Islamabad - Islamabad Football Association (IFA) soccer team, which recently won the Gothia Cup China Under-18 Football Tournament 2017 trophy, accorded warm welcome here at Margalla Railway Station upon their arrival on Thursday.

Deputy Mayor Islamabad Syed Zeeshan Ali Naqvi, Islamabad Football Association (IFA) president Ch Saleem, secretary Syed Sharafat Bokahri, Rana Tanveer and others present in huge numbers. The deputy mayor was the first to meet with victorious team skipper Abdullah Shah and handed him bouquet while greeted the entire team and officials. IFA team defeated hot-favourites Zhaoqing Lixun FC China 6-5 on plenty shootouts in the final played at Shanyang, China to win the title.

Talking to The Nation, captain Abdullah said he was very delighted the way people came in numbers to welcome them. “I am feeling over the moon, as it was highly successful event for us. We were not expecting to win the championship, as our main goal was to play according to our abilities and gain much-needed international exposure, but after the first match, the boys started enjoying and results started coming thick and fast. All the participating teams were highly experienced while we had paid 50 percent of air tickets, while the IFA bore remaining expenditures.

“The people were highly supportive to us as it was like playing in front of home crowd. We love the match against Indian club team, as the boys responded brilliantly and outclassed our arch-rivals. The final was very tough, as the massive crowd was right behind the home team and was cheering for them. When they took early lead, the entire stadium erupted with joy, but hats off to our players, who never lost heart and played brilliantly. We had no fear of losing the final so we played fearlessly and succeeded in first leveling the score and then winning on penalty shootouts,” he added.

Abdullah said: “Now we have returned home and received tremendous welcome. I request the IPC minister and the PSB director general to lend a helping hand to the IFA, which is doing wonders in such limited resources. Without government help, it is impossible for the players to travel abroad at their own. We are looking forward to play in other major events, so I request the government to resolve the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) long-standing issue as early as possible as it is hurting the genuine talent.”

Sharing his views, Deputy Mayor Syed Zeeshan lauded the IFA and boys and announced to host grand reception in their honour. He also promised that he would try to arrange cash incentives for the boys, who made the nation proud. He thanked Rawalpindi Islamabad Sports Journalists Association (RISJA) and appreciated their role in promoting soft image of the country. RISJA reunification committee member M Faheem Anwar announced to host dinner for the IFA players and officials on behalf of RISJA soon after Eid.

IFA president Ch Saleem and secretary Syed Sharafat thanked the masses for turning up in huge numbers to give such a rousing welcome to the champions. They promised to carry on the good work and continue to send teams and players aboard for international events. They hoped that IPC minister Riaz Pirzada would announce cash awards for the IFA team, as it would encourage them to win more laurels for the country.