the AFC Champions League.
The Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) winger has signed a professional contract with Kyrgyzstan champions FC Dordoi, becoming the first export from the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL).
Adil, 21, has been the star performer for the club and country over the last two years.
A part of the KRL squad which won back-to-back PPFL titles in 2011-2012 and 2012-13 — and seemingly heading towards their third successive crown — the nifty player shot to fame for his exploits in the AFC President’s Cup during KRL’s run to the final last season.
Impressive in their first outing against Dordoi in the preliminary stage of Asia’s third-tier club competition which ended in a 1-1 draw, Adil made the decisive assist in their second game against the Kyrgz side which helped the KRL to a 1-0 victory in the final group stage.
He showed his tenacity at ripping apart defences in the very next match when he went past three defenders to score in a 2-0 victory for the KRL against Palestenian side Hilal-Al Quds which put them in the final where they lost to Balkan FC.
Those performances — which followed his good showing for Pakistan against Kyrgyzstan in their qualifier for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup — convinced Dordoi that Adil was the man they wanted.
“This is a great move for Pakistan football,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Thursday. “It will give him [Adil] a chance to rub his shoulders with the best and hopefully pave the way for other players from the country to go abroad as well.”
KRL head coach Tariq Lutfi echoed Lodhi’s views.
“It is an unprecedented transfer,” Lutfi told Dawn on Thursday. “This will hopefully help Pakistan football get noticed in Asia and it shows that the players we are producing are attracting interest of bigger clubs in the continent.”
Another factor which contributed to the move was Pakistan’s former head coach Zavisa Milosavljevic of Serbia joining the eight-time Kyrgyz champions earlier this month.
“Milosavljevic liked my playing style when he was Pakistan coach,” Adil, who leaves for Kyrgyzstan on Friday, told Dawn on Thursday. “There had been initial contact by Dordoi but after Milosavljevic’s appointment, the negotiations were done quickly.”
The transfer represents a fairytale story for Adil, who used to sell fruits on his cart during his school days in Bahawalpur.
“It’s difficult for me to describe my feelings in words,” he said. “I’ve come a long way from my very humble beginnings but my passion for football — and to be one of Pakistan’s top players — kept me going.
“I used to go to school, with my cart and my books,” he recalled. “Those were difficult days but I always found time to play football and the turning point came when Pakistan Elektron Limited (PEL) signed me up.”
PEL were relegated from the PPFL in Adil’s first season with the club in 2009-10 but his eye-catching displays meant KRL came calling a year later.
Since then, his stock has risen further.
“Now I have the chance to play professional football and play at the highest level in Asia,” Adil said. “I hope to prove myself at Dordoi.”
Prove, he will have to.
Adil joins the two-time AFC President’s Cup winners as a replacement for attacking forward Mirlan Murzaev, top-scorer in last season’s President’s Cup with nine goals, who has left for Turkish second division side Denizlspor.
“I’ll have to perform consistently as there are a lot of expectations from me,” said Adil, who might also be joined by fellow Pakistan team-mate Hassan Bashir at Dordoi.
Milosavljevic has shown an interest in the Denmark-based Pakistan international striker, according to sources within the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
With Dordoi having finished second in the Kyrgyzstan League to Alay Osh last season, they will miss out on Asian competition in Adil’s first season with the club.
With Kyrgyzstan being allotted a spot in the AFC Cup — Asia’s second-tier club competition — after Asian Football Confederation’s revamp of its events last, Alay Osh will represent their country at the continental level.
Adil, however, his hopeful he will help restore Dordoi’s position as Kyrgyzstan’s best side and fulfil his dream of one day playing in Asia’s elite club tournament — the AFC Champions League.
“I’ll try my best to win the domestic title with Dordoi this season,” he said. “Hopefully, that will provide me with the opportunity to test myself further in the AFC Cup and give me a chance of playing in the Champions League one day.”
Adil’s transfer comes almost three years after Wapda duo of Naveed Akram and Mehmood Ali were signed by Nepal’s Saroswati FC on a two-month loan deal in May 2011.
However, what makes Adil’s switch stand out is that he’s been offered a one-year professional contract.“It will be difficult for us to lose such a star player who has performed well internationally,” KRL manager Ayaz Butt told Dawn on Thursday.
“Nonetheless it is a big honour for us that a player from our team has been taken by a club abroad. That will only enhance the profile of the club and it reflects the work that we’ve been doing in recent years.”