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5 Best Local Football Talents From National Challenge Cup 2024

Pakistan’s oldest domestic competition, the National Challenge Cup has been a breath of fresh air in Pakistan’s domestic football setup. Despite many hurdles the Pakistan Football Federation finally managed to complete the 30th edition of the competition where many footballers exhibited their natural talent during the tournament.

The competition returned after a 15-month hiatus and provided a proper platform to the domestic players who had been longing for game time in a domestic competitive fixture for years.

WAPDA defended its title once again after four years as they triumphed over SA Gardens who served as the giant killer in the competition defeating WSTC, Higher Education Commission (HEC) in knockouts to reach the final.

Many talented youngsters can be nurtured under the wings of Stephen Constantine but these are my top five picks from this year’s National Challenge Cup.

Umer Saeed (SA Gardens)

SA Gardens’ number 5, Umar Saeed hails from Lahore and is extremely versatile in his style of play. He is a utility player who can play as a left-back, right-back, left-winger, and right-winger.

Basically, Saeed can play anywhere on the wings if required as he possesses immaculate attacking prowess as well as defensive tenacity. He possesses a knack for manipulating the pace of play, adept at evading defenders with precise footwork.

His numbers against Pakistan Railway in the group stage match speak for themselves as he registered 2 assists while making 5 interceptions, 25 accurate passes out of 28, 12 successful dribbles, and also dominated 6 aerial duels out of 7 in that particular game while playing as a right back.

Murtaza Hussain (SA Gardens)

Murtaza Hussain led the attacking line of SA Gardens where he was absolutely sumptuous in his movement and dribbling skills throughout the tournament. He found himself in vacant spaces and easily drifted away from his marker in the final third to get himself into scoring positions.

SA Gardens’ number 11 only has one weakness in his game, he struggles in breaking the offside trap and that was visible during his semifinal performance against HEC he was deemed offside 11 times in the match.

The center-forward netted one goal and registered one assist against Pakistan Railway, he created two big chances while completing 13 dribbles out of 16 in the match.

Defensively he made 2 interceptions in the match and was brilliant in his distribution of the ball, completing 21 passes out of 27.

Murtaza represented the Pakistan men’s national team in the 2018 Asian Games and was also part of the squad in the SAFF Championship 2018.

Learning how to break the offside trap is an art and certainly, Murtaza will need to improve that aspect of his game with time but overall the SA Gardens has the potential to play for Pakistan again.

Umer Sadozai (SA Gardens)

Umer Sadozai played in the center-back role for the SA Gardens in the Challenge Cup and he was a wall at the back for his club in a campaign where he helped his team reach the final of Pakistan’s most premium cup competition.

The Rawalakot-born defender has showcased good positioning skills in a compact low-block or mid-block defensive structure at times while keeping himself composed at the back during pressure situations.

His penalty in the quarter-finals against WSTC exhibited the fact that he has nerves of steel because he displayed in that moment that he can deliver in pressure situations.

Muhammad Yousaf Ahmad (WAPDA)

Yousaf Ahmad seems like a “Carillero”, a player who can drift into half spaces and cause damage to the opposition, his ball-carrying ability is brilliant he can connect the midfield with the attack with ease. Primarily he is a right winger/midfielder who often drifts into half spaces and cuts inside to exploit the attack zones in the final third.

His goal in the final against SA Gardens helped WAPDA win their second cup title in history which depicts that he is a big game player.

He was also selected in the 25-man squad by Stephen Constantine back in October before the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Round 1 against Cambodia.

The midfielder has also represented the Pakistan football team in the 2018 Asian Games where he made 2 appearances for the Shaheens.

In the past, Yousaf has also represented the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) department in the Pakistan Premier League during the 2018-19 season.

Abdul Sammad Khan (Pakistan Airforce)

Abdul Sammad has represented Pakistan in the Under-16 SAFF Championship in Bhutan previously and he is a product of Popo FC academy which provides players through the youth pipeline to Pakistan Airforce department.

Sammad was subbed on in the 70th minute during the National Challenge Cup against Wapda where he was deployed as a left winger during the match by head coach Shahzad Anwar.

The youngster made an instant impact in the attacking prowess of Pakistan Airforce, completing 5 passes out of 6, registering 1 shot on target while registering 2 interceptions. He also completed 3 dribbles out of 3 during that game and also won aerial duels when needed.

The 16-year-old is slowly developing through Popo’s youth academy, his chance creation has improved and his tracking back against WAPDA where he helped his left-back defensively while doubling down was immaculate. The sky is the limit for him if domestic football continues in the country.

  • Amazing work. Keep it up brother. Keep an eye on Raza khan from WTSC and Hammad khan from HEC. Both are talent power houses.

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