KARACHI: Khan research Laboratories (KRL) became the most successful side of the country as they lifted their fifth Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) trophy after a stellar 4-0 win in the deciding match of the season against the star-studded Sui Southern Gas Corporation (SSGC) at the KPT Stadium in Karachi on Sunday.
KRL have been the stellar team to bet on since their rise in the 2009-10 season.
Earlier, they have been champions in 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
They were falling behind on the points table with 48 to their credit out of 25 matches, being on third place and requiring a massive win of at least four goals and a clean-sheet to win the title, while SSGC had to win the match to become the winners even if it was 1-0 as they were ahead of KRL with 50 points.
The last match of the league became the decider as in case of a draw Pakistan Air Force would have taken the title with 51 points.
But KRL pulled off the miracle for themselves.
"When we got into the field we knew there is no going back," KRL defensive midfielder Izharullah told The Express Tribune as the celebrations were on after the 4-0 win, with Umair Ali chiming in, "we were confident and this was what we had set out to do in the field."
KRL's Iftikhar Ali Khan scored in the 10th minute of the match to open the account for the team, while Izharullah doubled the lead in the 20th minute whereas Junaid Khan made no mistakes in giving KRL a secure lead with another goal six minutes later as KRL led 3-0 at the interval.
Izharullah scored his second goal of the match in the 51st minute, while SSGC were found lost. He also became the second highest scorer with his two goals. He scored 12 in the tournament.
KRL received Rs1,200,000 while, runners-up PAF bagged Rs900,000 and second runners-up SSGC got Rs600,000 as the prize-money.
The best goalkeeper of the tournament award went to KRL's Tanveer Mumtaz. Army's Ansar Abbas was the highest scorer with 15 goals. The best player of the tournament was Civil Aviation's Muhammad Naeem and the fair play trophy went to K-Electric.
Does this PPFL edition matter?
The tournament was featuring 16 teams, while SSGC was originally a Division B side, including Civil Aviation that got to play the PPFL due to an illegal and off-handed qualifying tournament that PFF's previous administration under Makhdoon Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat held to increase the number of the team in the league.
They stated that they wanted to give a chance to the other teams as this edition was taking place after a gap of three years, in which Hayat held the game hostage, since the Lahore High Court had appointed an administrator to run the federation and sort the issues with the officials.
But Fifa did not recognise the Administrator's role and sided with Hayat, giving him unwarranted extension of two year.
Pakistan got suspended from Fifa in October 2017, but last year Hayat got the control back after the Lahore High Court ordered in February last year to remove the administrator.
The case then went to the Supreme Court that culminated into fresh elections, which took place on December 12, where Hayat boycotted them but fielded a proxy candidate, who lost to Ashfaq Hussain Shah with 17 out of 20 votes.
The side qualifying tournament also drew the ire of Asian Football Confederation and Fifa as it is against the norm where the country already has a Division B league. The details of the arbitrary qualifying round, that saw four teams enter in PPFL from the qualifying round was never communicated to Fifa.
On the other hand, there is no actual reward for the winners of the season as they will not get to represent Pakistan at the AFC Cup, where the top clubs from each of countries compete.
Previously KRL had played the now defunct AFC President's Cup final in 2013, but the league had been ridden with controversies from its start in September, that surprisingly took place from Multan, as the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) saw the change in its administration for good.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s verdict threw Hayat a curveball as the PFF elections took place on the apex court's order.
Hayat has been running the PFF as his personal property since 2003, and takes pride in making contacts in Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation, both international bodies have refused to recognise the new PFF elections, and fail to explain why.
However with a new start, the new president Shah was also present at the PPFL closing ceremony and so was the Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza, along with the PFF vice President Amir Dogar. They gave away the prizes.
On Saturday Shah had also held a press conference, in which he had said that Hayat had returned the funds given by the AFC and Fifa for PFF, which was disappointing.
For now the PFF will not be getting any funds from the AFC or Fifa as Hayat is the middle man in this and not in power any more.
'Come to Turkey'
The worst case scenario for this season's winners is that they are not going to represent the country, but former KRL star and former Pakistan captain Kaleemullah has offered the new PFF president Shah to send the team to Turkey, where he is playing with Igdirspor.
"It is a shame that football is not run professionally in our country, but I'm hopeful with the changes in the PFF," said Kaleem while was talking to The Express Tribune. "I can say that all PFF needs to do is arrange for the tickets and stay and I can help them get the matches with Turkish sides. The team deserves it. That is the prize for the players, to be able to play at a good standard. KRL has spent around Rs20 million on the team that played the league for four months. They deserve it, even if the team is not going to the AFC Cup because of Hayat administration's incompetence."
Hayat's team never got any club licensing done in Pakistan, and so AFC did not include the country in the AFC Cup.
Kaleemullah was chastised, threatened, harassed and even sent a show-cause notice to by the Hayat and PFF's previous administration for demanding professionalism.
The Former Tulsa Roughnecks player added that it was a great performance by KRL. He had also trained with the team while he was in Karachi earlier this month.
"What sets KRL aside is the management, they really take care of the players' diet, the water that they drink, the health and then they run it professionally, unlike other clubs. That makes all the difference, and it showed in the last match," said Kaleemullah.
On the other hand the KRL players were missing their manager Ayaz Butt, the man behind the success of the team.
"We are missing him," said Ali and Izharullah as they looked on to their coach Sajjad Mehmood at a distance. "Our manager is away due to family commitment, today we are missing him a lot."
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