KARACHI: Pakistan has been placed in a tough Group ‘B’ along with Spain and Russia in 32-team International Socca World Cup starting September 23 in Lisbon, Portugal. The tournament will be played on six-a-side format.
Lahore’s ICAW, which won Pakistan’s National Leisure Leagues Championship, will represent Pakistan in the mega tournament. Moldova is the fourth team in the group.
International Socca Federation (ISF) Vice President Shahzaib Trunkwala, in a statement, said that 32 teams from across the world will battle for top honors in the championship. Shahzaib belongs to Trunkwala Family, which has been behind Leisure Leagues football activities and now this inclusion of Pakistan in Socca World Cup.
Chairman World Group that owns Leisure Leagues, Mehmood Trunkwala said that inclusion of Pakistan in Socca World Cup is another milestone achieved by Leisure Leagues and added that it would not be the last as the company would continue to endeavor for Pakistan football’s progress and promotion.
The 32 teams have been divided into eight groups of four teams each. After playing matches against one another in the group, two top teams from each group will qualify for last-16 knockout round. From here, teams would progress to quarterfinals, semifinals and eventually final.
India will also be featuring its team in the event and has been placed in Group G with Germany, Croatia and Angola. The tournament was initially scheduled to begin from October 5 but it has now been rescheduled to begin from September 23 with the final to be played on September 29.
Pakistan’s captain Afaq Ahmed says his team will put its best no matter what team comes against them and would try their level best to conquer hurdles after hurdles.
“I think we have nothing to lose when we play against Russia or Spain. They are World Cup playing nations. Those teams will be under pressure to perform. I believe it will give us a chance to beat those teams putting our best and with an open mind that we have nothing to lose,” Ahmed said.
He added that that his team would also remain wary of Moldova as it was a team like Pakistan, where little is known to others about how they play.
“We will put our best to qualify for next stage hopefully. Every time we cross a hurdle, our aim will be renewed hopefully till we annex the title to our name,” Ahmed added.
He further said that he and his boys have started training for the tournament and expressed hope that they would be ready prepared for the event in time.
Leisure Leagues Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ishaq Shah said that it is great to see passion of the team that would represent Pakistan in the tournament and hoped that the team would succeed in the World Cup.
“This is a moment of great importance for football in Pakistan. As a nation, it will be a great thing to see our team playing in an international tournament of this magnitude. Such things are rare for football fans in Pakistan and I believe it would help in rejuvenating their love for the game,” he said.
In fact Afaq Ahmed said that his team started playing Leisure Leagues event after their interest was stimulated after Leisure Leagues brought Gaucho Ronaldinho to Pakistan last year for a couple of high-voltage games.
He praised Leisure Leagues for promoting football in the country, which has been unprecedented.