Reigning champion Dhaka Abahani Limited were drawn in a tough group alongside the big-budgeted Saif Sporting Club and Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra in the season opening Federation Cup, starting Saturday.
The draw ceremony of the first professional tournament for the season 2016-17 took place at BFF House on Tuesday afternoon where premier league giants Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club and Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra, both owned by the same owner, were placed in the same group.
Traditional crowd-puller Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited were also pitted in a tough group along with rising powerhouse Chittagong Abahani and last year’s Federation Cup runners-up Arambagh Krira Sangha.
The easiest group is perhaps the last one comprising Brothers Unions. Team BJMC and Rahmatganj MFS. The top two teams from each group will progress to the knockout stage.
Having lost a number of key players from last season, Abahani strengthened their squad signing two proven foreign attackers Landing Darboe and Emeka Darlington. Emeka has already played for the club in the AFC Cup but Landing will make his debut for the Sky Blues in the Federation Cup.
The newly-promoted Saif Sporting will be playing in a professional tournament for the first time. They have a balanced squad this season spending decent amount of money. Saif Sporting snatched five national players from Abahani in the transfer window, including highest paid defender Topu Barman. It will be interesting to see how the quintet perform against their former employer.
Group B will also be interesting with Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel having the same ownership - Bashundhara Group. Former champion Sheikh Jamal are not the same force they used to be in the last few years but they do have a host of young promising players, along with new foreign attackers who shone in the preseason.
In Group C, one of the title favourites Chittagong Abahani have to do battle with Motijheel outfits Mohammedan and Arambagh, who can be unpredictable at times. Arambagh surprised everyone when they reached the final last season while Mohammedan have formed a decent squad this season with the experienced Syed Naimuddin as their head coach. Veteran coach Maruful Haque will guide Arambagh.
Despite losing 14 players from last season to big clubs, Rahmatganj head coach Kamal Babu said his team this year are more balanced. They were placed in a relatively easy group with Team BJMC and Brothers Union but Kamal said they are bracing themselves for a tough battle in the quarter-finals as they might face either Abahani or Saif Sporting.
This will be the 29th edition of the Federation Cup, title sponsored by Walton Group and powered by Premier Bank. The co-sponsors are Transcom Food, Pragati Insurance, Eastern Bank, Prime Distribution and Treasure Securities. The last time the event was held was back in June, 2016.
Abahani, Muktijoddha and Saif Sporting
Sheikh Jamal, Sheikh Russel and Farashganj
Chittagong Abahani, Arambagh and Mohammedan
Brothers Union, Rahmatganj and Team BJMC