ISLAMABAD - Islamabad Football Association (IFA) soccer team became the crowned champions of the Gothia Cup China Under-18 Football Tournament 2017 after defeating hot favourites Zhaoqing Lixun FC, China 6-5 on penalty shootouts in the final played at Shanyang, China on Saturday.

IFA’s Abdullah was also named player of the championship

While talking to The Nation from China, IFA team manager Tanveer Ahmed said: “It is one of the most memorable moments of my football career, as I had played soccer at the highest level during my playing days, but the way these young kids had made country and Islamabad Football Association proud, I can’t describe my feelings in words.”

He said when they were preparing the team and short listing players from 200 kids of various clubs who turned up for trials, they would not even thought for a second that these young guns would bring such honour and respect for Pakistan and Islamabad.

“It was very difficult task for us to select players and take them to the Chinese event. After one month hard work, training and coaches involvement, we managed to select 17 players, who represent IFA in the mega event, in which clubs of different associations, participated. I can easily claim that IFA was the most inexperienced of them all as we don’t have even witnessed the facilities and training being provided to clubs, who were playing in the championship. Indians and Chinese associations were enjoying tremendous sponsorship, while on the other hand we took the players at our own.”

While sharing his views, Islamabad Football Association Secretary Syed Sharafat Hussain Bokhari said it was a historic occasion for Pakistan and off course IFA as the hard work finally paid off. “We requested Javed Ali Soomro, who resides in China and doing PHD in football, to coach IFA team. He very kindly arrived in Islamabad, spent time with players, trained them and helped them rectify their errors. It was very difficult task of ensuring different players to work as a unit but Javed done a tremendous job.”

He said fifty percent expenditures were bore by players while fifty percent expenses were provided by Islamabad Football Association.

He said it was not a joke to win the event as seven clubs including three from China and one each from India, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Pakistan participated.

He said Abdullah Shah, who represents Pakistan U-14 team, was the skipper of the IFA team and he exhibited exceptional leadership qualities. He lamented that they were badly treated by the Pakistan Sports Board acting DG, Kiyal Zad Gul and others during last three months as despite severa requests the PSB denied players using the PSB facilities and instead demanded money for using the facilities.

However, he hoped that after return of Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera as DG PSB, they are quite hopeful that he will investigate the entire matter and not only facilitate us but also announce some incentives as well for the team. He also hoped that IPC Minister Mian Riaz who is himself a footballer, would take very good care of the youngsters.

While sharing his views PSB DG Ganjera congratulated IFA team and said it was victory of entire nation. He assured his all out help to IFA like past and promised to take up the issue with Minister and ensure some kind of special prizes would be announced for the champions. IFA President Chaudhry Saleem also lauded his team’s performance and said he will continue to work to the best of his abilities and ensure youngsters given more international exposure.