Former premier league champion Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club and newly promoted Saif Sporting Club tested each other out in a practice match on Friday that provided an indication as to how these two teams are approaching the season opening Federation Cup, starting next week.
Sheikh Jamal, who are considered underdog for the first time in eight years since their establishment, are almost ready for the inaugural tournament of the domestic season but the newly formed Saif seemed a bit concerned with their fitness and team combination.
The game ended 3-2 in favour of Sheikh Jamal, who hosted the game at Dhanmondi No 8 field in the afternoon. The host scored two goals within 20 minutes through new signings Gambian forward Momodou Bah and local winger Nurul Absar.
Saif staged a comeback with young sensation Motin Mia and Hember Arley, who netted within five minutes of the second half. Momodou’s header at the late stages of the game sealed Sheikh Jamal’s win.
“It was a good friendly game. The important thing is we worked hard and saw the areas we have to work on. We have to work more on communication, forward pass and a lot of other things,” said Sheikh Jamal’s Nigerian head coach Joseph Afusi after the game.
Afusi added, “We are a young team. Everybody knows we are underdog. We are not favourite this time. But what we believe is we are going to fight for every game and not only participate. We are ready for the Federation Cup. Just going to the drawing boards, one or two things, work hard and everything goes fine.”
Sheikh Jamal recruited two players from Gambia – Momodou and Raphael Odoyin – and one from Nigeria - Solomon King Kanform - who couldn’t play the friendly due to injury.
“We had big names before, we played based on the ability. We signed them (new foreign recruits) based on the quality. I believe the players we have at the moment are giving what we required of them,” said Afusi.
Saif’s Ghanaian-born English coach Kimberley Grant seemed satisfied with his foreign forward trio of Hember, Alvi Fopa and midfielder Deiner Andress but expressed concern regarding the fitness of his charges.
“When I came here, there was short time to manage players. But we got two Colombia players in, they are top level, fitness as well. We have great potential. They are good recruits,” said Kimberley, who joined the club two weeks ago.
He continued, “We are behind everybody because our fitness and condition are still behind and we have to work on it. We don’t have enough time to make extra friendlies unfortunately. We have to move along with it.”
The Federation Cup kicks off next Saturday and Kimberley said they are hopeful of their chances in the season-opening tournament.
“We will try to win it. I hope to see us in the final but it’s going to be tough because we are behind in fitness,” he said.
Sheikh Jamal 3
(Ba 19, 79, Nurul 20) Saif Sporting 2
(Motin 47, Hember 50)