2019/20 BISL Awards

Another BISL season is in the books and Anatolia capture their first title in history to close out Season 6. Congratulations to all the teams on a fantastic season (our most competitive one yet) and we hope everyone enjoyed their experience. We are always looking for ways to improve our league so please send any feedback to brotherhoodsoccer@gmail.com
 
This season featured many incredible individual performances, which made player award voting even more difficult. For individual awards, each GM was to submit one nominee from their respective team. After collecting all the nominees, each team's GM were eligible to cast a vote - however, they were NOT permitted to vote for players on their own team. Though there were many deserving candidates, we are happy to present this year's individual award winners. All awards have been posted to your profile page. 

Before we go into the individual awards, let's recap this year's All-BISL teams, voted on by the players. 

 
All-BISL First Team
All-BISL Second Team
G: Jibran Waqar, Andalusia FC      
G: Zahid Merchant, Anatolia FC
D: Salman Ahmad, Samarra FC
D: Farhan Butt, Hejaz FC
D: Hussam Ayubi, Hejaz FC
D: Owais Ansari, Andalusia FC
F: Nasir Rehman, Hejaz FC
F: Zain Khilji, Anatolia FC
F: Aadhil Mohamed, Samarra FC
F: Murtaza Tirmizi, Jerusalem FC
F: Fawad Akram, Anatolia FC
F: Muhammad Shah, Sham FC

And now, onto the awards...

Golden Boot

Winner: Aadhil Mohamed, Samarra FC (12 goals)

Aadhil came, he saw and he conquered. The quick-footed and creative rookie notched 12 goals in his debut season. Aadhil's ability to beat defenders one-on-one and create chances for himself (and others) made him a tough cover for any defender and a nightmare for any goalkeeper.  

Regular Season MVP

Top Three Nominees: Fawad Akram, Anatolia FC; Nasir Rehman, Hejaz FC; Aadhil Mohamed, Samarra FC. 
Winner: Aadhil Mohamed, Samarra FC (12 goals, 6 assists, 18 points) 

Aadhil Mohamed's rookie display led him to capturing the first of what we expect will be many BISL MVP titles. Despite being a one-man attack in his own right, Mohamed's ability to link up with his teammates in tune to six helpers on the season showed that he did whatever was needed for his team to put the ball in the back of the net. The last three regular season MVP awards have gone to Samarra players (Danish Khan won the two years prior).

Playoff MVP

Top Three Nominees: Fawad Akram, Mike Isoufi, Zahid Merchant
Winner:  Fawad Akram, Anatolia FC (2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points in playoffs)

Finally, Fawad Akram holds the BISL trophy. One of the best players in the League since he joined in year three, Fawad always had the numbers but not the silverware. Akram's performance was one of many that contributed to Anatolia's success in the Finals, with rookie Mike Isoufi and BISL vet Zahid Merchant doing their part to bring it home for ANatolia. However, in the end it was Fawad's ability to pull the strings in midfield and keep his side on the front-foot that made him GM Zain Khilji's pick for Playoff MVP. Fawad's series of stellar performances for the Canaries in the playoffs led to a pair of goals and four assists in three games, with two assists coming in the Finals. 

Top Defender

Top Three Nominees: Owais Ansari, Andalusia FC; Hussam Ayubi, Hejaz FC; Salman Ahmed, Samarra FC.
Winner: Salman Ahmad, Samarra FC (2 goal, +4 GD)

 
Top Defender is always a difficult award to assess because the stats collected by the League do not appropriately reflect individual defensive displays. However, Salman Ahmad's combination of speed, passing range and high IQ made him a worthy candidate of the award this year. Often tasked with shutting down the top offensive player for his opposition, Salman always stood his ground and made his opponent work. With his passing and pace, he was able to chip with a pair of goals as well from the backline. 
 
Top Goalkeeper

Top Three Nominees: ‎Jibran Waqar, Andalusia FC; Zahid Merchant, Andalusia FC; Basil Jeelany, Sham FC.
Winner: Jibran Waqar, Andalusia FC (5 wins, 2 clean sheets, 87 saves) 

Jibran rejoined the League as a goalkeeper this year and those who know him from softball knew he had the reflexes and athleticism to be a quality keeper in the League. However, nobody expected him to be the kind of dominant force he was. Waqar was a big reason as to why Andalusia flirted with the top seed all season long and was a brick wall in goal. Week in, week out, Jibs provided us highlight reel saves and we feel that this won't be the last time we see his name listed as Top Goalkeeper in the League.

Most Improved Player

Top Three Nominees: Nabeel Jabbar, Jerusalem FC; Shahbaz Tayyub, Samarra FC; Salman Ahmad, Sham FC.
Winner: Nabeel Jabbar, Jerusalem FC (2 wins, 74 saves)

After a season of ups-and-downs that saw few bright spots for Jerusalem all season, Nabeel Jabbar shone the brightest. Had Jabbar been the number one for JFC from the onset of the season, we may have been talking about him in the previous category - that's how impressive his performances were. Jabbar grew in confidence with every week in the second half of the season, and put up the sort of displays that are the epitome of 'stealing a point' from the opposition. We cannot imagine him lasting in the later rounds of the draft next year. 

Brotherhood Award

Nominees: ‎Owais Ansari, Andalusia FC; Riaz Murad, Anatolia FC;  Murtaza Tirmizi, Jerusalem FC; Umair Ashraf, Hejaz FC; Basil Jeelany, Samarra FC; Humeid Masood, Sham FC.
Winner: Murtaza Tirmizi, Jerusalem FC

Always the toughest award to choose. Year after year, we have a number of quality brothers that deserve to be mentioned in this section. However, it is tough to quib with the selection of Murtaza Tirmizi for this year's Brotherhood Award. On the pitch, Murtaza was jovial with teammates and foes alike and someone we view as the exact kind of player we want in this league - high calibre in terms of skill and character. Off the field, Murtaza was instrumental in the League's social media campaigns, especially with his matchday coverage (shoutout to other members of the social media team for their contributions as well, by the way). We are grateful for guys like Murtaza in the League, as he embodies the values of the League and appreciate all he brings to BISL.  

That brings a close to Season Six of BISL. Congratulations to all award recipients, and thank you to all the players, supporters and sponsors that made this season a memorable one. See you on the pitch next year and please take appropriate measures during this pandemic. Our prayers are with you all and we look forward to seeing you all in the future insha'Allah. 

Anatolia FC - 2020 Champions

Hejaz and Anatolia played a classic defensive battle in the 1st half the final. It wasn't till midway through the 2nd that Anatolia found their finishing touch. GM Zain Khilji blasted a through ball from Fawad Akram to open the scoring. Mike Isoufi would add a second 7 minutes later to double the lead. Mike would then set up Syed "Ronaldo" Kazmi on a through ball for a Kazmi finish and celebration to make it 3-0. Hejaz put on all the pressure after that and found a goal by GM Taqi Ahmed with 4 minutes to play. They created a bunch of chances but missed that finishing touch. Komayl Jawadi would once again get the final kick as he tapped in a Fawad Akram pass to finish the match at 4-1. A fantastic final played with great sportsmanship. Congrats to Hejaz on a fantastic season. Anatolia are finally BISL Champions ending their 6 year drought. 

 


Finals Rumours

[written by: Hashim Ghazi]
 
   FINALS: #4 HEJAZ vs #2 ANATOLIA (8:45PM Field 3)   
And then there were two. After two very intense second-legs, the Canaries take on Los Blancos. Two teams with relatively different styles face off to see who is crowned champion in our most competitive season yet. Both of these teams have been battled tested throughout the season and have the personnel and steel to play in the most intense of affairs. Whoever is crowed victor will no doubt deserve it, as Hejaz take on Anatolia in this year’s BISL Finals. 
 
   HEJAZ FC   
GM: Taqi Ahmed (2nd Year as GM)
Regular Season Record (W-D-L, Pts, GD): 5-2-4, 17 pts, -9 GD
How They Got Here: defeated Samarra 4-2 on aggregate
Projected Starting VI (* denotes All-BISL): U. Sheikh; H. Ayubi*, F. Butt*; N. Rehman*, T. Ahmed; H. Ahmed

Lead Goalscorer: Nasir Rehman (7 goals) 
Lead Assist Man: Nasir Rehman/Hannan Ahmed (4 assists)
Team MVP: Nasir Rehman
Team X-Factor: Farhan Butt
 
Team Finals Appearances: 3 (2015, 2016, 2017)
Team Championships: 2 (2015, 2016)
Previous Champions on Finals Squad: 4 – F. Azmat (2017), H. Ayubi (2018), U. Ashraf (2018, 2019)
 
Hejaz had an “us against the world” attitude since the beginning of the season and it seemed like that narrative only furthered with every passing week. The only guys that really believed that they had what it takes to make it this far was GM Taqi Ahmed and the players dressed in white on Sundays. It is that kind of attitude that builds character and chemistry amongst a team and it is that exact attitude and belief that brought them to the Finals.
 
After controlling a strong Samarra attack in the first leg, Hejaz stayed poised on limiting the chances for their opponents in Leg 2 en route to a convincing 3-1 win where the result never looked in doubt. Both Nasir Rehman and Farhan Butt scored a goal and provided a helper, and the icing on the cake to put it away was courtesy of none other than team architect and GM Taqi Ahmed. Over the two legs, Hejaz looked like the better team, and particularly in the second leg, it was not even close.
 
Taqi Ahmed has created a side that plays to its strengths and gives up very little to its opponents. Nasir Rehman has been the team MVP this season but we can’t ignore others. Hannan Ahmed has been a force in his first year in the league, as has defender Farhan Butt. Veteran Hussam Ayubi has played every position for the side and is willing to do what it takes for his team to win. The team is led by captain and keeper Umair Sheikh who has had yet another solid campaign between the sticks for his side. The team relies on contributions from every area of the pitch and though we give a lot of love to their starters, we can’t ignore how important the guys off the bench in Furhan Azmat, Hamza Waheed, Mustafa Tirmizi and Umair Ashraf are in terms of keeping that intensity high and continue to play Hejaz’s brand of football when called upon. After a number of question marks surrounding the side after the draft, Taqi and his squad have proved doubters wrong again and again and sit 50 minutes from capturing Hejaz’s third ever League title (and the first under the new regime). 
 
   ANATOLIA FC   
GM: Zain Khilji (6th year as GM)
Regular Season Record (W-D-L, Pts, GD): 4-5-2, 17 pts, +11 GD
How They Got Here: Defeated Andalusia 5-5 (3-2 on pens) on aggregate
Projected Starting VI (* denotes All-BISL): Z. Merchant*; K. Jawadi, S. Yar; M. Isoufi, F. Akram*, Z. Khilji*

Lead Goalscorer: Zain Khilji (9 goals) 
Lead Assist Man: Fawad Akram (10 assists)
Team MVP: Fawad Akram
Team X-Factor: Komayl Jawadi
 
Team Finals Appearances: 0
Team Championships: 0
Previous Champions on Finals Squad: 2 – A. Chawdhry (2015), Z. Merchant (2017)
 
Meanwhile, while the history books for Hejaz contain pages and pages of team success, the pages for Anatolia remain relatively thin. In fact, there is not even a chapter titled “BISL Finals” because they always came up short. However, GM Zain Khilji had a different approach to building his side this year. Zain opted for veteran, versatile guys that can play multiple positions and have the type high IQ you want in a champion side to see through tactical masterclasses.
 
That sort of masterclass was on display first-hand in the second leg of the semis, as the Canaries put up three quick goals and steadied the ship after their opponents came back to take the match to penalties. They kept their composure and saw out victory in the shootout to punch their ticket to the Finals. Mike Isoufi had big shoes to fill for the Canaries upon joining the side, and after a hat trick performance, filled them admirably. The constantly threatening Fawad Akram pitched in a goal and two assists himself in the second leg that helped them go through.
 
This team has battled the injury bug all season and despite a rash of injuries that saw top players miss time and withdraw from the League, the Turks remained composed and continued to push on. With all due respect to Anatolian squads of past, this has been the best defensive side to ever suit up in Yellow. In fact, the team gave up the least number of goals on the season. Much of that credit goes to keeper Zahid Merchant and the primary defensive pairing of Komayl Jawadi and Shahar Yar. The midfield trio of GM Zain Khilji, #1 pick and top point-getter Fawad Akram and rookie Mike Isoufi take up different positions across the pitch and interchange fluidly, leaving opposing defences guessing as to who will set up or finish off the goal. Like their final’s opponents, this team is not just six men deep as the depth of the squad and collective high soccer IQ is a key to their success. Despite the razzle and dazzle of the stars, it’s guys like Arshad Chawdhry, Hasan Afzal, Riaz Murad and Syed Kazmi that win you championships. Anatolia have all the pieces needed to win a championship and now see themselves with a chance to raise silverware for the first time ever this coming Sunday. 
 
   THE VERDICT   
Under the bright lights of Jean Vanier dome on Sunday, only one team will be crowned champions. Anatolia had the advantage during the season, drawing the first matchup 1-1 and winning the second 5-1; the last matchup especially had some fireworks that remain fresh in the minds of both sides. However, as we all know, the regular season cannot compare to the playoffs, and Hejaz have looked like the best side in the postseason thus far. So who will it be – Hejaz or Anatolia? Let’s see what the opposing GMs are saying: 
 
Saqib Dadabhoy, GM of Jerusalem: HEJ 1-2 ANA | MOTM: ANA Zain Khilji
Muhammad Shah, GM of Sham: HEJ 2-1 ANA | MOTM: HEJ Nasir Rehman
Omar Sheikh, GM of Andalusia: HEJ 2-1 ANA | MOTM: HEJ Umair Sheikh
Junaid Akram, GM of Samarra: HEJ 1-2 ANA | MOTM: ANA Fawad Akram
 
Evidently, it's a toss up as to who will come out on top but expect a high-intensity affair between two teams that are willing to give their all to raise the cup. Good luck to both sides and may the best team win. 
 
[Editor’s Note: this is our last formal write-up of the season and I just wanted to say thank you to all the readers and supporters of the Rumours. This would not have been possible without our amazing team of writers, so all the credit goes to Bassam Basit, Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad, Umair Ashraf and Zain Khilji for their contributions throughout the year – our best year of content yet!]

Semi-Final Leg 2 Rumours

[written by: Muhammad Shah, Saqib Dadabhoy & Hashim Ghazi]
 
Last week we saw two surprise results, and dare we say upsets, as Andalusia beat Anatolia and Hejaz held Samarra to a draw. Andalusia looks the most likely to move on through if they can put in a solid defensive shift, while Hejaz have Samarra right where they want them heading into the penultimate match before the Finals. Two of these teams will be sent home tomorrow and it's anyone's guess as to who will be playing a week from Sunday. 
 
Just a reminder for all the newcomers, the team that has won the tie on aggregate over the two legs will move on to the Finals. In the event of a draw after both matches, it will go straight to penalties. There is no extra time and there is no away goals rule. Now, onto the rumours for this week. 
 
#1 SAMARRA vs #4 HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 3) - First Leg: HEJ 1 - 1 SAM
In a season where these two teams found themselves in top spot or close to it all season, it comes down to a final 50 minutes to see who goes through to the Finals. As mentioned last week, both of these clubs have storied pasts, with Hejaz being the dominant force in BISL in years 1-3 and Samarra taking up the throne in years 4-6. Both have two championships to their name. Both have seen lows to match their highs. But only one will go through to the Finals. 
 
The playoffs suit the style of play of Hejaz to a T, and we saw that first hand in the matchup last week. Hejaz never looked out of sorts despite the attacking presence of Samarra. In fact, Hejaz actually outstot Samarra 19-14 in the matchup and looked to control the match. The Samarrans opened up the scoring through their dynamic duo up front, as Jibran Sakrani provided an assist to Aadhil Mohamed's first postseason goal of his career, and surely not hte last. However, that starting five of Hejaz once again put on a two-way clinic, mustering up all 19 of the sides shots. The key breakthrough to level it up came as a result of a key pass from Hamza Waheed to set up Hannan Ahmed for the Lilywhites and come through with a draw that management would no doubt be happy about. If Hejaz employ the same approach (much like they did against Sham in the final game of the season) and sit back and counter, frustrating their opponent and in turn capitalizing on their mistakes, we will see the boys in white reach the finals for the first time since 2017. However, with all the talent in Samarra, we can't count them out just yet. In a winner-takes-all matchup, it is tough to go against the top team in the League who, when at their best, are clearly better than any one squad in the League. This one is too close to call, so we thought to bring in some help to give their predictions - that being Muhammad Shah (Sham GM) and Saqib Dadabhoy (Jerusalem GM). Here are their thoughts.
 
Shah: I think Hejaz have demonstrated the best teamwork this season. They will need to work together more than ever if they want to score and protect the lead. But, I'm tipping my hat to Samarra to proceed to the finals. The holy trinity of Junaid, Jibran and Aadhil will be too hot to handle. Besides, Aadhil just has too much sauce. 
 
Saqib: I'm on the fence for this one. Samarra look better on paper but Hejaz have shown they’re not averse to striking early and defending a lead. That being said, they need to score first. If Samarra scores first, I think Hejaz will have no choice but to attack, leaving more space for Samarra’s attackers to run at the D. Whoever scores first wins.
 
#2 ANATOLIA vs #3 ANDALUSIA (9:45PM Field 3) - First Leg: AND 3 - 1 ANA
Unlike the storied success of the teams in the other matchup, both of these teams are looking to write a new chapter in their history books. Neither of these sides have ever played in the Finals, though both feature a number of players who have lifted silverware in their own right.
 
Last week, a majority of supporters all but wrote off Andalusia to make any noise in the postseason without having their super-sub Saad K to rely on. However, you can never count out a side led by GM Omar Sheikh, who pocketed a crucial goal to propel his team to a convincing 3-1 win. Despite the game looking somewhat favourable to Anatolia given the number of shots they put on target, the scoreline definitely proved otherwise. After an up-and-down season, Omar El Askalany saved his best performance for when it counted most, providing a goal and an assist on the evening. Salman Siddiqui, a man known for scoring his goals when his team needs them the most, put the icing on the cake late to give his team a much-needed two goal cushion heading into the second leg. However, Anatolia were not down and out of this one. The squad kept pouring on the offense, with 28 shots on the day, but only had one goal to show for it as Mike Isoufi played in Fawad Akram for a first half goal to take an early lead. Keeper Jibran Waqar did what he's done all season for the Royals though, and did all he could to keep his team in the tie - FOURTEEN saves. This is the sort of performance that Andalusia showed frequently in the first half of the season, and gives them heavy momentum heading into Leg 2. It will be interesting to see how Anatolia GM Zain Khilji changes his tactics this coming Sunday. Being down a pair of goals, they will have to keep the pedal to the metal, but at the same time, if the Spaniards strike first, the Canaries may be stuck in a coal mine they won't be able to get out of. Let's see what Muhammad and Saqib have to say about this one. 
 
Saqib: I think Andalusia have enough of a lead plus the experience and hustle to close out the second leg and make it to their first ever finals. That being said, if there’s any team that can overturn a deficit it’s Anatolia, what with all their attacking prowess. 
 
Shah: Andalusia are looking like favorites to go through the finals. Although, I wouldn't count out the individual brilliance of Fawad or Zain. I think if Anatolia can score one goal, the flood gates will open. Let's see if Andalusia can keep their defensive shape.

Semi-Final Leg 1 Rumours

[written by: Riaz Murad & Hashim Ghazi]
 
And then, there were four. We bid farewell to Jerusalem and Sham who put together impressive second-half campaigns that just fell short. Hejaz put on a Mourinho-esque tactical display en route to a 1-0 win over Sham to stamp their ticket in the postseason and dismiss Sham's potential late ditch effort to sneak in. Meanwhile, Andalusia finally got a win in what seems like ages against Jerusalem to end their hopes of sneaking out of last place. The final matchup saw Anatolia and Samarra play to the League's first ever 0-0 draw - something we would have never expected with the firepower featured in both sides. That brings us to the first leg of the semi-finals. #2 Anatolia takes on #3 Andalusia and #1 Samarra take on #4 Hejaz. Given the way the season played out, it's anyone's guess who will come out on top over two legs. Let's go into the matchups.
 
#3 ANDALUSIA (14 points, +5 GD) vs #2 ANATOLIA (16 points, +11 GD) (8:45PM Field 3)
A premium matchup looks to be on the cards for the first leg of the 2020 BISL Playoffs. Both matches between the teams have been very close with Andalusia winning one of the two during Week 3. Andalusia come into the playoffs on the heels of a well-fought 2-1 victory over Jerusalem on Super Sunday. The Spaniards have seen an up and down season that has seen them at the top of the league as well as middle of the pack. Although they were never threatened to be on the brink of missing the playoffs, GM Omar Sheikh has made it a point to his team that every game is a must-win game for them. This would have worked if the Blues didn’t have absences and injuries during the second half of the regular season. Andalusia is still waiting for a word on forward Asif Ali’s return. For now, he’s listed as day-to-day. But they have enough firepower still to take on any side in the league. Defensemen Owais Ansari and Ali Wadee have a tendency to run up the wings and threaten to score or at least make plays that lead to scoring chances. This creates a nightmare scenario for many teams. And with Omar El-Askalany dangling the ball in his feet and making plays, coupled with a power boot from Salman Siddiqui alongside the aforementioned GM, Andalusia packs a hard punch. It hasn’t always resulted in a convincing victory for them. Now that Super-Sub Saad K is not available for the playoffs, someone has to step in to make those crisp and accurate plays for the Spaniards, if they hope to make it to their first finals in BISL. They just need to ensure an injury free game. Anatolia, on the other hand, is no stranger to injuries. They’ve seen a very high rate of injuries this year and have had to say goodbye to a couple of solid contributors on defense because of them. However, the big positive for them has been the replacements. Both Shahar Yar and Waheed Isoufi have fit in perfectly into the system that GM Zain Khilji has set for his team. The month of January saw a resurgence for the Turks where they were finally getting healthy bodies back and saw the team perform as envisioned. With a full squad, this team is very dangerous. They’re always talked about as being a very high-powered offense but surprisingly, it’s their defense that has played a major role in getting the team to a second place finish in the regular season. The team boasts the #1 defense in the regular season. With goalie Zahid Merchant screaming orders from net, the defensive core for Anatolia has allowed very few teams to tickle the twine. The little talked about and quiet Hasan Afzal has been an anchor for the defense - he's been more than a "lil busy" as the Canaries' linchpin . He’s been covering the defensive zone as Komayl Jawadi and Shahar push up to help on the offense. Syed Kazmi and Fawad Akram have played every non-goalie position this season and force their opponents to think hard on how to play against them. And when factoring in workhorse Riaz Murad up front making the most of his chances, it's tough to find a chink in this bright yellow armour. This is a squad Khilji is banking on, and is confident in, to get him past the first round of the playoffs, FINALLY!
 
A matchup that will see one of these two teams get one step closer to BISL glory for the first time in their six year history. Starting the playoffs with a bang, we are.
 
#4 HEJAZ (14 points, -9 GD) vs #1 SAMARRA (18 points, +10 GD)(9:45PM Field 3)
Hejaz and Samarra take off in an affair that features two very different tactical approaches. In our earlier matchup, we see two teams that have never made the finals before, and in this one, we have a pair of teams in which one of them has featured in every finals to date. And the streak continues, as one of Hejaz or Samarra will punch their ticket to the Final in a few weeks time. The question is - who will it be?
Hejaz's gameplan is simple. Defend as a unit and rely on counters and intelligent play up-front to lead to goals. The side features probably the most versatile starting outfit in the League, with all five outfield starters taking up positions in every area of the pitch. Defenders Hussam Ayubi and Farhan Butt anchor the side and have the trust of keeper Umair Sheikh, while GM Taqi Ahmed is the perfect complement to both the never-ending engine of Nasir Rehman and the ruthless forward play of Hannan Ahmed. The entire side moves up and down the pitch as a unit, limiting opportunities for counters and keeping close tabs on their opposition. Their bench features a number of veterans who have played in the Finals (and in some cases, won them) that know what it takes to have that extra edge in the postseason. Mustafa Tirmizi and Hamza Waheed have done their part for Sham in Finals of past, while Furhan Azmat (Jerusalem '17) and Umair Ashraf (Samarra '18 and '19) have lifted the trophy themselves.  That sort of veteran presence off the bench is an advantage any GM would love to have. Further, this side's structure and positional discipline allows them to play the exact kind of game that wins you championships. The only issue is that their road to the championship goes through the offensive juggernaut and top-seeded squad in Samarra. Samarra initially looked like pretenders with the bevy of draws they found themselves collecting, but once the machine started running at optimal performance, they have looked like the favourite to win it all (for an unprecedented third straight year). The side, led by first-year GM Junaid Akram, have the perfect balance, with superstars in every position of the field. Akram joins rookie sensation (and likely League MVP) Aadhil Mohamed and magisterial forward Jibran Sakrani up front, while the side is anchored by defensive stalwart (and likely League Defender of the Year) Salman Ahmad and former Defender of the Year Sheraz Choudhry. Basil Jeelany, someone who has won some individual silverware himself, holds it down between the sticks. And on top of that, they have Atif Mian as the first man off the bench to fill in wherever necessary given his versatility. Add in role players like Atif Khan, Shahbaz Tayyub and Umer Jabbar, and you see why the Redblack were seen as one of the favourites the second the draft wrapped up. This is a side of champions. The squad play an attacking brand of football much in part to the electric play of Mohamed. Factor in his dribbling and pace with the power and finishing of Akram, Sakrani and Mian, and you have a side that can beat you in so many ways. The side have an answer for anything you throw at them and finished the season with only one loss (in a match where they were missing two of their top guys due to injury). It would be an upset to not see these guys at least make it competitive for their opponent's over two legs
 
The tale of the tape sees Samarra collecting four of the six available points in the team's two matchups. Of note is the 6-2 drubbing the Samarrans put on Hejaz, but we note that the scoreline seems skewed in part of Hejaz losing their star forward Hannan Ahmed to injury midway through the first half, and shortly losing Farhan Butt to a red card only moments after. It will be interesting to see which side asserts their dominance on the matchup. Samarra play a free-flowing attacking style but clamp down when need be, while Hejaz relish in the defensive-approach style of play we typically see in the playoffs. While Samarra looks like the odds on favourite, you cannot count out the Lilywhites just yet.
 

Matchweek 11 Rumours - SUPER SUNDAY

[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad & Hashim Ghazi]
 
With one game left to play, there still remains a LOT to play for. Jerusalem, after a valiant effort to make it close, have nothing but pride to play for on Sunday and face an Andalusian side who looks to be in the midst of a crises in form. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Sham as they take on Hejaz with a chance, at the shock of most, to qualify for the playoffs with a win. Lastly, Anatolia play Samarra with a chance to capture their first ever #1 seed finish.
 
Let's get right into it. 
 
JERUSALEM vs ANDALUSIA (8:45PM Field 4)
Jerusalem can't help but rue the poor start to their campaign after a string of strong results for the side in 2020. They looked all the part of post-season quality side in their 7-4 dismantling of Andalusia, much in part to a trio of goals slotted by midseason pickup Nehad Shihab. The side can attributed a lot of their success to Shihab, but we cannot overlook the play of a number of others. Newcomers Abdo Menla and Salim Jarad finally look comfortable in their roles for the side and have been solid on both sides of play for JFC. Also, it seems like we find another reason to bring up the dynamic play of goalkeeper Nabeel Jabbar after every performance. However, for a side that looked deprived of goalscoring ability early in the season (despite an impressive forward pairing of Syed Murtaza Tirmizi and Bassam Basit), slotting seven goals against the top keeper in the League is always a cause worth celebrating. Despite being officially eliminated from the playoffs, the Sky Blues look like a team poised to beat anyone that comes in their past. Though they do not have much to play for, expect these guys to play for another three points in hopes of sliding out of last place. Meanwhile, for as good as Jerusalem have looked in the new year, the same cannot be said for Andalusia. The Spaniards finished the end of 2019 with a commanding 5-0 victory over Sham and sat atop the table. However, the side has yet to win a match in 2020, much in part to the side's inability to field their full squad week after week. The benefit of being short is allowing a supersub in Saad K to come in and do his thing, but his inability to play in the playoffs as a substitute leaves the squad with a gaping hole in midfield. It seems as if the fatigue of asking more of short squads week after week have left the Andalusians a bit flat to close out the season. The good news is that they essentially have already qualified for playoffs (given the large goal difference teams below have to make up), but a good result wouldn't hurt the side's mojo heading into the second season. Expect the side full of veterans to approach this match with playoff intensity in hopes of reversing fortune from their last matchup against Jerusalem and ploughing forward with some positivity en route to their championship quest. 
 
SHAM vs HEJAZ (8:45 Field 3)
It's always exciting when there are stakes in the final game of the season and it could not be any higher for this week's matchup between Hejaz and Sham. You could argue that the playoffs for these two teams start a week early. Taking a look back, it's amazing how these two teams are even at this stage. Four weeks ago, Hejaz was sitting in second place with 11 points and Sham was sitting at the bottom with only 4 points after a crushing defeat to Jerusalem. Make no mistake about it, this will be the match of the week. If Sham wins, they make the semi-finals against all odds. If Hejaz can tie it or capture a win, they'll stumble their way into it despite their recent dip in form. These two teams have faced each other twice, this season and split the matchup. Sham, having defeated the injury-ridden Samarra in a game they needed to win, are in peak form. They have picked up 7 out of 9 possible points in their last three games and if it wasn't for a last-minute Zain Khilji goal and defensive lapse, it would have been 9 of 9. They have finally found a line-up that works and are sticking to it. The defense is compact and the offense has been firing. The combination of two has been able to dig them out of being at the bottom in Goal Difference, which will be used as a tie-breaker if they win this match against Hejaz. The season is on the line for the third straight game for Sham and so far they have been able to rise to the occasion. They need a win this week and can't afford to let Hejaz stick around in the game; they will need to be clinical and put the game away early. Hejaz have struggled to find their dominant form. After the Christmas break, they were looking poised to take the top spot in the league but recent struggles have them fighting for their playoff lives. In their two previous matchups against Sham, Hejaz was missing their talisman Hannan Ahmad who definitely bolsters the offense for them. However, with the suspension of captain Umair Sheikh, they will need to put someone new between the sticks for their most important game of the season. The plan for this week should be to score a goal quickly and play with the lead, putting the pressure on Sham, who have not played from behind in their recent streak of results. A tie is all Hejaz needs, but they should be playing for the win and giving themselves a cushion to work with. What an exciting end to the season this match will be and we cannot wait to watch it.
 
ANATOLIA vs SAMARRA (9:45PM Field 3)
The last match of the night is the battle of the top two teams in the league, where winner takes top seed for the Playoffs! Anatolia are coming off back to back, and dare we say convincing, wins. They have not lost since Week 6, that being against their opponents this Sunday. They have a healthy squad again and do look like the team that GM Zain Khilji envisioned at the draft, albeit with a couple of changes due to season-ending injuries. However, resiliency is the keyword for this team. They've overcome injuries and absences throughout the season and have a genuine shot at first place after the final game of the season. They'll be missing Shahar Yar, who is serving a one-game suspension due to a red card received in Week 10. That match came with a lot of drama, but Anatolia came up with a convincing win that boosted the team's confidence tenfold. Versatile midfielder Syed Kazmi finally broke through with his first two goals of the season, and a helper on another for the Canaries. He's been like a Swiss-army knife all season, helping whereever and was rewarded with his name routinely showing up on the scoresheet last week. Newcomer Mike Isoufi continues to cause headaches for opponents as have another playmaker to plan for. Fawad Akram is the playmaker Zain had been seeking during his entire career as GM in BISL. He continues to make incredible plays and creates opportunities for the offence. The challenge for Anatolia is going to be to finally beat the one team they've failed to overpower this season. It may help that Samarra is coming off of their first loss of the season amidst the piling on of injuries to their key players. Atif Mian was seen being helped off the pitch last week. We hope he has recovered and is ready for the match this week. GM Junaid Akram has also been playing injured but just like a true leader, played through his injuries to ensure his team is motivated and focused on collecting the squad's third straight trophy. Rookie Aadhil Mohamed's 5-game goal scoring streak came to an end last week as the Redblacks were held to a single goal on a Jibran Sakrani strike. For Samarra to pick themselves up and consider last week's loss as just a blip on the radar, they need to come out with the same intensity they've used against teams that had them as unbeaten until MW10. A result of any kind will clinch top spot for the Samarrans, but a win would undoubtedly put this team back as favourites for silverware. With both teams already securing a playoff spot, you'd think they'd just play this match as a practice for post-season. But first place is up for grabs, so this match undoubtedly features more than just bragging rights on the line.

Marchweek 10 Rumours

[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad & Hashim Ghazi]
 
In the penultimate weekend of the season, no team has been officially eliminated from the playoffs. However, things may look very differently come 10:45PM on Sunday. Jerusalem need more or less of a miracle (winning both their matches, Anatolia losing both their matches, and somehow making up a 16 goal differential in the process), while the same can more or less said about Sham (Sham have to win outright as well and have a huge goal differential to make up of their own to make up, not to mention the fact that they play the undefeated first place Samarra this weekend). Meanwhile, only Samarra has punched their ticket for postseason glory, as Hejaz and Andalusia just need a point from their remaining two games to clinch as well. That leaves Anatolia, who need either Sham to not win Sunday or to beat Hejaz to confirm their spot. It's all but certain which four teams will be making the playoffs, but we at BISL love a little drama when it comes down to the wire. Before continuing, we have a transaction to announce: 
  • Shaheen Limbada, BISL star and jack-of-all-trades, has been forced to withdraw from Anatolia FC and has been replaced by Mike Isoufi. We hope to see Shaheen on the pitch next season and welcome newcomer Mike to the League. 
The deadline to make roster changes as a result of injury was on January 20, and the team squads are now locked in. Onto the rumours. 
 
SAMARRA vs SHAM (8:45 Field 4)
It took nine weeks but Samarra's undefeated streak has finally given them sole ownership of the top spot in the League. Week in and week out, this team has performed and looks poised to go the entire length of the regular season without a loss, something that's only been done once in BISL history. They have the best offense in the L by a wide margin and have the best GAGF. This team is for real and last week's match proved they are capable of rising to the occasion. The match again Andalusia was an intense battle between two teams to see who could create some separation at the top. The Aadhil Mohamed and Jibran Sakrani combination once again came out on top scoring two goals in a tightly contested game. There were some injuries in last week's match and we hope that everyone had time to recover and be ready for the last stretch here. The pick your poison game plan that Samarra has implemented has been a difficult problem for defenses to figure out. If you try and focus on Jibran and Aadhil, you'll find Junaid Akram and Atif Mian salivating at the opportunity to capitalize on the lack of attention shown their way. This team is a tough out, and their record shows it. Sham for the first time this season put in a dominant performance many expected to see from the start of the season. Khizer Shahzad's hattrick seemed effortless as he was able to make sure that Sham walked away from this match with three points. What has been different about this Sham team in their last two games has been their defense. The shortened rotation in the backline of Asif Ibn Rehana, Ahmad "Purple K" Alvi, and Hashim Ghazi has stabilized the defense and given Sham its identity as a defensive stalwart back. Saif Syed's new role between the sticks has been magnificent and they'll need continued excellence in his play if they can come up with a win against Samarra. Not to be overlooked has been the contribution of Salman Ahmad. A tireless worker when called upon, Salman's energy and ability to press from the front has proved to be a difference maker for the Orangemen, and he has carved out a niche role in the side that has paid dividends in both the team's wins. The game plan for Sham this week will be defense first. They can't be leaking away goals to Samarra because if the boys in black see an opening, they will take full advantage of it. The defense will need to once again keep it tight and feed GM Muhammad Shah and Khizer so they can get the three crucial points. It's win or bust for Sham, let's see if they cal pull off the upset.
 
ANATOLIA vs HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 3)
Anatolia find themselves in the precarious position of being all but certain to make the playoffs, yet being far from safe. In their matchup against Jerusalem last week, they netted a pair of goals and kept a clean sheet to get a much deserved win. Goalkeeper Zahid Merchant called it their best performance of the season, with the Canaries being in control from start to finish and never looking like the game was out of reach. There was concern in the void in leadership, versatility and skill left by Shaheen Limbada's forced withdrawal from the League, but the squad have found a quality replacement in Mike Isoufi who controlled the tempo of the match in midfield and even chipped with a goal on his debut. With Isoufi contributing in the midfield, it was Komayl Jawadi showing character and dominance in the backfield, as the rookie put in a Man of the Match performance starting in defence. However, the yellow submarine isn't in the clear yet; they will rest easy if they can collect some points against Hejaz this week. The Turks winning the match will confirm their spot in the playoffs, while a draw will all but confirm their invitation to the second season as well. Meanwhile, Hejaz looked like a shade of their dominant selves against Sham last week en route to a 3-0 loss. The boys in white could not beat out Sham's defence, and though they had a couple of chances, they weren't as clear cut as what we're used to seeing from this side. The side has now lost two matches in a row, which, despite a small sample size, must have GM Taqi Ahmed wondering what he can do to fix it. Without talisman Hannan Ahmed, the side needs to rely on other players to score goals. Nasir Rehman has done his share, but there's only so much that can be asked of their engine. The last match saw Hussam Ayubi take up positions in the front line, and though the scoreline did not show it, Ayubi did create some chances and kept opposing defenders on alert. We'll see what they come up this week if Ahmed is forced to miss another week. Hejaz only need a point over the next two matches to confirm their playoff berth, so all is not lost. What the side needs to do is continue to maintain that defense first philosophy in hopes of Hannan returning to full fitness by the time the playoffs come. With the numerous breaks in between matches, the extra time off to recover in between matches may be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Hejazis. 
 
ANDALUSIA vs JERUSALEM (9:45 Field 4)
It was a game of chances missed and a chance lost for Andalusia in Week 9. Needing to get a W in the match against a team they were tied with on points for a chance to reclaim top spot, the Spaniards came up fairly short with many missed opportunities. GM Omar Sheikh had a pretty rough day and was seen concerned, pacing the sidelines a lot. The Royal Blues gave up two soft goals that they would love to get back. Their defense seemed to be wanting to score goals rather than defend their own, with Owais Ansari missing three crucial chances, including one at the goal line that he's still having nightmares about. With forward Asif Ali out until the playoffs and Salman Siddiqui nursing bruises, the Andalusian forward contingent is looking shaken at the moment. It'll take the entire squad to dig deep and give it their all in MW10 to keep themselves in contention for the top spot with two more matches to play. They'll have to go through a frustrated Jerusalem side, who lost an opportunity to keep their playoff hopes alive after being clean-sheeted against Anatolia. After some promising performances the last few weeks that saw them get out of the basement and have a shot at a playoff spot, the Sky Blues reverted to the habits they had picked up earlier in the season. Jerusalem struggled to get many chances with veteran Nehad Shihab having a couple of quality chances that either went wide or were saved by the goalie. Apart from that, Jerusalem struggled to control possession of the ball for most of the match. GM Saqib Dadabhoy had a long chat with the team, keeping them motivated for the last 2 weeks of the season. Although the score line read 2-0, the JFC defense kept their opponent at bay for much of the game. And whatever they couldn't stop, goalkeeper Nabeel Jabbar was there to ensure the match was kept tight. For the most part, their defense held up well against a high powered offensive opponent; it was their offense that fell short of ensuring they're in contention for the playoffs. With two highly motivated teams highlighting the final match of the night, it's anyone's guess who'll come out on top. 

Matchweek 9 Rumours

[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad & Hashim Ghazi] 
 
We have an eventful trio of games this week with tons of storylines. Hejaz vs Sham sees the Orangemen needing to pull off the ultimate upset to have any chance of playing meaningful footy in the coming weeks, while Jerusalem look to continue their ascension up the table with a must-win game against Anatolia. The night caps off with the League's best offense pitted against the League's best goalkeeper of Andalusia in a table-topping matchup. With only three more matches to play, this weekend could lead to the playoffs all but being locked in, with only seeding to play for in MW10 and MW11. Let's see what's happening in the rumours this week.
 
HEJAZ vs SHAM (8:45PM Field 4)
Hejaz face the withering Sham this week and last time these two teams matched up, Hejaz went away with full points while Sham felt like they deserved more. Sham put up a great fight last week which really makes us wonder where they would be if they played like this from the start. The only thing we know for sure is they wouldn’t be at the bottom. There is no chatter of giving up in the dressing room right now; the team is playing for pride at this point with the playoff chances looking bleak. The resounding sentiment seems to be to play this season out and see where they stand at the end of it. After the break, Khizer Shahzad appears reinvigorated and has been playing at a much higher level; if GM Muhammad Shah can sustain his level of high play and the defense plays like they did it against a high powered offense like Anatolia, they might just be able to get the 3 points they’ve been longing for since MW3. The gameplan this week for Sham should be to score first and open that defense up a little bit. Hejaz are just too good when they play with a lead. If Sham can weather the Lilywhites' counter attacks and poke in a goal or two it would certainly help them pull off the upset. Hejaz come off last week with a huge win against Andalusia, sealing their path to the playoffs and putting them tied for points for top spot. They will now be jockeying with Samarra and Andalusia for seeding and it will be interesting to see how they finish the season. After their hot start, they have done just enough to get the points needed but have lost their hold at the top of the table. They can get it back with a statement win Sunday. The game plan for Hejaz this week will be to live off the counter. The pace and power of Nasir Rehman, Hussam Ayubi and Farhan Butt mixed with the finesse of Taqi Ahmed and Hannan Ahmed will be on full display against a defense that doesn’t set up too well to prevent counterattacking team. Will Sham be able to steal points off the Hejazis or will it be business as usual for the boys in white?  
 
ANATOLIA vs JERUSALEM (8:45PM Field 3)
Anatolia come into Matchweek 9 dearly holding on to the last playoff spot after their second draw in a row, thanks to the heroics of GM Zain Khilji leading from the front. The Canaries again were slowing coming out of the gate but quickly regrouped to control possession as they had the previous week. They were rewarded with a goal from Khilji that went through the defenders legs and then past the goalie who had little chance. Sham did press and equalize in the dying seconds of the half and kept the pressure on. The Yellow shirts started to look a little tired in the second half and were punished with a goal from Sham. Anatolia was unable to convert several open chances, partially because of the defense in front of them but also because guys were holding the ball too much and not being ruthless in front of net. However, they were able to equalize on a beautiful Khilji header that literally moved the goal! Anatolia did get a lot more chances after that but couldn't convert. The score could have easily been very lopsided in their favour had those gone in. With the likes of Komayl Jawadi and Shahar Yar holding the fort on defense with the ability to push up, and Fawad Akram in the middle making plays, Zain has the squad to make that final push. They have to come out of the gate hard and solidify their playoff position. It won't be easy since this week, as the surging Jerusalem team are on their toes for fourth spot thanks to a new found energy primarily brought by BISL veteran Nehad Shihab, who contributed last week with two goals last week to collect a draw against the heavily favoured Samarra. At the beginning of the season, we compared GM Saqib Dadaboy's side to Arsenal, and we cannot help but notice the parralels. Out goes Dadabhoy and in comes a younger, more handsome and fresh face to lead the side to refound glory. Sometimes, even we surprise ourselves with how easily these things write themselves. Nabeel Jabbar kept them in the game with 13 saves against a belligerent attack from the hands of Andalusia. It looks like Jerusalem is the one team that has benefited the most from the break as they've played exceptionally well and like the teams of its storied past. Like their opponents in MW9, the Sky Blues need a win to keep them in the playoff hunt. Only a win would help them have a chance at a playoff spot. A draw or a loss will virtually end it for them here with nothing to play for in the final matches of the season. They don't want to end this season the same way it ended for them the previous year, on sidelines versus the postseason. With their newly discovered swagger, and a renewed confidence, Jerusalem is looking to give Anatolia a run for the money and put some fire under them. This will be the one match this week everyone is going to be looking forward to.
 
SAMARRA vs ANDALUSIA (9:45PM Field 3) 
The premium match of the night is a battle for top spot (something we feel like we've been saying every week with the moment amongst the top four). Both teams are a ruing the opportunity to claim sole possession of the top of the table. A draw in this match and win by Hejaz will drop them both off the top, with a potential first round playoff face off against each other. Samarra played fairly well against their opponents in Matchweek 8, remaining unbeaten, but came out with a draw against a team fighting for its playoff life. With so many chances, Samarra only were successful in converting three. That's pretty low for a high scoring team that prides itself on creating chances and converting those chances into goals. GM Junaid Akram was kept off the score sheet but Aadhil Mohamed hasn't missed a beat, adding another goal to his stellar rookie campaign. Goalie Basil Jeelany made some crucial saves down the stretch to keep the game tied. He'll be called upon again this week to hold the fort against an attack-happy Andalusia. The Redblacks need to control possession and come back on defense quickly to negate a counter attack by the Spaniards. Speaking of which, the Andalusians were visibly upset at the result of their last match against Hejaz. GM Omar Sheikh was hoping for a better result from his squad that was missing striker Salman Siddiqui who was out with a nagging injury. It was essentially a maintenance day for him. We hope to see him return this week. That finishing ability was clearly missing as the Blues only managed to get a single goal against the stingiest defense in the league. Ali Wadee was able to pot his first of the season from a nice pass from rookie Saad K. For a team that prides on counter-attacks, it was frustrating for them to not be able to get their bread and butter going. They'll probably stick to their game plan that has worked for them all year, and press their opponents to the limits in hopes of costly turnover that convert to numbers on the board. The Royals have been short nearly every game this year, and face another potentially short squad this week for Sunday with some players nursing injuries and still away on travel. This one will be an eventful affair, as Andalusia hopes to bring the Samarrans back to life and end their dreams of a perfect season. 

Matchweek 8 Rumours

[written by: Bassam Basit, Riaz Murad, Umair Ashraf & Hashim Ghazi]
 
With only four matches remaining in the regular season, there remains a lot to say about BISL Season 6. In a crucial six pointer, Jerusalem collected their first official win of the season against a lowly Sham side. Meanwhile, Samarra looked locked and loaded to start the new year on a tear with a drubbing of the short-handed Hejaz, and Anatolia relied on their superstar duo up front to snatch a point just before the final whistle of their matchup with league leaders Andalusia. 
 
The results from last week see Sham drop to the bottom but still mathematically in play to make the playoffs (albeit the odds are heavily stacked against them). The marquee matchup of the week is between two sides who have looked all the part of champions all season in Andalusia and Hejaz. Meanwhile, Jerusalem looks to show that they are for real in 2020 but face a challenge in the red hot Samarrans.
 
Onto the rumours. 
 
SHAM vs ANATOLIA (8:45PM Field 4)
When it rains, it pours. That statement is ringing frighteningly true for Sham FC and GM Muhammad Shah. After the 5-2 drubbing last week at the hands of fellow basement dwellers Jerusalem, the Oranje find themselves at the bottom of the table now, needing to win out the rest of their fixtures to even have a chance at making the playoffs. After giving up 10 goals in their last 2 games, both losses, Sham are desperate to stop to bleeding. What's worse is that they're unable to score many goals given the lack of firepower the team has. Shah has to get more production out of his squad that features players like Khizar Shahzad and Ahmad Alvi, who can create their own shots. Defensively, they have to play better in front of their keeper, Moiz Badar, who is seeing multiple shots coming his way. They need to be better at blocking shots or even preventing them from developing altogether. Speaking of shots, Anatolia fired 13 of them but only managed to score 2 goals. They were slow out of the gate and were quickly down 2-0 within the first few minutes. However, they were able to shut down their opponents from there on, with expert ball possession and precision passing, forcing Andalusia to play away from their run and gun style of play. Shorthanded for another week, the Canaries were able control play but unable to find the back of the net for most of the game until Fawad Akram netted one in the 2nd half. From them on, it was all pressure from the Turks as they pressed for the equalizer, finally succeeding in the final minute of the game when GM Zain Khilji took a precise long pass from Fawad to finish off the game and end his 3 game pointless streak. Anatolia go into MW8 with an eye in the rear-view mirror and finally have a full squad after what seems like a decade (you see what we did there?). They'll be looking to repeat their 7-goal performance from MW2 against a highly motiviated Sham team.
 
JERUSALEM vs SAMARRA (8:45PM Field 3)
Well, the time off and personnel change has certainly benefitted Jerusalem. They looked a completely different side against Sham last week, going from 2-2 at the break to 5-2 up (which ironically was the scoreline favouring Sham in the reverse fixture - talk about a poetic comeback). Returning player Nehad Shihab added some much-needed grit to their play, taking over the responsibility from the withdrawn-due-to-injury GM Saqib Dadabhoy. Their famed attacking firepower in Syed Murtaza Tirmizi and Bassam Basit were both on the money with a brace each, with the former also getting an assist and being the first player from their team to be featured as a Player of the Week in the League. The Sky Blues have two "wins" on the bounce now. However, their momentum will truly be put to the test when they face the undefeated Samarra this Sunday. Samarra seemed to have finally figured out how to translate their dominant performances into wins now, with an impressive 6 goals against Hejaz last week. The team's attack continues to be led by rookie sensation Aadhil Mohamed, but the inclusion of other attackers like Jibran Sakrani, Atif Mian and GM Junaid Akram into the mix reminded the League what this side is capable of. GM Akram finally got off the mend with his first pair of goals in the season after countless chances. If the forward-turned-midfielder has now found his shooting boots, it can only spell trouble for their remaining opponents. The last time these two sides faced each other, Samarra put up the highest goal tally on the season with eight. It was a thrashing thanks to a hattrick from Mohamad and a quality display by the rest of the side. Jerusalem definitely won't be looking for a repeat of that scoreline, and are ready to silence the Samarra attack with their new tactical plan.
 
HEJAZ vs ANDALUSIA (9:45PM Field 3)
The Hejazis and Andalusians were showing signs of the winter rust, with both teams feeling disappointed with the results of Matchweek 7. The Andalusians held an early lead but squandered it late to the Turks to settle for the draw. They remain on top of the table, but with Samarra putting the League on notice with their performance last week, the Spaniards are feeling the heat. GM Omar Sheikh persists to get production out of his team and continues to do his part. Salman Siddiqui and Asif Ali continue to pile on goals, while Ali Wadee and Owais Ansari hold down the fort at the back. Their co-MVP Jibran Waqar continues to put in incredible performances week after week.  Andalusia will need to be at their best if they want the 3 points against a reeling but strong Hejazi team. On the other side of the pitch, the story is a little different. There is no appealing the verdict of last week’s game. It might be a one off, but GM Taqi Ahmed and his squad have some questions to answer. The solid fortress of Hejaz allowed 6 goals in one game, when they had allowed only 8 through their previous 6 games combined. However, there seems to be no panic in the Hejazi locker room, with team Captain Umair Sheikh regrouping his guys and focusing on getting the W. Much like last game, Hejaz may be without Hannan Ahmed, who picked up a knock on his knee early against Samarra and will be without star defender Farhan Butt as he serves his one game suspension. Hejaz will need their vets Nasir Rehman, Hussam Ayubi and the aforementioned Ahmed and Sheikh to be give their best performances to ensure they put up a fight with the league leaders. Will Andalusia be able to figure out the Hejazi defence? Can Hejaz regroup and go back to their winning ways? This match will be a playoff preview between two dynamic squads. 

Matchweek 7 Rumours

[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad, Zain Khilji & Hashim Ghazi]
 
New Year, New Beginnings. Or is it? For the first time, Andalusia sit atop the standings heading into the New Year. The team's pressing approach and ability to create goals from their minimal chances has led to the Royal Blues sitting atop of the points table. However, week over week, Hejaz has looked most dominant as a collective unit and look to be the team to beat. Taqi Ahmed & Co. had a fair share of its doubters, thinking they would come back to earth after some lucky results. However, the Lilywhites have shown that they are here for the long haul and have every quality needed to win a championship. Not too far behind sit Samarra who finally got a win against one of the top four sides, and Anatolia, who, despite some impressive performances in past weeks, find themselves with only 8 points after six matches. Sham and Jerusalem sit at the bottom with their work cut out for them. With five games to go on the season, they will need to capture every point available to them, starting with a crucial matchup against one another to start 2020. 
 
Before going into the matchups, we have a transaction to report: 
  • GM Saqib Dadabhoy of Jerusalem is forced to withdraw as a result of a nagging knee injury that has limited his play all season. He has been replaced by BISL veteran and star Nehad Shihab, formerly of Anatolia. Saqib will remain as GM for Jerusalem and may attend matches in a managerial capacity. We wish Saqib all the best in his recovery and welcome Nehad back into the fold. 
Here are this week's rumours, fresh off the press. 
 
ANDALUSIA vs ANATOLIA (8:45PM Field 4)
Andalusia, come into the New Year sitting at the top of the table, and are determined to take a stranglehold of their perch this week and moving forward. GM Omar Sheikh has been quite busy in the first half of the season moving his lineups around to ensure maximum productivity from his squad of talented players. With Saad K surprising the entire league and leading his team in points, look for Omar to rely on him more to make plays against the Turks' defense. Striker Salman Siddiqui is determined to add to his tally of goals going into the final stretch of the season. He was seen practicing his gameface during the week. With Asif Ali and the other Omar, Omar El-Askalany, always being a threat, and with a backline of Owais Ansari and Ali Wadee, the Spaniards are determined to keep hold of that top spot and avoid the mistakes made in the first half of the season. For Anatolia, the keyword is "Resilience". With the barrage of injuries this team has faced during the season, only true grit and determination from GM Zain Khilji's squad has kept them in a playoff spot. Being extremely short-handed in their last game, they were still beaten by a single goal. This team has and can take a beating but keeps on getting up to fight a good fight. Zain had instructed his team to rest up over the holidays as he expects a hard push for the playoff run for his team. Fawad Akram and Shaheen Limbada have led the team in point production during throughout the team injury spell and should get plenty of supporting firepower coming back from the holidays. The Canaries would love to avenge their Week 3 defeat to Andalusia with a solid outing here in MW7. This could be a potential playoff matchup preview if the standings remain the same going forward, so Anatolia really needs to plan for this game in an effort to scheme for if they see the Blues again come the postsseason. But, they need to also watch their rearview mirror to ensure they don't fall out of the final playoff spot. Their Resilience will really be tested from here on out.
 
SHAM vs JERUSALEM (8:45PM Field 3) 
As the calendar flips to a new year, it remains to be seen whether these two bottom dwellers are the same team that closed 2019. Sham comes into this matchup with a league-worst Goal Difference. They are struggling to score goals and worse, they are struggling to stop the opponents from scoring them, which has been Sham's bread and butter the last two years. After a dispiriting 5-0 loss against Andalusia in matchweek 6, the team looked broken. They could not defend, score or do much of anything that game. However, the break could not have come at a better time for the Oranje. They needed this time off as a retrospective and iron out the laundry list of issues. Despite that, they are only four points out of a playoff spot. They aren't out of the hunt just yet, but the door is closing on them fast. The thing to watch out for this week would be the offense. Even in their only win of the season, the offense seemed rushed and out of control. Will that change after the break? Let's wait and see. Jerusalem sit at the bottom of the table with three points as a result of Board decision awarding them full points in their last match. Will the addition of Nehad Shihab re-energize this once-proud franchise for a last push for the postseason? Despite their struggles, they are also just five points out of a postseason spot. A win against Sham will flip their positions on the table and start the new year with some positive momentum. The men in sky blue definitely showed glimpses in their matches but the problem is they are always just glimpses. They have the star power in Murtaza Tirmizi and Bassam Basit to score in bunches but the defense is giving away more than they can keep up with. The thing to watch out for this week is whether or not Nehad can energize this team's defense, giving the offense a chance to get them the 3 points. Both teams are fighting to keep their season alive; the question: is who will survive? 
 
HEJAZ vs SAMARRA (9:45PM Field 3)
Samarra FC ended the season on a positive note having finally won a game after three consecutive draws and some may not realize that they are still undefeated this season. They sit in third place despite avoiding collecting points from each fixture this season and are only a game’s length away from joining the top with a gap of just 3 points. Absences have hurt their chances thus far, but rookie starlet Aadhil Mohamed has led the team in scoring to ensure they don’t finish a game empty-handed. GM Junaid Akram has taken a step out of the lights as a scorer with a more defensive and linking style of play to contribute four assists so far. That is great to see from any GM and it has paid dividends to their success this season. Team morale is high, and the offense looks very dangerous when Jibran Sakrani is available for selection. They will certainly test Hejaz and their resilient defense in a game that we expect to be tight encounter. Hejaz, despite sitting in second due to the Board decision from their last matchup, remain the team to beat this season and still may receive more votes to emerge with all 3 points from the match with their impressive organization and ability to take their chances in front of goal. With Nasir Rehman in the heart of the midfield, it's difficult for opponents to keep possession in the Hejaz half to forego a risk of a Hejazi counter - something they’ve used to their strengths. Defenders Farhan Butt and Hussam Ayubi have developed a fierce partnership in front of goalkeeper Umair Shiekh, and many forwards across the league have scars to show for it. They compliment each other very well and aren’t afraid to dig deep for those 50/50 balls. We are exciting to see how deep Nasir will be deployed as the heart that makes the team beat against a formidable offensive side in Samrra. On offense, Nasir, GM Taqi Ahmed and Hannan Ahmed can create scoring chances at will given their fluidity as an attacking unit up front. This match will be one to watch and one that will leave a mark in the standings for playoffs.    

Matchweek 6 Rumours

[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad, Umair Ashraf & Hashim Ghazi]
 
It seems like we just started the season yesterday and we are at the half way mark. Hejaz sit at the top of the table and they, along with Samarra, are undefeated. Both Andalusia and Anatolia have been taking turns keeping the second place spot warm and the hype surrounding them entering the offseason appears to be legit. On the other hand, the hype surrounding Sham has fallen flat on its face, as they three points out of the playoffs. Jerusalem have yet to secure a point but the good news for them is that there remains five more games to play. One upset can change the course of everything in this League, and it remains to be seen who will come out on top. Hejaz look to be in pole position though, and credit to them for their performances thus far. Here are your MW6 rumours. 
 
HEJAZ vs JERUSALEM (8:45PM Field 4)
Midway through the season, both Hejaz and Jersualem are tied for the least amount of goals scored at 8 but find themselves at opposite ends of the table. GM Taqi Ahmed and Captain Umair Sheikh have Hejaz at the top of the table primarily because of their structured and responsible system with a heavy focus on team defence. After going down to the Turks, the men in white dug in to come back and tie the game, with Taqi showing that great things can happen when you get ball to the net. Both Nasir Rehman and Hannan Ahmed showed glimpses of the offence that looks poised on breaking out. But the story of their season is the backend of Hussam Ayubi, Farhan Butt, Mustafa Tirmizi and the aforementioned Sheikh that has neutralized all the offences so far. On the other side of the pitch, things seem to get worse for Jerusalem. Another week, another loss. The men in baby blue put in a feisty performance and saw glimpses of the team that GM Saqib Dadabhoy wants them to be, yet they seem to be having a hard time putting it together for the full game.  A bright spot has been the play of Murtaza Tirmizi, tied for the league lead in goals, but he’s going to need some help from his teammates. There seem to be more questions than answers at this point but Jerusalem have the squad to turn it around. Will Jerusalem finally be able to get some points on the table? Will Hejaz be able to find their offence? This will be a spirited game for both teams and one that will be treat to watch. 
 
SAMARRA vs ANATOLIA (8:45PM Field 3)
Can you say "cursed"? Anatolia can't catch a break from this injury bug. One more week, and one more player out due to injury. This time it's striker Riaz Murad who injured his foot in the beginning of the second half against Hejaz. He is currently being evaluated and will miss this week's stint - we hope the midseason break gives him the time needed to heal and come back as a force in 2020. GM Zain Khilji and the Canaries missed a great opportunity to take top spot in a matchup with Hejaz but settled for a draw. Goalie Zahid Merchant is still reeling from the goal he gave up that tied the game. Otherwise, they'd have been happy with a 1-0 scoreline. Anatolia is a resilient team, as they have presented multiple lineups due to injuries but remain in the hunt for top spot. Fawad Akram and Shaheen Limbada have been the carrying force during these trying times and are expected to carry the load again this week. Samarra on the other hand, are "struggling" to get a win. Although, they're not losing, three ties in a row should be bothering GM Junaid Akram. Getting great starts from his team and not being able to finish with a W should put some pressure on any GM, but Junaid seems to take it in stride, having great confidence in his team. Rookie Aadhil Mohamed continues to shine, leading with two goals last week and playing through a very rough game from their opponents. Although Atif Mian was held to a lonely assist last week, he's chomping at the bits to get some goals in against the Turks. Samarra is a formidable team when it has its full squad. And so far, like Anatolia, they haven't had a consistent lineup. This will be an interesting match up where both GMs are working hard to draw up gameplans to solve each other. Can one of these teams come out with a win this week, or are we going to see a dud of a draw?
 
ANDALUSIA vs SHAM (9:45PM Field 3)
Andalusia comes out of the first half of the season sitting in second place with 10 points. At the halfway mark, they have to be happy with how things have turned out. What stands out about this team is how they are getting contributions from everyone on the team. Six players have scored for the side and they have yet to give up more than three goals in a match. It is a well-balanced team that relies on systematic play and structure over talent (though that's no slouch to some of the elite play we have seen from individual Spaniards this season). Their last game against Jerusalem was a bit of a come-out party for star Omar El-Askalany who played a part in all three of their goals. This is a good sign for a team that has so far survived without a high level of output from him thus far. Currently sitting 1 point behind Hejaz, a win this week might just put them over the top. In the first matchup against Sham, they dominated the entire game and felt unlucky to win by only a two-goal margin. They'll most likely stick to a game plan that has worked so well so far: play fast and press high. If Andalusia is getting a contribution from everyone on offense, Sham is the complete opposite. GM Muhammad Shah has scored 50% of the team's goals and they will need contributions from other players if they want to make the playoffs. Last week they did experiment with the lineup once again in which Humeid Khan was moved up to help on offense and Ahmad Alvi was charged to help out on defense. Both aspects of their game were improved against Samarra in a game in which they drew 2-2. For the first time this season, there seemed to be a game plan behind their offense and it will be interesting to see if it was a fluke or something they can build upon in their match this week. In their previous matchup, the speed and pressing of Andalusia really bothered this Sham team; if they can counteract that and grab a win it will make the playoff race all the more interesting. The game plan for Sham this week (and every week for that matter) will be: play with urgency. Their season hangs in balance. can this team play with the aggression, urgency, and rhythm that hasn't been there all season?

Matchweek 5 Rumours

[written by: Bassam Basit, Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad & Hashim Ghazi]
 
Matchwweek 5 features another top-of-the-table matchup - something we feel like we say every week with the movement in the middle of the table - as Hejaz and Anatolia battle it out in the late night spot. But before that, we feature two matchups with a bit of history at 8:45. A rematch of the the last two finals is going down on Field 4 as Sham look to find their footing against their foes Samarra (who have been struggling to collect full points on Sundays as well), while former teammates Saqib Dadabhoy and Omar Sheikh face off in the battle of the BISL Blues. Here are your rumours for this week. 
 
SHAM vs SAMARRA (8:45PM Field 4)
A rematch of the last two BISL Finals has a different scent to it this year, as the two teams who are usually fighting for top spot find themselves in a very different section of the table heading into MW5. Sham comes off a disappointing loss in a game where they seemed to hold possession and dominate for most of it. Two costly mistakes resulted in two goals and their struggling offense just could not keep up. Four weeks in the lack of rhythm on offense from Sham has been startling, considering the talent on the team, with the likes of Khizer Shahzad, Muhammad Shah and Ahmad Alvi. Excluding their five goal outburst a few weeks ago, Sham have only managed to score one goal in each of their three losses. GM Shah has rolled out four different starting lineups in hopes that one of those combinations will click and change the outlook of their entire season. For the upcoming match, the game plan for Sham seems to be simple: score. goals. Until they do that, they’ll be slipping further and further away from playoff contention. If you have watched Samarra all season, you’d be surprised to see them sitting in third place. They have looked fluid and comfortable on the pitch and many still consider them to be title favourites. Despite the strong performances, Samarra keeps finding itself ending the match in a stalemate. While undefeated, they are only 3 points ahead of their struggling opponents this week. A lot of this can be contributed to them missing their ace striker Jibran Sakrani in half their games thus far. If Samarra can turn some of these shootouts into wins, they will find themselves challenging Hejaz for the top spot on the table. This matchup seems tailor made for the Black Stars, who are second in the league in goals scored, thanks to their attacking trio of Aadhil Mohamed, Atif Mian and GM Junaid Akram. If they can score around their averages of 3.5 goals per game, it will be tough for Sham to keep up and challenge the defending champs. 
 
JERUSALEM vs ANDALUSIA (8:45PM Field 3) 
Another week, another possible opportunity for Jerusalem to turn things around as we reach the halfway point of the season. They were without GM Saqib Dadabhoy and keeper Yasser Zia against Anatolia, but only squandered the opportunity themselves to draw level with the last kick of the game. Defender and back up goalkeeper Nabeel Jabbar still put in a decent shift between the sticks. A little more stability at the back would ease the creative minds of Bassam Basit and Syed Murtaza Tirmizi to focus on their strong suits, creating and finishing chances, respectively. Substitute Ali Lone has been making an impact with his play between the lines, and though he is not eligible to play every week, he’s a welcome option at the disposal of the sky blues when needed. The two Omars of Andalusia will be a hefty task for the shaky Jerusalem defence with the lung-busting runs of Owais Ansari from deep another tactic in their arsenal. With Jibran Waqar turning heads in net and producing save after save against Samarra FC to earn his side a point, they look a formidable side on the rise. Andalusia have a super sub of their own in Saad K, but GM Omar Sheikh is confident his side can still win matches without his substitute engine being called upon. The key is who he elects to play the DM role for the Spaniards. We have seen a number of different players line up in the position for the side, but nobody (save for Saad) has locked down the position. The benefit for a team like the Royals is they have a bevy of options to choose from and expect them to try different combinations in the middle depending on the strengths (and weaknesses) of their opponents. 
 
HEJAZ vs ANATOLIA (9:45PM Field 3) 
Four teams have challenged Hejaz and four teams have been unable to beat the Whites - now that’s a headline GM Taqi Ahmed loves to see. After a hard-fought draw in MW3, the Hejazis managed to pull out a one goal win against an experienced team last week. While they have given up very few goals, they’ve failed to score a lot as well. One could say that they’ve taken the “score more goals than the other team” mantra to heart and have been able to just score enough goals to eke out wins in three of the four matches they’ve played. Matchweek 5 sees them square off against the second place Turks who are talented enough to score in bunches. The focal point for Hejaz will be the midfield engine duo of Farhan Butt and Nasir Rehman, who the rest of the league have failed to slow down. With a supporting cast of role players, Hejaz plan to stay on top at the end of MW5. Anatolia, coming off a gutsy win against the only winless team in the league, are one team that could knock off Hejaz from their perch at the top if they win this Sunday. They have the firepower to do that in GM Zain Khilji, who was scoreless in Week 4 (must be the mask he wore during the match), the magician Fawad Akram, and Shaheen Limbada, who showed why he’s one of the most formidable veterans in the league by smashing a wide angle shot for a fantastic goal last week. Komayl Jawadi remains sidelined for a second week in a row, so Nabil Muntazir may make another appearance this week. For the Canaries to beat Lilywhites this week, they’ll have to show better poise by scoring early and keeping a lead intact, as they have made things interesting over the last couple of weeks with their complacency. They were seen being observed last week by their upcoming opponents so they better up the ante this week. Will Anatolia solve the unsolvable Hejaz this week, as others have failed to do so, or will Hejaz remain masters of their own destiny at the half way mark of the season – find out in the later edition of BISL MW5!

Matchweek 4 Rumours

[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad, Umair Ashraf and Hashim Ghazi]
 
Three weeks in the books, and we find one team pointless and another undefeated. Hejaz and Jerusalem were old foes in the early stages of the League, and after both missing out on the playoffs last year, they find themselves at opposite ends of the table (Hejaz first, Jerusalem last) at the early stages of this campaign. Meanwhile, after a huge win against Anatolia last week, Andalusia look to show they have the class to beat the best of them with a matchup against Samarra this week. Sham finally found themselves on the right side of a result but face a tough task against leage leaders Hejaz, while Anatolia's biggest opponent has been the bad luck they've faced on the injury front, yet hope to regain some momentum (and fitness) against a Jerusalem side we have yet to see the best of. 
After some injury news last week, we have a transaction to report: 
  • Shah Yar has been selected by Anatolia FC as the full-time replacement for Altamash Khan. Shah has suited up for the Turks as a substitute this year and we welcome him officially to the League. We also wish Altamash a speedy recovery.
  • With Shah Yar joining Anatolia as a first-team player, his substitute role has been filled by Nabil Muntazir. Nabil will now serve as Anatolia's substitute for the rest of the season and we are happy to welcome him back after a solid individual campaign with Jerusalem FC last year. 

Both players will be available for selection this Sunday. Now, here are your rumours heading into Matchweek 4. 

 
SHAM vs HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 4)
For the first time this season, the entire Sham team was laced up and ready to play, and the early season optimism looked to materialize.  Their last game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, they looked shaky and nervous as the starting six had never played together, but after a critical half time talk they came out firing on all cylinders where they scored five goals unanswered in quick succession. GM Muhammad Shah, not ready to let the team fall to the bottom of the table, scored a remarkable hat-trick, with the help of Khizer Shahzad who assisted on two of those goals. However, this upcoming game will require a quick and sudden change in gears because they will be facing Hejaz who are sitting on top of the table right now like its 2015 all over again. The second season spell of GM Taqi Ahmed is looking Mourinho-esque, and they're playing like it too. They've only given up three goals in three games and getting through the likes Hussam Ayubi and Nasir Rehman only to find Umair Sheikh waiting between the sticks has had several offenses scratching their heads - just ask Samarra who had scored eleven goals in two games prior only to walk away with one against Hejaz's stellar defense. While they have conceded the least amount of goals, they have also scored the least. Taqi will need to figure out a way to get the offense rolling, along with promising striker Hannan Ahmed; otherwise every game this season will require their defense to be at its best. If their defense can remain steady and their offense starts rolling, that undefeated streak could see itself continuing.
 
ANDALUSIA vs SAMARRA (8:45PM Field 3) 
Both Samarra and Andalusia showed why they are near the top of the table last week. The men in black put in a solid effort but will feel disappointed they didn’t get the three points against their undermanned opponent. Rookie sensation Aadil Mohamed left his marker in the dust and had the game on his foot, but an incredible save from the veteran Umair Sheikh kept the game tied and left the Samarrans off pace for top spot in the L. Playing as a full unit, GM Junaid Akram and Captain Atif Mian got a glimpse of the powerhouse potential their group has, and once the Jibran-Aadil-Junaid trio starts clicking, defences around the league will be put on notice. Insider sources tell us that both goal-sccorer Jibran Sakrani and defender Salman Ahmad will be away this weekend as they continue to search for the best banquet hall biryani in the GTA. On the other side of the pitch, the Andalusians put in a gritty effort last week to come away with the W against a solid Anatolian squad. GM Omar Sheikh had his men play some inspiring football and put in a gutsy performance. Salman Siddiqui channeled his inner Robert Lewandowski and potted a brace and Omar El Askalany showed glimpses of the all-star talent he has with a pair of assists. “Rookie” goaltender Jibran Waqar continues to turn heads with his incredible play in net. This week it will be a battle of the offences; both teams have enough firepower to turn any game into a blowout. It remains to be seen which veteran defensive unit will hold its ground and slow down the other. Will Andalusia be able to take advantage of a shorthanded Samarra squad, or will the Samarrans play with the same fluidity like they did when they were undermanned like last time? It will be a grind it out type game and one that will be a treat to watch!
 
JERUSALEM vs ANATOLIA (9:45PM Field 3) 
The season seems to be slipping away from GM Saqib Dadabhoy after another drubbing in Matchweek 3 against Sham. They played well in the first half and took a 1-0 lead into the second half where it all broke down for them. The sky blues now are the only winless team remaining in the league. They’ll need every single player to fire on all cylinders to get their first win of the season in MW4. Murtaza Tirmizi was held scoreless in the last game. So, for Jerusalem to get anything going, they’ll need to get the ball to Tirmizi to do his magic. And it all starts with the defense, where Saqib needs to build his strategy from. Being -10 on goal differentials is significant, but that will only matter for seeding for the playoffs. Right now, it starts from getting them their first win against a talented Anatolia team. The canaries themselves are coming off a disappointing loss where they literally let one slip. Missing two players, GM Zain Khilji being one of them, and with star defenseman Altamash Khan out for the season, the Turks played pretty well. For a team that has looked like one of the top teams on paper this season, the injury bug has really affected them. The yellow submarine will be pleased to have sub Shah Yar join the side on a full-time basis as Altamash's replacement. However, there may be a new injury scare, as Komayl Jawadi went down with a knee injury in Week 3 that saw him unable to continue on the pitch for the majority of the second half. We wish Komayl a speedy recovery and remain hopeful his season is not yet done. He’s day to day, and will be re-evaluated before the game on Sunday. With Khilji back in the fold this week, helped by star playmaker Fawad Akram and a veteran supporting cast of Shaheen Lambada and Zahid Merchant, the Anatolians will need to impose their will against Jerusalem and keep them winless. When firing on all cylinders, these Turks are unstoppable!

Matchweek 3 Rumours

[written by: Humeid Khan, Zain Khilji & Hashim Ghazi]
 
Week 2 came and went and saw Hejaz FC stake their claim to first place in the table. The boys in white have put in two solid performances en route to a perfect record so far, but face the offensive juggernaut and defending champ Samarra FC this week. A tale of two contrasting styles face off in the other early matchup with the Spaniards taking on the Turks. And the late night matchup features a pair of winless sides hoping for any sort of positives after a pair of dire displays in previous weeks. Before heading into this week's news, we have some unfortunate injury news to report: 
  • Altamash Khan of Anatolia FC reaggravated a knee injury that forces him to withdraw from the League for the season. A replacement player has yet to be named. 
Let's see how the rumours are shaping up heading into Matchweek 3.
 
ANATOLIA vs ANDALUSIA (8:45PM Field 4)
Despite coming off a huge 7-1 win, the atmosphere in Anatolia's locker room seemed bleak after Altamash Khan limped off the field in the first minute of the game. It seems he reaggravated his knee injury on which he had surgery the year before, forcing him to withdraw from the League this year. This will be quite a blow to the team that was going to rely on Altamash to anchor their defense alongside Shaheen Limbada. We wish Altamash a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on the BISL field next season. Aside from the injury news, Anatolia was firing on all cylinders; the new partnership of GM Zain Khilji and Fawad Akram is as formidable on the field as it sounded on paper. They have already combined for 10 points in 2 games, a level of production that has defences scratching their head trying to figure out how to stop it. Despite the 7-1 scoreline, Zahid Merchant was tested this game and made a flurry of incredible saves, holding Sham to just one goal. The upcoming game will be an excellent test for Anatolia who didn't end up on the right side of the result in either matchups against this week's foes last year. On the other side of the matchup, Andalusia is coming off a narrow loss in which the team could be seen huddled around long after the match had ended discussing ways to unlock an offense that relies too heavily on Omar² (GM Omar Sheikh and first round pick Omar El Askalany). Having Saad K back against Anatolia will certainly help in that regard as the sub will be filling in against for the Royal Blues this week. First-time goalkeeper Jibran Waqar has been a revelation in the early part of the season with his acrobatic saves, making the already formidable defense of Andalusia that much tougher to beat.  Sheikh's team seems to have had no trouble picking up their identity from last season, an identity that seemed to be a big weakness for Anatolia last season who lost both fixtures against Andalusia's up-tempo playing style. It will be interesting to see if Anatolia's shorthanded defense can open Andalusia's offense, and help regain the lead over Anatolia in the points table.
 
SAMARRA vs HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 3)
The two sides that found themselves collecting all three points last week face off in Matchweek 3. Samarra showed that they are a force to be reckon with in an 8-2 battering of their opponents last week. GM Junaid Akram looks all the part to carry on his side's championship ambitions, thanks largely in part to the play of rookie Aadil Mohamed. Mohamed had a hat trick and added a helper in the Samarran's win, and looks like a true talisman for the side up front. Not to be lost in the heroics of the offense was a staunch defensive performance by the boys in Black. The team defended as a unit and gave little for the opponents to work with, allowing them to play the game at their pace and control the match. Atif Mian, despite nursing a bit of a knock, continued his stellar form with another goal and assist on the day. Both Aadil and Atif sit in the top three in the League in points thus far, and look to add to that tally against the Hejazis this week. Hejaz had an impressive display of their own last week en route to three points against Andalusia that brings them to sole control of the top of the table. The lilywhites handled Andalusia's press well and seemed as if they had been playing together for weeks. Credit to GM Taqi Ahmed for drafting a side that boasts familiarity and works well as a unit. It appears the side knows how to play together and to their strengths, which will only lead to more Ws. Rookie Hannan Ahmed had a strong display up front scoring the first BISL goal of his career and adding another helper as well. Hejaz may have uncovered a diamond in the rough in Ahmed who seems like the perfect compliment to Taqi and Nasir Rehman in midfield. If Hejaz continues to put in professional displays like the last few weeks, they will be a tough to knock out of the #1 spot. They face their toughest matchup today in Samarra this week, and if they can weather that storm, they will warrant the title of being the "team to beat" this season. 
 
JERUSALEM vs SHAM (9:45PM Field 3) 
Sham, who are used to being the ones to inflict damage, suffered a hefty defeat to the Anatolians last weekend. This has got to be the worse start of any team GM Muhammed Shah has been on, but to be fair, key absences have led to this downfall. Shah and Saif Syed were both unavailable in the 7-1 beating leaving Khizer Shahzad, who did not feature in game 1, at a disconnect from Sham's midfield. His efforts created a goal put in by sub Talha Kirmani but apart from that, they were rather ambitious often with no support. The season is still in the early stages and having their full squad may be enough to bring back their pre-season hype. Offense will be the focal point for their success this season with Khizer being the only goal scorer by trait. Shah and Ahmed Alvi will be required to contribute on that front without compromising solidity in the midfield. We hope to see the real Sham in full this weekend and as a result, establish more parity in the standings after week 3. Jerusalem were handed a similar fate in an 8-2 thrashing from Samarra but seemed the victim of their own poor organization. The sky blues look good in transition and keeping possession when they do have it, but seem to break shape too easily. We want to see GM Saqib Dadabhoy at the heart of the defence calling the shots and predicting danger as it comes. Too many times JFC were undone by a through ball down the wing which should be easy to prevent with the right shape. Although Salim Jarad did not feature in their previous match, they have enough options up front with Bassam Basit, Murtaza Tirimizi and the back bone of Abdo Menla to support them. We expect Saqib to pull out his tactics binder and play an unconventional method according to the pieces at his disposal. We are excited to see how he will make it work this week against the also pointless Sham in a battle to return amidst the standings.   

Matchweek 2 Rumours

[written by: Bassam Basit, Humeid Khan & Hashim Ghazi]
 
Matchweek 1 is in the books and we got a taste of what each team brings to the table. Andalusia looked in midseason form, while Hejaz surprised many with a great result of their own. In the late night matchup, two offensive powerhouses exchanged jabs en route to a 3-3 draw. What does Matchweek 2 have in store? Let’s find out in this week’s rumours. 
 
SAMARRA vs JERUSALEM (8:45PM Field 4)
With the early kickoff again, Jerusalem will be hoping to redeem their sub-par start to the season. They were dealt an unlucky blow when midfielder Zeem Khan came off after a few seconds on the pitch in result of a nagging ankle jury, leaving the Sky Blues thin up the pitch against the tireless Hejaz FC. Albeit both goals in Jerusalem's 2-1 loss were gifted in possession and down to a lack of communication, it's still the chemistry in the final third of the pitch between the likes of Syed Murtaza Tirmizi and Bassam Basit that they still need to get working. A tactical change may be imminent for them. Samarra will be disappointed conceding a last-minute penalty last week to forego a 3-2 lead against Anatolia FC but their momentum sure is flying high. With the team firing from all ends of the pitch, their main threat has been Player of the Week Atif Mian with two goals plus an assist. Being part of a thrilling 3-3 draw does keep a team hungry and Samarra will be looking to replicate their firepower against the bullish Jerusalem defence. Both GMs will need to take out pages from Mourinho's and Wenger's playbooks, respectively, to try to edge out on top!
 
ANDALUSIA vs HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 3)
Andalusia may have had the most dominant week one performance against Sham last week, with GM Omar Sheikh’s tactics playing out perfectly. The team pressed up high and relied on wide play from Ali Wadee and Owais Ansari to overwhelm Sham in attack. In defence, the team played tight and gave their opponents no room to operate. However, despite some crafty build-up play en route to three goals, the highlight of the night came on the other side of the pitch. In the second half, Muhammad Shah perfectly struck the ball with his weak foot to pull one back…or so he thought. Keeper Jibran Waqar, with his BSL-gold glove shortstop skills on full display, dove and fully extended – like fully extended – to palm the ball away to make an incredible save. Though Andalusia controlled the match, that sort of quality goalkeeping will always give you a leg up on your competition. The Spaniards face the other winning side from Matchweek 1 in Hejaz. Hejaz’s front three of GM Taqi Ahmed, Nasir Rehman and Hannan Ahmed (coined BISL’s equivalent to the mid-2010s MSN of Barcelona by the Hejaz GM), ran ragged en route to a 3-1 victory of their own. Ahmed and Rehman styles complement one another, with Rehman playing a box-to-box role and Ahmed pulling the strings on the ball. Adding in Ahmed’s finishing quality only makes the trio more troublesome for opposing defences. Rookie defender Farhan Butt made a great first impression at the back and even contributed a goal of his own in his debut. This early top of the table match will be a frenetic affair, with both sides looking to continue their top form at the start of the season.
 
ANATOLIA vs SHAM (9:45PM Field 3)
Anatolia walked away from Week 1 with a point in what will undoubtedly feel bittersweet. On one hand, they were up 2-0 and looked in complete control but after conceding three quick goals, they found themselves down 3-2 in the closing minutes of the game. A last-second penalty salvaged a point for the team. This week they go against Sham’s defense that will put a lot of pressure against GM Zain Khilji and #1 Pick Fawad Akram, two forwards who relish making defenses look silly. With Altamash Khan and Shaheen Limbada as your back-line, they probably expect to not make the same mistakes twice. On the other side, Sham is coming off a loss, which is not something this team saw much last year. The lack of bodies seemed to have an effect on their game, as they seemed completely outclassed by Andalusia who dominated the majority of the game. The sorely missed start front man Khizer Shahzad as their offense had no rhythm or structure. The team is trying to drill their system into the new players and a learning curve is inevitable. However, you can count on GM Muhammad Shah and his right hand man Asif Ibn Rehana to make sure this team comes prepared for Week 2 to wash away the taste of last week’s loss. They will be shorthanded once again this week but they aren’t making any excuses. A team of Sham’s caliber isn’t used to starting the season looking down 6 point, but if they don’t sort their system soon and fall subject to tired legs again, it may be inevitable. 

Matchweek 1 Rumours

[written by: Hashim Ghazi]
 
The winter coats are out.  The days are getting shorter.  And the first set of snowflakes have made their way onto our streets.  All this can only mean one thing – it is time for BISL Season Six to get started.  The League kicks off this weekend and features a number of intriguing story lines heading into the season.  Usually, in these rumours we break down the match-ups taking place on Sunday evening.  But with such movement in the draft, we figured it would be better to give a primer on each side to get a sense of what they are bringing to the table, and will revert back to our old-school rumour write-ups for week two. 
Before we get into the team previews, there is one transaction of note: 
  • Ali Chaudhry has withdraw from Hejaz FC and will be replaced by newcomer and defender Farhan Butt.  Butt will be available for Hejaz this weekend. 
Without further ado, here are your team previews.
 
HEJAZ vs JERUSALEM (8:45PM Field 4)
 
HEJAZ
Last Year Finish: 5th place in Regular Season (7 points); Did Not Make Playoffs
GM: Taqi Ahmed (2nd year as GM)
Projected Starting VI (2-2-1): U. Sheikh; H. Ayubi, F. Butt; N. Rehman, T. Ahmed; H. Ahmed
EPL Comparison: Manchester United – a team that once was the class of the League looking to develop a new identity in hopes of bringing a new era of success and silverware to the side
Strengths:
  • Defence – last year, Hejaz put a lot of their stock into having one ball playing defender coupled with a sweeper.  What resulted in a number of scorelines that features many goals against However, the side was able to right the ship as the team built its chemistry.  This year, it appears that the Lilywhites aimed to build a defence that was deep and stable with the likes of newcomer Farhan Butt, Hussam Ayubi, Umair Ashraf, Mustafa Tirmizi and Areeb Masood
  • Counter-attacking – GM Taqi Ahmed built his side for the counter, with a defence that isn’t afraid to break up play and a midfield engine in Nasir Rehman that plays box-to-box relentlessly. You can expect the Hejazis to rely on a strong counter attack to get their goals and a defence that will protect leads and make opposing teams really work to break them down.
  • Grit – looking at the roster, these guys are going to be a handful.  The team possesses a number of people who aren’t afraid to get chippy or put a real shift in.  These guys work hard and don’t need it to be pretty.  They are focused on results above everything, and will go to any length to get them.
 
JERUSALEM
Last Year Finish: 6th place in Regular Season (5 points); Did Not Make Playoffs
GM: Saqib Dadabhoy (3rd year as GM)
Projected Starting VI (1-3-1): Y. Zia; S. Dadabhoy; S. Jarad, K. Lotia, B. Basit; M. Tirmizi
EPL Comparison: Arsenal – a storied franchise coming off its worst performances in years in hopes of establishing a new identity with world-class talent up front to mask question marks in other areas
Strengths:
  • Attack – GM Saqib Dadabhoy went attack/attack with his first two picks, picking up Bassam Basit and Syed Murtaza Tirmizi to lead the line.  From there, Dadabhoy continued to pick attacker after attacker to fill out the side.  The squad no doubt has a lot of firepower but how that will balance with a lack of true defenders (Saqib and Haaris Kirmani are the only two players that identify themselves as primary defenders) comes into play will remain to be seen.
  • Size – The Sky Blues boast the tallest team in the League, with six players standing taller than 6 feet. Jerusalem can use this size to impose a presence on as a collective defensive unit and on both sides of dead balls. The team’s size does not discount the team’s pace though, as the team features quick playmakers in Kamil Lotia and the aforementioned Bassit to turn broken up plays into quick counters.
  • Tactics – Dadabhoy does not shy away from being innovative on the pitch.  Be it grinding out results with cagey affairs, or trying new things with one sweeper defender and four attackers, you never know what you’re going to get out of the new-look Jerusalem.  While post-draft analysis led to many questioning Saqib’s strategy, the guy isn’t afraid to tinker with his side in order to yield results.  We wouldn’t rule out the side just yet. 
 
SHAM vs ANDALUSIA (8:45PM Field 3)

SHAM
Last Year Finish: 2nd place in Regular Season (20 points); Lost in Finals
GM: Muhammad Shah (3rd year as GM)
Projected Starting VI (2-2-1): M. Badar; A. Ibn Rehana, H. Masood; M. Shah, A. Alvi; K. Shahzad
EPL Comparison: Manchester City – depth, superstar talent at every position, but high expectations given the team’s performances of season’s past
Strengths: 
  • Chemistry – GM Muhammad Shah brings back six guys he has played with before (Asif Ibn Rehana, Ahmad Alvi, Saif Syed, Humeid Masood and Hashim Ghazi) and the Oranje will rely on their familiarity with one another to get out the gate early en route to some victories. 
  • Khizer – with the second pick in the draft and familiar face Fawad Akram off the board to Anatolia, Shah made a no-brainer decision to welcome BISL superstar Khizer Shahzad into the Sham dynasty.  Shahzad’s attacking prowess places him as one of the most lethal players in League history, with 26 goals to his name in just 20 matches.  Adding Shahzad to a front line of Shah and Alvi will give opposing defences fits.
  • Depth – Sham had arguably the best draft of any team, picking up all-star after all-star.  After the Tangerines secured a strong core that has seven potential starters to fill five spots, he peppered in added depth and versatility with his later picks.  What results is a squad that can maintain consistency and potency for all fifty minutes of a match.
 
ANDALUSIA
Last Year Finish: 3rd place in Regular Season (19 points); Lost in Semi-Finals
GM: Omar Sheikh (2nd Year as GM)
Projected Starting VI (1-3-1): J. Waqar; R. Zahur; O. Ansari, O. Sheikh, A. Wadee; O. El-Askalany 
EPL Comparison: Tottenham – a team with no history of success in the League has a new face at the helm that promotes winning the ball back high up the pitch and relying on fitness and chemistry to yield results
Strengths: 
  • Work Rate – this team has a ton of engines from front to back that will give opposition a lot to handle.  With GM Omar Sheikh, first round pick Omar El-Askalany, Ali Wadee and Raza Zahur, this team features of number of guys that have lungs for days and will not tire running up and down the pitch.  Opposing teams will always be losing the fitness battle against the Royals, who will always put in the extra effort that others may not. 
  • Chemistry – Sheikh welcomes back four players from last year’s third place side in Owais Ansari, Rayhan Malik, Salman Siddiqui and the aforementioned Zahur.  Clearly, Andalusia knows the brand of football they want to play this year, and will rely on the camaraderie amongst these guys to set the tone for the rest of the side. 
  • Goals – With the Omars, you already have two of the top goal threats joining forces.  However, let’s not overlook the likes of Asif Ali and his left boot.  Asif did not shy away from peppering in shots against opposition last year and will be a vital source of goals off the bench for the side.  Also, the aforementioned Siddiqui scored five goals of his own last year for the Spaniards and will look to take his goal scoring the to the next level next year.
 
ANATOLIA vs SAMARRA (9:45PM Field 3)
 
ANATOLIA
Last Year Finish: 4th place in Regular Season (12 points); Lost in Semi-Finals
GM: Zain Khilji (6th Year as GM)
Projected Starting VI (2-2-1): Z. Merchant; A. Khan, S. Kazmi; S. Limbada, Z. Khilji; F. Akram
EPL Comparison: Liverpool – a team that has had successful campaigns thanks to tremendous offensive play finally brings in a world-class keeper, leader and defense that may finally lead them to their first trophy in League history
Strengths: 
  • Offence – yet again, the Turks possess an attack that ranks as one of the top in the League.  In #1 pick Fawad Akram and GM Zain Khilji, Anatolia possesses a one-two punch that few other teams can compete with.  The duos ability to dovetail into different positions, link up play and ability to unlock defenses with that killer move will be the lead cause for the yellow submarine’s success
  • Leadership – a question that always haunted Anatolia in the past was that the team lacked the veteran leadership needed to take a team to the next level.  That is no slight to GM Khilji as he always preps his teams to win and gets the most out of them with his displays on and off the pitch.  However, any time you can incorporate championship success and leadership by way of Shaheen Limbada and Zahid Merchant, you do it.  Ziggy and Slim have played different roles on championship sides in the past and will bring that experience (not to mention elite play at their respective positions) to the side.
  • Goalkeeping – After securing a stellar defence in drafting Altamash Khan and Limbada in the early rounds, Khilji took perennial Golden Gloves candidate Zahid Merchant as the first keeper off the draft board.  Clearly, the Turks wanted to change their identity this year as a team with as strong of a back line as a front line, and did so in securing this trio. The focus will be on Ziggy this year to use his ability to command the box and organize his side from the back to keep the side balanced and on the right side of the table all season
 
SAMARRA
Last Year Finish: 1st place in Regular Season (24 points); Champions
GM: Junaid Akram (1st Year as GM)
Projected Starting VI (2-2-1): B. Jeelany; S. Ahmad, S. Choudhry; J. Akram, A. Mian; J. Sakrani
EPL Top Six Comparator: Chelsea – a team is forced to make a change and bring in a youthful new face who lacks experience but makes up for it with a strong defence and a team full of winners
Strengths: 
  • Talent – rookie GM Junaid Akram picked a side full of star quality.  The projected starters boast a past Golden Gloves winner (Basil Jeelany) and two Defenders of the Year (Sheraz Choudhry and Atif Mian).  On top of that, with guys like Jibran SakraniSalman Ahmad, Umer Jabbar and the aforementioned Choudhry, he features a quartet that won it all with as members of the Redblacks last year.  This team has the makings of being the first ever three peat winners of BISL, and it will be on Akram to man the ship and steer them to championship glory
  • Versatility – Samarra also features a number of players that can play anywhere on the pitch.  Both Atif Mian and Sheraz Choudhry can place defence or mid, while Akram himself can choose to hold down the middle of the pitch or play up front.  When you factor in utility player Atif Khan, this side can change their tactics week after week to keep their opponents guessing and on the back foot
  • Goals Goals Goals – Nobody is denying the talent that Sakrani has up front to lead the line, but he will not be the only source of goals for the side.  Atif and Junaid have both featured as lead strikers for their sides in the past and the team possesses a three prong attack that will not shy away from peppering in shots from all angles and making their presence felt for opposing keepers

Zero Tolerance Policy for Inappropriate Conduct

As we gear up for our sixth season, we wanted to highlight a few changes made to the rules this season. We want to remind all our players, while we take pride in the competitive balance, this is strictly a recreational league. We try our best to make this a safe and enjoyable experience for all our players. The Brotherhood and iIslamic values of this league are paramount and take priority over competition.
 
With that in mind, we will have a zero tolerance policy for any confrontations and aggressive play. 
 
Rule changes: 
 
1. A straight Red card will result in a minimum player fine of $20 and an automatic one game suspension. Any further punishment is at the discretion of the league. All fines must be paid before the teams next scheduled league match. Non-payment will result in the player not being eligible to play.
2. Hearings will only be conducted if any further punishment will need to be discussed. 
3. Adjustment to punishment for Cards throughout the season: 
  • First yellow card - No action
  • Second yellow card - $20 fine
  • Third yellow card - 1-game suspension and $20 fine
  • Fourth yellow card - Suspension for the entire season
  • Please review all the rules at http://www.brotherhoodsoccer.com/?p=rules

2019-2020 BISL Teams

The draft is complete. Here are the teams for the 2019-2020 Brotherhood Indoor Soccer Season.