Monday, April 18, 2011

Reaching for the sky

Abahani Limited from Dhaka, the reigning Bangladesh champions
Don't make any mistake in underestimating the three foreign teams who will be winging their way to Phnom Penh next month to take part in the group matches of the AFC President's Cup, that kicks-off on Saturday 21 May. This is a big feather in Cambodia's cap to simply stage Group A of the competition but that gives Phnom Penh Crown no given right to progress to the finals. In fact, Neftchi Kochkor-Ata from Kyrgyzstan are the top-seeded club in all the groups, Bangladesh champions Dhaka Abahani Limited have appeared in the last three editions of the President's Cup and know the routine inside out, whilst Sri Lanka’s Don Bosco Sports Club are also out for blood in their first appearance in the tournament. Dhaka Abahani Limited are the best club in Bangladesh bar none. They have won the country's professional league for the last three seasons and at the mid-way point in their current campaign, they lie in 2nd place. This success, which includes a few cup wins in the locker as well, has been under coach Amalesh Sen, though he was relegated to assistant coach for the past six months, under Iranian head coach Ali Akbar, who left recently, so Sen is back at the helm. Included in their squad are four players with Ghanaian nationality, with top scorer Frank Twaunu Ntiny and long-serving Ibrahim Awudu the pick, whilst national team youngster Shakhawat Hossain Rony is one to watch too. With a proud record of fourteen league titles since their formation in 1972, the Sky Blues won the right to participate in the President's Cup this season by winning 22 out of 24 league games last term as they clinched the title. In 2009 and 2010 they twice staged the group matches of the President's Cup in Dhaka, and were unbeaten in all five games they played, yet failed to progress, so will certainly be looking to go one better this time around.

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