KARACHI: Head coach Adeel Rizki defined it as the culmination of a three-year struggle. That’s what qualification to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Cup final round meant for the second-division Karachi United.
“This was our target when we went professional three years ago,” Rizki told Dawn at the KPT Stadium on Tuesday after United confirmed their final round berth by winning Group ‘II’ after a 2-2 draw with Pakistan Police.
For a club founded in 1996, this is United’s biggest achievement to date.
“We only started taking part in PFF competitions three years ago,” club founder Taha Alizai told Dawn. “Before that apart from some local level tournaments, we were an amateur club.
“We had a target of earning promotion to the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) this season and unfortunately that didn’t take place so this is a big achievement for us to reach the final round where we’ll rub our shoulders with the big boys of Pakistan football.”
The PPFL and the second-division Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) did not take place this year due to a dispute between two warring PFF factions until the court-appointed administrator of the country’s football governing body announced holding the PFF Cup.
“Holding the PFF Cup was a very good move,” Rizki said. “We’d been preparing for a tilt at PPFL promotion and this event gives us a chance to maintain a level of competitiveness for our players.
“Now in the final round, we’ll be able to test how good we are and where we need to work on.”
United were virtually through having won both their opening matches and only a very heavy defeat would’ve seen them go out.
Police, on the other hand, needed to better Gwadar Port Authority’s (GPA) result against winless Sindh Government Press (SGP) with both teams on three points heading into the final round of matches.
Police, though, seemed to be heading out after United took a 2-0 lead in the first-half, Noman opening the scoring in the 16th minute and Asif Khan adding to their lead in the 42nd.
However, their spirits would’ve been lifted when they’d have got news that GPA were trailing SGP by the same scoreline at the KMC Stadium after goals by Zohaib (12th minute) and Noman Dodo (33rd).
And Police came out strongly in the second half with Sher Hassan reducing the arrears in the 75th before Monibullah capitalised on a defensive error ten minutes later to spark celebrations on the touchline by his coach and team-mates.
SGP, meanwhile, heaped further misery on GPA in the second half with Noman scoring his second in the 48th before Shahnawaz scored a consolation past the hour mark.
Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) joined United and Police into the final round after they won their second successive match in Group ‘IV’ which is being played in Islamabad.
Goals by Sadabahar, Owais and Naeem Raza helped SNGPL cruise past Pakistan Television (PTV) 3-0 with Bhatti United moving in pole position for second place with four points after Abdul Lateef’s brace saw them beat Higher Education Commission (HEC) 3-0.
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2016