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2018/19 BISL Awards

Another BISL season is in the books and Samarra defend their title in one of the greatest games in BISL history. Congratulations to all the teams on a fantastic season and we hope everyone enjoyed their experience. We are always looking for ways to improve our league so please send any feedback to [email protected] 
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 set of GMs (GM and one Assistant GMs) 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.

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: Zahid Merchant, Andalusia FC      
G: Hassan Syed, Samarra FC
D: Asif Ibn Rehana, Sham FC
D: Ali Wadee, Hejaz FC
D: Owais Ansari, Andalusia FC
D: Hussam Ayubi, Anatolia FC
F: Zain Khilji, Anatolia FC
F: Omar El-Askalany, Hejaz FC
F: Danish Khan, Samarra FC
F: Junaid Akram, Anatolia FC
F: Fawad Akram, Sham FC
F: Muhammad Shah, Sham FC

And now, onto the awards...

Golden Boot

Winner: Jibran Sakrani, Samarra FC (10 goals)

Jibran had a sensational rookie season and notched 10 goals in 8 games. He was fortunate to have two of the best playmakers in Danish Khan and Omar El-Askalany setting him up but Jibran proved he is one of the best finishers in the league.  

Regular Season MVP

Top Three Nominees: Omar Sheikh, Andalusia FC; Danish Khan, Samarra FC; Fawad Akram, Sham FC.
Winner: Danish Khan, Samarra FC (10 goals, 4 assists, 14 points) 

Danish Khan won the MVP honours last year and it was hard to imagine the Samarra captain improving on his 2017 campaign but he was equal to the task. Danish carried Samarra throughout the season with some big matches. Danish's greatest strength is controlling the pace of the game which has led Samarra to back to back titles.

Playoff MVP

Top Three Nominees: Danish Khan, Hassan Syed, Omar El-Askalany
Winner: Hassan Syed, Samarra FC 

It is very rare that you see a goalkeeper win playoff MVP but after the performance from Hassan in the playoffs, there was a clear choice for Captain Danish Khan to give the nod to his keeper. Hassan kept Samarra in the 2nd leg of the semis vs Anatolia when they were full blitzing the Redblacks. Hassan came ready for the finals and turned in one of the best performances including winning the penalty shootout for his team.

Top Defender

Top Three Nominees: Asif Ibn Rehana, Sham FC., Owais Ansari, Andalusia FC; Salman Ahmed, Samarra FC;
Winner: Asif Ibn Rehana, Sham FC (3 goal, 4 assists, +12 GD)

Asif Ibn Rehana anchored the Sham defence and contributed with some key goals all year. The lanky defender plays with grit and keeps the Sham team composed in their own end. It's no surpise that he has been in every final since he joined the league. 

Top Goalkeeper

Top Three Nominees: ‎Basil Jeelany, Sham FC; Hassan Syed, Samarra FC; Zahid Merchant, Andalusia FC
Winner: Hassan Syed, Samarra FC (8 wins, 4 clean sheets, 44 saves) 

Hassan turned into a goalkeeper midseason last year and steadily improved to help Samarra to a title but he came in this season determined to be the best goalkeeper in the league. Well, he left no doubt with the best record and half his wins as clean sheets.

Most Improved Player

Top Three Nominees: Hussam Ayubi, Anatolia FC; Salman Siddiqui, Andalusia FC; Umer Jabbar, Samarra FC.
Winner: Umer Jabbar, Samarra FC (5 goals, 1 assist)

The former Samarra GM was relieved of his duties as Captain this year but he turned in his best season for his club. Umer was a key member of the Samarra backline and contributed some huge points in the playoffs. Umer had one of the best +- over the course of the season and marshalled the backline to a league best only 15 goals allowed.

Brotherhood Award

Nominees: ‎Asif Ali, Hejaz FC; Ibrahim Khan, Sham FC; Humeid Masood, Anatolia FC; Omar El-Askalany, Samarra FC; Raza Zahur, Andalusia FC
Winner: Humeid Masood, Anatolia FC

Though every one of these nominees (and many others that weren't) are deserving of this award, this year Humeid Masood stood out from among the worthy candidates. Humeid had moved himself back to defence and was selfless for his team. Most importantly, he showed great sportsmanship on and off the field. All GMs felt he was someone that embodied the values of the league and showed brotherhood every single week. 

That brings a close to Season Five 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!

Samarra 2019 Champions

After a thrilling final, Samarra prevailed on penalty kicks to win back to back titles. Danish Khan opened the scoring in the first few minutes on a brilliant header. Muhammad Shah scored on a penalty in the dying seconds of the first half. With 3 minutes to play, Fawad Akram put Sham ahead 2-1. With a minute to play, Umer Jabbar crossed the ball from midfield which found it's way to the back of the net to tie the score 2-2. In Penalties, Samarra score on all three while Sham missed one which gave Samarra the victory. Congrats to both teams on a fantastic final. 



2019 Finals Preview

After a season that showed both teams dominate their regular season, we have Samarra facing off against Sham for the second year in a row in the finals. Both sides faced their own challenges throughout the year and had their ups and downs, but after the finishing regular season as seeds 1 and 2, they find themselves head-to-head in the finals again. Samarra got the best of Sham last year, but will history repeat itself? Let's see how they match up. 

Tale of the Tape

Previous Matchups: 
          MW5 1 -0 for Sham FC
          MW10 4 - 3 for Samarra FC
          2018 Championship 2 - 1 for Samarra FC
Season Record (Place): Samarra FC 8-0-2 24 points (1st); Sham FC 6-2-2 20 points (2nd)
Semi Final Result:
          Samarra FC 4 - 3 Anatolia FC agg. (Leg 1: 3-1 Samarra win; Leg 2: 2-1 Samarra loss)
          Sham FC 6 - 2 Andalusia FC agg. (Leg 1: 2-2 draw; Leg 2: 4-0 Sham win)
GF/GA/GD: Samarra FC 29/15/14; Sham FC 28/16/12
Top Goalscorers: Samarra FC - Jibran Sakarani (10); Sham FC - Fawad Akram (9)
Recent Form: Samarra FC - LWWWW; Sham FC - WDLWL
Projected Starting VI (* denotes All-BISL Team honourees):
          Samarra FC - H. Syed*; S.Khan, U. Jabbar; D. Khan*, O. El-Askalany*; J. Sakarani
          Sham FC - B. Jeelany; S. Syed, A. Ibn Rehana*; M. Shah*, A. Alvi; F. Akram*

Two of our rumour writers had the (dis)pleasure of facing each one of these teams in the semi-finals, and have their thoughts of which team will be lifting the cup this Sunday.  Let's hear what they have to say:
Zain Khilji - Rumours Writer and GM of Anatolia
With the momentum from last game, Sham looks more likely to go all the way having won 4-0 against a very organized side. Samarra on the other hand barely held on to advance; also losing their last game 2-1. With Fawad Akram back playing at his best, I feel it makes the Sham forwards so much more dangerous. Danish Khan was great in the semis but really needs his team to support him in carrying the ball. Omar El-Askalany needs to take on more responsibility in the midfield if they are to retain possession from Sham. When Jibran Sakrani plays the false 9 (comes deep into the midfield), it adds another dimension to Samarra’s play and they need to take advantage of any strengths they holster. I expect Sham to have a hold on the game from the start and with solid all-round play from the team, I expect Sham to take the cup 3-1.
Final Score Prediction: Sham 3 - 1 Samarra
Hashim Ghazi - Rumours Writer and member of Andalusia FC
I was fortunate enough to play with Shah, Asif, Alvi and co. last year in the Finals.  The team came off another big win in the second-leg of the semis, and had the apparent momentum going the Championship as well, but fell deceivingly flat.  Not to take away from Samarra because they earned that victory, but Sham definitely put their best foot forward and it showed.  This year feels different. Muhammad Shah and Asif Ibn Rehana have now lost two finals in a row, and knowing their desire to win, I am sure they will do everything they can as individuals to prevent it from being three.  Their will to win is nearly unmatched in the League, and they use their intensity and grit to always keep their opponents on their toes.  Also, Fawad Akram seemed to have tailed off after starting hot in the first few weeks.  Let me tell you though, the Fawad we played last week was absolute class.  He was everywhere and had his way with our defense.  There was no stopping him and he was the main reason why Sham won so comfortably.  Saif Syed also had his best game of the season as well when it counted most, and knowing his championship pedigree, he knows how to turn it up when the stakes are high.  That's not to count out Samarra though, who deservedly came top of the table this year.  We hear a lot about their front three, and they give you every reason to talk about them given their combination of speed, touch and finishing, but their defense is what really does it for me.  The ability for Umair Ashraf, Shahahryar Khan and Umer Jabbar to play a high line knowing goalie Hassan Syed can sweep it up behind them gives them an edge in that regard.  Also, do we forget that Sheraz Choudhry was the best defender in the League when Hejaz went undefeated in 2016? He has all the tools you want in a defender and may be the x-factor in this matchup.  The depth of Samarra across the board may be too much for the Orange to handle.  Lastly, scarily, Danish Khan has gotten better after an MVP season - nobody imposes more fear in a defender with the ball at his feet and space to work with.  The Redblacks just have too much to offer over a 50 minute stretch.  All that makes it sound like I would go with Samarra, right? Wrong.  I can't see Shah and Ibn Rehana losing a third finals in a row, and I think Shah personally has got a little more to play for this year.  I may be biased, but I see the tangerines avenging their loss from last year in the best final we've had since Year 1. 
Final Score Prediction: Sham 3 - 3 Samarra, Sham win on penalties.
There you have it - both pundits have Sham going through.  I am sure Samarra love the sound of that, and will be using this as bulletin board material.  Sham went in with all the momentum last year and showed they were way below their opponents.  We'll find out who takes the crown this Sunday. 

Semi-final Leg #2 Rumours

We head into the second leg of the semis in anticipation of what the finals have in store. Will Samarra and Sham once again meet again in the finals? Anatolia and Andalusia are the only two teams in BISL's 5 year history to never reach the finals. Will they make history this Sunday? Let's find out  
Anatolia FC vs. Samarra FC : 1-3 after First Leg (9:00PM on Field 3)
Anatolia have struck the right gameplan against Samarra in the past, having been one of two teams to have beat them all season. In the first half, it looked like the Canaries were ready to put in another shock upset after controlling the game for parts of the match. Zain Khilji was given time on the ball and Abdullah Akhtar's presence in the match was growing as his tireless work rate was putting a dent on his opposing back line. However, Samarra, like they have all season, weathered the storm and took the reins in the second half to collect a 3-1 victory in the first leg. Anatolia lost their grip in the battle as the match wore on, and Samarra seized the opportunity to strike when the opportunities were made available to them. Forward Jibran Sakrani was having his way with his opponents, slicing through to create chance after chance. Also, midfielder turned defender Shaharyar Khan put his stamp on the match time and time again, breaking up play and converting those tackles and interceptions into countering opportunities. 
Though a two goal deficit will be tough to overcome, Anatolia have the tools needed to do so. The key will be doing what they did for bouts of the first half over the whole match. With some firepower of their own, they have goals in them. Junaid Akram will need to step up and put in a shift for the Turks. He seemed to be a focal point of the Samarran gameplan and was not about to get on the ball as much as he would've liked. 
As for Samarra, we'll, they've just got to do what they've done all season. They'll be sitting pretty with a two goal lead, but will need to add at least one or two onto that tally to really punch their ticket into the final. The first match between these two was very open but we expect this second leg to be a far tighter affair.
Projected Starting VI:
     Anatolia FC - U. Sheikh; H. Ayubi, H. Masood; J. Akram, Z. Khilji, A. Akhtar
     Samarra FC - H. Syed; S. Ahmad, S. Khan; O. El-Askalany, D. Khan; J. Sakrani
Andalusia FC vs. Sham FC : 2-2 after First Leg (10:00PM on Field 3)
The first leg of this match had everything you want in a playoff match. From good organization and defense, to intricate goals, to fearless tackles. It's not easy to say which side deserved the win and probably fair that the finalist will be decided by the second leg having drawn in the first. 
Andalusia, obviously the underdogs (shah reaches the finals every year (and now he has Fawad)), showed viewers that they can take on the best and offer a similar threat to that champion Jerusalem team a couple years ago. Shaheen Limbada had one of the best individual performances of the season last game and he is and will be the energy Andalusia feeds off of. Alongside Owais Ansari, who is always up to the challenge but occasionally gives the ball up cheaply which is too dangerous against a side like Sham. He has to put a plug on that. Andalusia will have to continue to have some say in the match in terms of control and unleash their secret weapons in Hassan Chaudhary and Ansari at the right moments. Goalkeeping for the side has been stellar pre and post season,but so has Sham's. 
Basil Jeelany made some great interceptions last game to keep Sham in the match before they equalized and a lot of credit goes the him having picked up an assist in a playoff match. Shah had another one of those top-class performances scoring a goal and playing commander on the pitch; again, in a leading by example type style. Fawad can be the difference between going out in the semis or reaching the finals as one of the best creative players. Finding Ahmed Alvi is their go to strat. Sham is used to boasting a dominance on the match which allows them to play more comfortably on offence and if they are able to find that rhythm, we think they will win the match and the matchup. However, we have to keep in mind Hashim Ghazi is the reach the finals talisman and he's suiting up for Andalusia. This game will be tighter from Andalusia and more stretched from Sham. Who you got?
Projected Starting VI:
     Andalusia FC - Z. Merchant; O. Ansari, H. Chaudhary; S. Limbada, O. Sheikh; A. Mian
     Sham FC - B. Jeelany; S. Syed, A. Ibn Rehana; A. Alvi, M. Shah; F. Akram
By 11PM on Sunday, only two teams will remain standing in the most competitive season in BISL to date – the next chapter awaits.

2019 Semi-Final Leg #1 Rumours

The season has come to a close, and now the real fun commences. Our fifth regular season featured a back-and-forth between Sham and Samarra for top spot all season, with the red-blacks clinching first place after a 4-3 victory last Sunday. Andalusia eliminated Hejaz after a 5-1 victory while Anatolia put the dagger in Jerusalem to clinch a playoff spot. With the playoff seeds locked up, the league forgoes Super Sunday and goes straight to the playoffs. Hejaz and Jerusalem will play for 5th place at 8:45pm on Field 4 this Sunday. 
The Semis will take place at 9pm and 10pm on field 3. Here's how they are shaping up for the remaining four sides.

Andalusia FC vs. Sham FC : First Leg (9:00PM on Field 3)

Previous Matchups: MW3 3 -1 Sham; MW8 2 - 0 for Andalusia
Season Record (Place): Andalusia FC 6-1-3 19 points (3rd), Sham FC 6-2-2 20 points (2th);
GF/GA/GD: Andalusia FC 25/19/6; Sham FC 28/16/12;
Top Goalscorers: Andalusia FC - Omar Sheikh (7); Sham FC - Fawad Akram (9);
Projected Starting VI:
     Andalusia FC - Z. Merchant; O. Ansari, H. Chaudhary; S. Limbada, O. Sheikh; A. Mian
     Sham FC - B. Jeelany; S. Syed, A. Ibn Rehana; A. Alvi, M. Shah; F. Akram

The Andalusia-Sham matchup is a unique one because if you asked the supporters of both these sides a few years ago that they'd be 100 minutes away from the finals, you would face puzzling, even quizzical looks.  Two franchises that often found themselves on the outside looking in (prior to last year, Sham only made the playoffs one time; and Andalusia's sole berth came in 2017) are now facing off with a chance to play for a title.  Though the colours of the kits are not so familiar this late in the playoffs, the players sure are.  Once again, Muhammad Shah faces off against Shaheen Limbada.  The two have never played on the same side despite being good friends off the pitch, and for the fifth consecutive year, take one each other in the playoffs.  Shah holds a 3-1 advantage in the playoffs (Shah is also one of three players in the League to have featured in every BISL Finals to date) against Limbada, but Shaheen knows his opponent better than anyone.  This semi features a matchup similar to the 2017 final, where a Jerusalem side made up of many Andalusians (Omar Sheikh, Atif Mian, Zahid Merchant, Hashim Ghazi and the aforementioned Limbada) won in convincing fashion over a Hejaz side made up of a handful of Shamis (Asif Ibn Rehana, Fawad Akram and the aforementioned Shah). 
Both sides exchanged barbs during the season and split the series.  The first matchup featured both sides lacking their GMs, and with Shaheen Limbada out and Fawad Akram leading the line for Sham, the Spaniards had no answer for the Orangemen, as Sham cruised to an easy 3-1 victory.  In the second matchup, it was Sham who was missing an integral piece with Fawad Akram unavailable, and Andalusia put together their most complete performance (something we have seen very little of this season, to be quite honest) of the year in a 2-0 victory.  This one is tough to call - both sides capitalized on their opponents missing key players, and it is tough to say which team will come out on top at full-strength.  On paper, Sham's starting six may be the best to ever feature in the League, but Andalusia's depth has been lauded all season.  Both sides feature game changers at every position.  History appears to be on Sham's side given their recent success (having made the finals last year and sitting at the top of the table for a good chunk of the season), but you'd be remiss to count these Andalusians out just yet.  The first leg may be a chess match for both sides to study what their opponents bring to the table in an effort to capitalize on the weaknesses shown - regardless, we're in for a cagey battle that will have both teams giving it their all for a chance to get one step closer to glory.
Here are the predictions of two of our GMs: 
Taqi picks Sham: 1st leg 2-0 Sham; 2nd Leg 0-0 
Sham are a solid all round team.  i think this match up wont have that much goals and the team that has better finishing will come out on top.  Fawad and Alvi chemistry may prove too much for andalusia team. Andalusia will struggle to score as they rely a lot on Omar for offense.  their solid as a team tho defensively and well organized so they can try to make it into a grinding match and hope they can finish.  They are the Athletico Madrid of this league. The key player for Andalusia is Shaheen.  When he plays with emotion he turns into an elite offensive powerhouse.  This goes along with his already solid work rate and defensive contribution.
Saqib picks Sham: 1st leg 1-1 Draw; 2nd Leg 2-0 Sham
As Taqi alluded to above Andalusia are tough to play against but beyond Omar it's hard to see where goals come from. If only they had someone solid at the back from which they could springboard overloaded attacks with little fear of getting hit on the break, say someone seasoned in the league with a DPOY award (cough Atif cough), they may have a chance to make up the offensive mismatch. Sham are the favourites to advance and between Shah, Fawad and Alvi it's tough to see any team standing in their way.

Anatolia FC vs. Samarra FC : First Leg (10:00PM on Field 3)

Previous Matchups: MW1 4-3 for Samarra FC; MW6 3-2 for Anatolia FC
Season Record (Place): Anatolia FC 4-0-6 (4th); Samarra FC 8-0-2 (1st)
GF/GA/GD: Anatolia FC 27/32/-5; Samarra FC 29/15/14
Top Goalscorers: Anatolia FC - Zain Khilji (8); Samarra FC - Jibran Sakrani(10)
Projected Starting VI: 
     Anatolia FC - U. Sheikh; H. Ayubi, H. Masood; J. Akram, Z. Khilji, A. Akhtar
     Samarra FC - H. Syed; S. Ahmad, S. Khan; O. El-Askalany, D. Khan; J. Sakrani
While all clubs would prefer a 2-legged semis, Samarra will be thrilled they can skip super Sunday and get straight to business as they look to defend their championship and keep the cup on Samarian soil. The team are coming off a huge win against the ‘other’ title favorites, Sham, in a playoff intensity type of match as they couldn’t have asked for better practice going into the semis. Anatolia on the other hand, squeezed through a 3-2 win against a 6-man Jerusalem squad and did not look very convincing for a playoff team. They do deserve to be one however, it will come down to how they respond to the intensity of the playoffs.
Anatolia has never made it past the semis and have always looked like a team that only want to score goals regardless of the situation. They are a team that play fast attacking football with the expense of a lax defensive policy. We don’t expect anything different from them this game, but the league knows if they are able to align their pieces, they can be an unstoppable force. The Anatolian goalkeeper has been phenomenal this season and with key position conversions they have the ability to shut out oppositions. The stars will shine regardless, but in the playoffs, Anatolia will need to come up with a way to put in a complete team performance from all areas of the pitch.
Samarra have been a powerhouse all season and though they could be vulnerable at the back at times, their control in possession rarely exposes them. The ‘Big 3’ are often talked about and their influence on all facets of the beautiful game have taken them apart from the rest of the teams at BISL. The supporting cast has been present at all times and have glued the gaps to support their attacking style of play; one that described as powerful more than clever, which is definitely more difficult to stop. Having the quality playoff and championship experience, we expect them to have a stronger hold of it over their opponents. Our pundits seem to think so as well. Although they have didn’t have much to separate them in the previous 2 season matches (4-3 Samarra, 4-3 Anatolia), Samarra will be given the benefit of the doubt. There is no doubt however, this matchup will be full of goals and one for the history books.
Here are the predictions of two of our GMs:
Taqi picks Samarra: 1st Leg:4-2 Samarra; 2nd Leg - 1-1 Draw
Samarra offense too much for anatolia defense.  Anatolia should sit back and counter to take advantage of weak Samara Defense. Containing the big 3 of Samarra will be tough as they can easily beat their man 1 vs 1 and create something out of nothing. Zain and Junaid have provided steady offense but i think Abdullah Akhtar's performance will decide if Anatolia go through.  When hes on his game, Anatolia play solid free flowing attacking football.
Saqib picks Samarra: 1st Leg: 3-2 Samarra; 2nd Leg 3-3 Draw
I think both teams match up well offensively (Anatolia has a big 3 as well don't forget) but it's gonna come down to which team defends better. Although on paper Samarra seem to have the advantage based on points and league standing, if Anatolia can make an adjustment or two tactically they can contain their opponents firepower and hit them on the break. I predict a close tie with the odd goal deciding this one.
The first leg of the semis kicks off this Sunday. It all starts at 9:00PM. LET’S GO.

Week 10 Rumours

This could be the weekend that decides it all.  Samarra and Sham battle for top spot this week while Andalusia has a chance to eliminate Hejaz from playoff contention.  Anatolia can punch their ticket to the playoff with a win and Hejaz tie or loss. In the event that Hejaz and Jerusalem are eliminated this Sunday, we will begin the playoffs next week while Hejaz and Jerusalem will play for 5th place. If both teams are not eliminated, the schedule will continue as posted. 
Samarra FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
You could not ask for a better ending to the season.  #1 vs #2 with the top of the table up for grabs (and, according to the standings, an easier path to the finals).  Samarra and Sham have flip-flopped between 1 and 2 all season, and the matchup is front and centre this week to decide who is all but certain to head into the playoffs as the #1 seed. 

The first matchup between these two showed a tight battle, but if you ask viewers of the match, they would say that Sham never really looked like they going to get any other result but a win.  The defense of Sham did what they do, and remain the only team to keep Samarra scoreless this season.  Sham can expect to maintain an identical tactical plan against the redblacks this week, and look to reclaim top spot in doing so.  However, we cannot be so sure that a single goal will be enough this time around, as keeping the Samarrans off the scoresheet once is a feat, two is nigh impossible.  Look for Sham to come out the gate and push for an early goal from the initial whistle to keep their opponents at bay with their lethal counter attack lurking.

The 1-0 loss to Sham is the only blemish on Samarra's record this season.  The reigning champs have looked every bit capable of a repeat, but need a full three points to keep Sham at out of reach of first place.  The most impressive thing about Samarra is how many ways they can beat you.  We have seen them attack without regard for human life in high scoring games, but saw a very defensive-minded side line up against Andalusia a few weeks ago.  The team's ability to compactly defend as a unit makes them very difficult to break, and the understanding amongst the entire squad of how to control a game remains second to none.  The depth and quality of Samarra is second-to-none, and when they are all locked in on getting three points by any means necessary, they are a tough out.  However, though Samarra have a lot to commend themselves for this year, the one thing they have yet to do is beat Sham.  The most frustrating thing is that you cannot really ask for more from your team than giving up a single goal, but that won't be enough.  The Redblacks will have to seize control of the match early, breaking up Sham's intricate play and capitalizing on the few mistakes Sham are to make in the game.
This match can go one of two ways: either it mimics the first matchup between the two and it is a tactical masterclass, or both sides just look to attack attack attack and see which team has more firepower to outlast the other.  Regardless, it stands to be a match of utmost significance not only to the standings, but to the egos of both teams. 
Anatolia FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
The season is coming to an end as Anatolia’s playoff spot is under siege from opponents outside the borders of the playoffs. Jerusalem is hanging on to threads for the possibility to make it to the other side but playing Anatolia may help them push for a final claim to the second season. However, if they lose, they will have to retreat and try again next season. The club has only won 1 game this season, perhaps due to the uncertainty in the squad, but this weekend, they need all players available if they want to be relevant at season close. Last week Ali Raza did not dress for the side and lost a very meaningful game against the also-searching Hejaz without a fight. The good news was that Harris Shahzad found the back of the net last week which may add to the team’s confidence to score; something they have struggled with all season. GM Saqib Dadabhoy has manned the pipes after his return and we are confident he will take the goalkeeping responsibility to the death of the season. This move will free up Ismail Akhter who can really make an impact in the midfield for the blues. The pressure will be on the Ali brothers to snatch up a win to keep the hopes of a second season alive.
In their previous meeting, Anatolia defeated Jerusalem by a near margin of 3-2. Although margins will not matter, Jerusalem may feel they have a claim for all three points this time around. Anatolia is recovering from a hefty defeat at Sham and will come back stronger and more determined to tighten their grip on their playoff spot. The Anatolian forwards will always be dangerous but it’s the defense and transition play in the midfield they lack and need to improve. Umair Sheikh has been a glow-in-the-dark lemur making several save of the season plays. If only we had them on tape. Organization is key for the team and although their attacks are always threatening, they are very vulnerable on the counter and need time to retain their shape. We expect Anatolia to stick with their attacking formations leaving Jerusalem to test how well they can cope with them and respond.   
Andalusia FC vs. Hejaz FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Andalusia FC play out the rest of the season essentially locked into third place after their disappointing 1-0 loss to Samarra last week. With a victory or even a point, they would have a shot at the top of the table but Anda continue to lose their form when they need it most. After four consecutive victories, they once again fell to Samarra. In two matches, they have been outclassed 4-0 by the redblacks. This Sunday they face Hejaz who are fighting for their playoff lives. The last time these two teams met, Andalusia scraped out a 3-2 victory after dominating most of the match. Andalusia are finally turning up a full roster but they lacked the finishing touch last week. The oldest side in the league are complaining about the lack of consistency in the schedule that have resulted in long gaps between games. Good news for them that we are playing all the way through now with no breaks. 

Hejaz come into the final regular season week with a shot at reaching the playoffs but they will need some help from Jerusalem to knock off Anatolia. Hejaz has been on a recent skid and needed some help. The squad is expect to welcome back Riaz Murad from Umrah. They team sent him to the holy lands to ask for help and he definitely delivered. They were fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Sham trying to upgrade their roster with a replacement player last Sunday. Taqi quickly scooped up Mohammed Syed (relative of Muhammad Shah) when he was put on waivers. It cost Hejaz Zeem Khan but it was a gamble they were willing to take. M Syed proved his worth last game with a pair of goals and some fancy footwork. Hejaz got an easy victory last Sunday against Jerusalem but will face a tougher test this week against Andalusia. Los Blancos will need to be more composed and control possession if they want a similar result.
This may be the last weekend of the regular season, and it happens to feature a battle for the top and a six pointer.  What more could you ask for? It all kicks off at quarter to nine on Sunday. 

Week 9 Rumours

GAME ON THIS SUNDAY. Three matches remaining in the regular season and the standings are tighening up. Only two points separate 1st to 3rd with Andalusia playing Samarra this week. Anatolia have distanced themselves from relegation but Jerusalem and Hejaz fight for the right to chase the final playoff spot this week.
Here we go:
Jerusalem FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
Another six-pointer sits on the docket this week as Jerusalem and Hejaz take on in each in a match that will essentially eliminate the loser from playoff contention. Both teams sit on the fringes of the second-season, with Jerusalem having a one-point advantage of Hejaz.

Jerusalem has been a tough out for all their competitors, but their gritty performances have not translated to points on the board.  With a starting five boasting high soccer IQ and versatility, it is clear to see why teams tend to struggle breaking them down.  With a very respectable 20 goals against on the season, the team's discipline is its calling card and their reliance on a pair of brothers creating magic in the offensive end has led to where they stand right now.  However, the only team that has managed to put four past Jerusalem this year is their opponent's this week.  With that being said, the only team that Jerusalem have gotten a full three points against has been…you guessed it, their opponent's this week.  JFC's only victory has resulted from the team adding more offense to their gameplan and putting five past their opponents.  Expect the Sky Blues to approach this game in a similar way.  Although having a compact defensive structure keeps you in any game, sometimes you've just gotta bang goals innit.  Also, where is Saqib?  

As mentioned, Hejaz put in a great performance the last time they faced Jerusalem but just fell short.  The Lilywhites will need to put in an even better shift this week if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs.  The team is not devoid of talent but just has not been able to string together the sorts of results they feel they deserve. In their last match, they got absolutely lambasted by the now-rolling Anatolia, and need to get back to their basics for this week's matchup.  The side showed a new identity in weeks prior with convincing performances over the top teams in the League, but it all just went out the window a few weeks back.  However, it's not like Hejaz didn't try to but the ball in the net.  They outshot their opponent 22-15, but ran into a goalkeeper that was better than his best on that day.  The Hejazis will hope that firepower translates into more goals this week against an opponent that is still trying to identify their best option between the sticks.  

You can't help but bring up the past when discussing Jerusalem-Hejaz.  A matchup that in the past was the biggest rivalry in the League now faces the prospect of these two storied franchises missing out on the playoffs.  Jerusalem is the only team in BISL history to have never missed the postseason, and we are sure their rivals of old Hejaz would love to be the side that puts JFC's chances of making it even further out of reach.
Anatolia FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
Heading into matchweek 9 with three games to go, Anatolia are riding a hot streak and find themselves comfortably in a playoff spot. With three victories in the last four games, they have rebounded from an 0-4 start to climb up the standings. Their resurgence can be attributed to lineup changes and the emergence of Abdullah Akhtar as their striker. Abdullah was held scoreless during their losing streak but has racked up 6 goals in his last four matches. The formula is simple, if Abdullah scores, Anatolia wins. As expected, Junaid Akram has found his form and has been on a tear with 8 points in his last 3 matches. Zain Khilji and Junaid have figured out how to play alongside each other and have been racking up the points. Between Abdullah/Junaid/Zain, they have 32 points which is the most by any trio this year. This week they will test their metal against a top side in Sham. 
Sham are coming off their first loss of the season at the hands of Andalusia. Sham struggled to find their offensive rhythm without superstar Fawad Akram as they were held scoreless. With the loss, Saif Syed suffered his first loss in BISL history after 18 matches. That is truly remarkable. Sham will be hoping he has to wait another 18 for #2. This week they will have to rebound against Anatolia having previously defeated Anatolia 4-1 in matchweek 4. Sham are unsure if they will have the services of Imad Siraj yet after he suffered a knee injury. Thankfully it is nothing serious as Imad will undergo standard protocol and will have to pass a fitness test before the match. Sham need full points after falling to second place with Andalusia trailing them by only one point if they are to keep their ranking before the playoffs.
Samarra FC vs. Andalusia FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Andalusia FC is now in a position to overtake the league in the standings and claim the throne as early as this matchweek. Who would have predicted a situation like this after such a rough start to the season? The Spaniards look to push their win streak to 5 against current league leaders Samarra and if successful, will overtake them and the league if Sham draw or lose. It’s quite a story as their schedule kept putting the club through a series of increasing tests after a 3-0 breakdown against Samarra in matchweek 4. Level 1 Hejaz (Won 3-2), Level 2 Jerusalem (Won 3-2), Level 3 Anatolia (Won 4-3), Level 4 Sham (Won 2-0), and now they face the last test against Samarra for revenge and proof they are the best team this season. The squad inhabits a familiar core of players that have obtained gold in the past and their discovered chemistry provides stability on all fronts. However, if you take away 1 player, the compound becomes unstable. We feel the utility players in Owais Ansari and Raza Zahur seal up any weaknesses the club may hold and are crucial to the way the team has been playing. After a clean sheet last week against a blunt Sham last match, we may have a show stopper on our hands.

Samarra seems to be back in form after a dip in midseason and will look to lock up their spot as #1 going into the playoffs. Last match it was one-way traffic with Samarra invading opponent territory as they pleased having played a very imposing style of football. Although they won the match with ease, it wasn’t a very clinical performance from the team as they converted only 2 of the storm of chances that were created. It seemed they were too relaxed when it came to the final ball or finishing touch, but it will be much different this week. Their position is on stake and their defense must play a less risky and pressing game. Umer Jabbar has been quietly brilliant for the blacks this season with his deceivingly quick decisions and distributions. Shahrayar Khan however, is the backbone of their defenses and will be important to a victory if it falls to them. Jibran Sakrani has got to get on the scoresheet as Danish Khan will have his hands full in the midfield this week. This will be a topper match as the season is coming to a close.

Week 8 Rumours

We step back on the pitch this Sunday after the January break with plenty up for grabs. The standings are split in half with three teams fighting for the top 3 seeds while the remaining 3 teams are all fighting to get into the final playoff spot. The trade deadline has passed and the rosters are now final. We have one transaction to announce this week.  
Transaction: Hejaz replace Hamza Waheed (moved to YVR) with Usman Aslam. Hejaz had top waiver priority and received commissioner approval. Usman joins Hejaz this Sunday. 
Jerusalem FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
Last week Jerusalem earned a very valuable point against league leaders Sham in a 1-1 draw. Jerusalem sit one point out of a playoff spot and will be looking for any points this Sunday before they close off the season against Hejaz and Anatolia. The squad has finally built up some momentum after a rocky start. Azan Ali has emerged as a gamechanger with the support of older brother Ali Raza, newcoming Nabil Muntazir and Ismail Akhter. Jerusalem have built a reputation of being a middle of the pitch team that limits opponents scoring opportunities and play a low scoring game. It is unclear whether GM Saqib Dadabhoy will be back this week after a setback on his trip to Asia. With four games left, they will need to pick up some points this week before they face off against the bottom of the table in the final 2 weeks. 
Samarra bounced back last Sunday with a victory after dropping two straight games. They sit one point clear in second place but within striking distance of first and now have Andalusia on their tails for second. Danish Khan had one heck of a game last week with four goals. He will need to repeat the same performance this week as they are expected to be without striker Jibran Sakrani. Omer and Danish will have to carry the offensive load for the squad in Jibran's absence. Samarra defence has been exploited the last two weeks after they went through a spell of 1 goal allowed in three games. They will need to reorganize at the back with Azan Ali lurking this week.

Both teams need points this week to keep their position in the standings. With key pieces missing, expect both squads to be more conservative to ensure they atleast take away a point. 

Andalusia FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
Andalusia come up against the league best Sham having regained their form with 3 straight wins. This matchup will be crucial for both teams in helping them finding that rhythm and chemistry to apply in the playoffs. The final score will also determine if Andalusia is worthy to be put amongst the ranks of Sham and Samarra this season. With their full team back, Andalusia look more likely to score after some blunt performances earlier in the season. Shaheen Limbada continues to bring his reliability to the side contributing to all aspects of the sport and his presence is a must if the team are to play at their best. With the return of Atif Mian, Omar Sheikh can share the responsibility in the midfield and focus more on his final ball. That’s where they looked the most dangerous last week which helped release Owais Ansari. The newly found goal scorer will prove to be their secret weapon we feel. The defense however wasn’t as stable as of late with Anatolia’s 3 goals coming from dissecting balls and 6-yard goals. Zahid Merchant has stood tall all season but needs the defense to keep the ball as far away from the net as possible. Sham will surely make them pay two-fold if the generosity continues. 

The early season Sham could score as they please but are going through a serious goal drought. Having scored 1 goal in each of their last 3 matches is quite astonishing. Fawad Akram is suffering a similar fate pocketing only 1 point in 3 games. Some absences may have caused a defensive shift, but even then, the defense has been absolutely stellar. Perhaps the best all-time defensive performances in a season. Sham has only conceded 5 goals in the past 6 games and no more than 1 in any game. The defensive unit deserves all the credit they can get. GM Mohammed Shah runs a tight a ship but is a captain who does a lot of the work himself. Analysts know the recipe of a championship team is to have Shah in the midfield. However, his offense has suffered with the dip in form of starlet Akram. We expect Shah to retain his formations and trust that Fawad will find a way through and we do know Fawad is capable of 3 or 4 points on any team. A drop in points this week could mean a drop in the standings; although they still hold their undefeated feat. Ahmed Alvi and Imad Siraj will be on deck looking to end the famine and pick up the traction the squad needs to finish the season on top. 

This match will have all the ingredients to remember and could be looked at a match where both teams can reach a new level. Will Sham let Andalusia continue their win streak or start one of their own?  
Hejaz FC vs. Anatolia FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
This matchup features two teams that have recently turned a corner at the right time in hopes of securing that vaunted fourth and final playoff spot.  Two points separate the two sides, so this matchup is the definition of a “six pointer.”  Will Anatolia secure a crucial three points and put Hejaz away for good, or will Hejaz secure a massive result and leapfrog the Spaniards in the standings? 
Anatolia’s hot streak was halted just before the Superbowl break, but still find themselves trending upwards with a complete performance against third place Andalusia.  GM Zain Khilji has finally found a formation that gets him and his four best players on the pitch at the same time, with Hussam Ayubi and Humeid Masood shoring up the backline, Junaid Akram and Khilji in the mid, and Abdullah Akhtar up front.  The team relies on fluid motion to flood the offensive zone and catch defenses off-guard with interlink play.  Also, the team seems to have found the ability to make the most of dead ball situations, scoring one goal on a kick-in from the sideline and another from a corner (where Zain Khilji ghosted the entire Andalusian side en route to a diving header).  With all the talent this side has to offer, it is surprising that they have struggled to find their footing.  However, the past is just that – the past.  Look for Anatolia to continue their forward progression against Hejaz in hopes of putting them away and securing their hold on fourth place. 
Hejaz, on the other hand, have showed a lot more resilience but unfortunately the results haven’t fallen their way.  After tying the League-leading Sham earlier this year, they gave their all in a loss to Samarra a few weeks back.  The good news is that Hejaz has gotten the two best sides out of the way and now face back-to-back matchups against the two sides they are combating with for fourth place.  A win this week against Anatolia would likely propel them into the final playoff spot.  Taqi Ahmed has dealt with another blow to his side after veteran Hamza Waheed was forced to withdraw because he has moved to the west coast.  Taqi Ahmed, after running virtual simulations, holding tryouts, personality tests and yes, even having players wrestle a grizzly bear (allegedly), finally found his replacement in Usman Aslam, a former Brotherhood award winner and GM in the League. Aslam’s versatility to play anywhere in the pitch and his leadership attributes will no doubt be an asset to the Lilywhites.  And plus he (allegedly) won a wrestling match with a grizzly bear – clearly the guy has heart and determination.  Aslam comes into the mix at a time where his team needs it most, as a loss this week may be the final nail in the coffin for the Hejazis.  Let’s see if his addition boosts the morale and turns the side’s improving performances into winning ones.

Week 7 Rumours

The standings are as tight as ever heading into a crucial Matchweek 7. Top sides have shown chinks in their armour, while the bottom sides have rallied their troops right when it matters most.  Which of the top sides will get back to their winning ways, and which of the teams outside the playoffs looking in, will stake their claim at yet another upset?  Let’s see what’s going down in this week’s rumours.  
Andalusia FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
Given the recent form of both of these sides, we would not expect this being a 3 vs 4 matchup in the standings, but after both the blues and canaries collected 6 of 6 points in the new year, the match has more implications that anticipated. 

Andalusia again went down early against Jerusalem, and were trailing 2-1 in the last 7 minutes of the match.  A huge goal by rookie Salman Siddiqui followed by the go-ahead goal on the counter by GM Omar Sheikh led to the Spaniards picking up three points and sitting comfortable in third place for another week.  The squad have been missing first round pick Atif Mian the last few weeks as he nurses a hamstring injury, but welcomed back Shaheen Limbada that allowed them to play more to their strengths.  Rookies Owais Ansari, Raza Zahur and Salman Siddiqui have been asked to play multiple roles for the side week-over-week, and arguably had their best individual performances this season in last week’s display.  The team could use some more firepower as Omar Sheikh has clearly been the only man capable of putting the ball in the back of the net consistently for the side.  Andalusia hope to get a result similar to their last matchup against the Turks, where they won 4-1 and featured four different goal scorers. 

Anatolia are riding high in 2019, rerouting their sinking ship into one that is primed to wreak havoc for their opponents for the rest of the season.  A major change has been Junaid Akram playing a deeper role for the side, which has allowed Zain Khilji a freer role to play between the lines as a number ten.  Akram still found his way onto the score sheet and directly contributed to all three goals for the side in their win last week. Also, Umair Sheikh was at his best in the last matchup.  Sheikh is no stranger to a bevy of shot attempts, but always holds his own and keeps his side in matches.  Though the common viewer would see that he may be subject to a giveaway or two a match, when your team relies so heavily on your superhuman shot-stopping ability, you will turn a blind eye to the sporadic gaffes.  Hussam Ayubi and Hasan Afzal are building a strong partnership at the back for the Canaries, and their complimentary play allows both defenders to play at their strengths individually for the betterment of the team.  Anatolia look to continue trending upward, and if they muster up another performance that garners three points, they will find themselves a point out of 3rd – a thought deemed inconceivable only a month ago.
Samarra FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
The first matchup of Matchweek 7 features two teams that were on opposite ends of surprise results last week.  Samarra fell to Anatolia 3-2 despite scoring a would-be equalizer that was overturned by the referee.  On the other hand, Hejaz showed resilience in getting a crucial point against league leaders Sham in a 1-1 draw.

Samarra have lost two in a row after looking so dominant for the first four weeks of the season.  What is surprising though is that the losses came against the top and bottom seed of the League.  Samarra should not be too concerned though.  Giving up only one goal is usually something worth applauding in BISL, but the fact that Sham held them scoreless in the top-of-the-table clash led to them losing out on three points.  The match against Anatolia had a different story, as a short bench caused the defence to stretch too thin. It also forced top goalkeeper Hassan Syed to take up a position in the backline with a substitute manning the gloves.  A lack of cohesion was apparent amongst the side, but again, they were one controversy away from scrounging up a point in a game that they looked out of for the most part.  The Redblacks hope to have the absences behind them in their matchup against Hejaz this weekend, where they managed to put up a sparkling 7 goals against the side in their matchup earlier this year. 

Hejaz sit at the bottom of the table two points out from the final playoff spot.  The team defended impressively, holding the league leaders to only one goal.  Nasir Rehman and Murtaza Tirmizi continue to lead the charge for the Lilywhites, with timely contributions coming from others in the side.  Welcoming back Ali Wadee into the defence provided some much needed stability at the back and strengthens the side considerably.  After the Superbowl break, Hejaz have crucial matches against Anatolia and Jerusalem that will dictate whether they will be playing in the second season or not.  After a tight affair against Andalusia a couple weeks back and the display last week against Sham, Hejaz appear to be trending upward at the right time and looking toward being spoilers again this week. 
Sham FC vs. Jerusalem FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Sham and Jerusalem face off in the nightcap, with both sides looking to avenge results that left holes in their pockets last week. 

Sham dropped their first points of the season against cellar-dwellers Hejaz last week, which you can’t help but correlate to their season last year.  At this time last year, Sham had their worst form of the season and dropped some winnable matches against organized and composed sides.  Is this déjà vu? We don’t think so, as any team that is missing their top defensive pairing is bound to be a bit out of sorts.  Playing without their defensive pairing and arguably the best duo in the League this year, you think that conceding a single goal and mustering up a point is actually not a bad result.  The team only had seven players dressed, and tired legs surely played a role in the performance as well.  We cannot recall a time when offensive savant Fawad Akram only had a pair of shots – heck, we can’t remember a time he did not find himself on the scoresheet.  So, it’s fair to say that the League leaders are doing just fine and will look to bounce back in a fixture that saw them put 16 shots on target the last time they faced JFC. 

Speaking of JFC and absences, where is GM Saqib Dadabhoy? While the IG stories in Pakistan and Oman have been *fire emojis*, the side would love to have him back in sky blue sooner than later.  Jerusalem have dealt with squad issues and absences relatively well this season, particularly with the goalkeeper position.  The question is who will be their first-choice? Rumour has it that GM Dadabhoy will likely step in for the side, but Ismail Akhter’s performances with the gloves on surely cannot be ignored.  He has been absolutely fearless and has commanded the box like he’s been playing the position all his life.  Also, so much time is spent talking about other superstar players in the league, but we think there is another name to add to the list – Azan Ali.  Azan has been a lethal finisher for the Palestinians, and played a part in two “goal of the year” candidates against Andalusia last week, one of which featured Azan dancing around two defenders and the keeper with precise control before feeding the ball to Kamil Lotia for a tap-in.  He practically traced the outstretched body of the ‘keeper on both goals, which left his opponents in disbelief.  His partnership with older brother Ali Raza is for real, and his presence as a talisman grows week over week.  JFC are in dire need of favourable results sitting at the doorstep of the playoffs – and look to take a leap forward this week with an upset against the League leaders. 

Week 6 Rumours

We breakthrough the halfway point of the season and this week have rematches of the opening week. Teams will be trying to exploit the weaknesses they learnt in their first matchup and take away big points this Sunday. Weather is expected to be cold and snowy on Sunday so be prepared. All games are still scheduled to be played.  

Andalusia FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM - Field 3)

Andalusia and Jerusalem swapped in the standings last week and are clinging on to the final playoff spots with 6 games to go. Last time these two teams met in the opening week, Jerusalem jumped out to a 2-0 lead with Andalusia climbing all the way back to lead 3-2 until the final moments of the match. A bad clearing attempt from Andalusia and a hail Mary shot from Jerusalem ended the match in a draw. Both teams were unhappy with the result and now have an opportunity to make amends. 
Andalusia rebounded after two consecutive losses to earn 3 points last week over Hejaz. They expect Shaheen Limbada back in the side this Sunday but Atif Mian is still doubtful due to injury. A shakeup in the lineup sparked some new energy upfront which resulted in their most goals since Milton Soccer Academy. It remains to be seen which lineup GM Omar Sheikh comes up with this week. Andalusia has a chance to lock up a playoff spot with 6 points in their next two games. With the squad finally getting some consistency, you can expect they will be up to the task. 
Jerusalem suffered a difficult defeat to Anatolia last week as they were outplayed for most of the match. JFC are one point clear of relegation with two teams chasing them in the standings. The squad has had some shuffling to do with their GM out of the country. Arshad Chawdhry and Ismail Akhter have been taking turns between the pipes and we expect that to continue next match as well, at least until their GM returns. The squad is finally starting to score with 7 goals in their last two matches which is twice the production of the first 3. They will need to build off that as they face a tough test against Andalusia.

Samarra FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM - Field 4)

Anatolia finally got the monkey off their back and earned three points last Sunday to get themselves back into the playoff race while Samarra dropped big points to their rivals for top spot. Both teams are trending in opposite directions and will be looking to steady the course on Sunday. 
Anatolia made a big change, trusting rookie Abdullah Akhtar to play striker in a full blown attack. Abdullah responded by scoring a natural hat trick and you can be sure he will be starting up top again. Junaid Akram was pushed back to midfield and former Golden Boot winner Humeid Masood was seen playing defence. The changes brought results in a crucial match against Jerusalem but that lineup will be tested against one of the best sides this Sunday. They will need more possession and more goals to beat Samarra on Sunday.

Samarra on the other hand, were blanked for the first time this season against Sham. Their offense had been humming along until last weekend. Team management must be please with the defence and goalkeeper Hassan Syed after they only conceded one goal over their last three matches. That is a rare feat in BISL and they will be hoping they remain stingy this Sunday against a confident Samarra team. Another loss by the redblacks could put them firmly in the middle of the table and spoil a fantastic start to the season. The squad have all reinforcements now so they should be able to build on that every week. 

Sham FC vs. Hejaz FC (9:45PM - Field 3)

Hejaz suffered a tough loss last week having been robbed at least a draw by the opposing keeper which has resulted in an unforgiving drop in the standings. They did extremely well to create chances, get their shots off, and keep them on goal, but lacked decisiveness to capitalize on any points. Syed Murtaza and Nasir Rehman continue to be the go-to guys when it comes to attack but look vulnerable without their defensive anchor Ali Wadee. However, they coped well in the circumstances as Syed Kazmi has put in quite the performances as of late but he may be stretched against a potent Sham side. GM Taqi Ahmed, has done an admiral job in getting their team back in place for playoff contention especially with the unpraised role he has taken up on the pitch. This season, he has been a no-nonsense type midfielder that has increased the team’s possession stats which have helped create more chances. A win against a perfect Sham side seems unlikely, but attainable if the squad is up to it’s best. 

Sham had to work hard to protect their perfect record as they squeezed through a 1-0 win against a former perfect Samarra. It was the combination, Shah to Siraj, we were talking about earlier in the season and their familiarly that made the difference. Sham did have a couple clear chances to open the scoring, but hit the post and it send wide which could have cost them their perfect record. Impressively though, Sham was able to keep a clean sheet against a very successful attack-oriented side and as a result, have convinced viewers that Sham are the favourites this season. What happens in games is that teams spend extra resources to null the threat of either Muhammed Shah or Fawad Akram but can only get away with containing one of the 2 stars. Last week it was Fawad which resulted in Shah having many looks in front of goal that should have been converted. Once again, Sham is predicted to win in confidence this week, but may come up to a challenge as Hejaz look for a playoff spot.     

Week 5 Rumours

Two teams sit far above the competition and we finally see them face off this Sunday for first place. Meanwhile, the playoff race heats up with the remaining four teams playing each other. Here is how the matchups stack up.  
Taher Mirza of Andalusia FC has withdrawn as a substitue due to an injury, and Andalusia FC have elected to pick up Bassam Basit as his replacement after he clears waivers.  We wish Taher a speedy recovery insha'Allah and welcome Bassam to the League. Now, onto the matchups.
Sham FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
After waiting five weeks, we finally get a rematch of the Finals from last year in Sham vs Samarra. Both teams sit atop the table sporting 4-0 records, and though a draw would not be a bad result for either side, the GMs would are determined to get the full three points. Last year's final featured Sham coming in as favourites as Samarra was missing League MVP Danish Khan. However, in an organized effort, the Redblacks went ahead 2-0 and kept a lethal Sham attack at bay to collect the franchise's first championship. 
The scary thing is that this Samarra side may even be better than last year. We've spent the season thus far lauding their attack, but as we all know, it takes ten guys to win a championship. The Samarra defense has been impenetrable, with the likes of Shaharyar Khan, Umair Ashraf, Umer Jabbar and Sheraz Choudhry defending well as a unit and driving the ball forward to complement the attack. Nobody who is out there as part of the backline, the pairing know that they are at their best being aggressive and breaking up play. They also are not afraid to join the attack, as we've often seen them rush down the wing to get a cross into the box. A lot of credit to the defense goes to goalkeeper Hassan Syed, who doubles as the team's sweeper. Syed's ability to come out and maintain possession allows the backline to maintain a higher line to force counters and keep the offense humming. Samarra have won the last two matchups vs Sham, and cannot wait to take on Muhammad "5 Star Skills" Shah and the orangemen again this Sunday. 
Sham too have a lot of unsung heroes that have been instrumental in the side. Newcomers Atif Khan and Mustafa Tirmizi have made their presence felt for the Orange. Atif has been in a more advanced position, but the team recognizes his determination to track back as instrumental to how they play. Mustafa has done very well in defence with his ability to close mark his opponents to keep them at bay. The team as a whole has a lot of firepower, but GM Muhammad Shah credits the newcomers as being a key to their success thus far.  The front three will continue to score, but when your entire team is clicking and understand their roles, they are hard to stop. Veteran Imad Siraj has looked better than season's past, and perhaps it's the partnership with Shah that brought so much success in the League's inaugural season that may reignite his play to his glory days. Also, not enough has been said about goalkeeper Basil Jeelany providing a steady presence in goal. Though his defence has done a great job in limiting the shots on target, he has more been a rock when called upon. We don't anticipate him having an easy day at the office this Sunday though. 
Two teams that have yet to take an L face off on Sunday, with bragging rights on the line. A relatively-new rivalry adds another chapter to its books then, with the outcome tough to predict - what we do know though is that we're in for one heck of a match. 
Andalusia FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
Andalusia and Hejaz come into their matchup through the same highway. Both teams have had impressive victories and some embarrassing losses. The one thing in common, both their wins have come against dwellers Anatolia. 
Hejaz have made some adjustments as the season has progressed. Riaz Murad has been handed the gloves to safeguard the net while Nabeel Jabbar has been set free to roam on defense. The engine of the team Nasir Rahman is asked to carry the workload every week and this week will be no different. Hejaz sit in 5th place, one point behind Andalusia. The points this Sunday could be crucial at the end of the season. GM Taqi Ahmed's squad will need to build off their high scoring last week but solidify the back to come away with points. The squad will need to find more balance in their attack with teams pressuring Nasir and Murtaza on the ball. Asif Ali and Zeem Khan will need to contributre on the stat sheet to give opponents someone else to worry about. 

Andalusia on the other hand really don't know what to do and who they have available. They have been undermanned every week thus far with injuries and vacations, in fact Andalusia's sub has also been hurt and unable to play the last 3 games which has led them to find a replacement with Bassam Basit. The only week they have had 9 players was the opening week of the season. This Sunday they are expected to be without Shaheen Limbada and Atif Mian to make matters worse. With a replacement sub and a new formation, Andalusia will need to find a winning formula quickly otherwise they could find themselves outside the playoffs. This team has plenty of depth but depth doesn't win you championships. Your star players need to perform like star players and carry the offensive load while the depth players keep the momenum. If Andalusia are to become a force, they will need Omar Sheikh, Shaheen Limbada and Atif Mian to be difference-makers with the rest holding down the fort. 

Anatolia FC vs. Jerusalem FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Jerusalem FC took home a massive win against Hejaz to claim their playoff spot and now have a great opportunity to hold on to it with a matchup against a winless Anatolia. The Ali bros are starting to gain traction and will be vital for the blues in front of goal this week and every week. They combined for 7 points in their last match and will be looking to continue their hot streak. Interestingly, Arshad Chawdhry gave it a try in net for the first half and pulled off 10 saves followed by a second half performance from Ismail Akhtar who came in as a closer to see through a 5-4 win. We are not sure what is going on with the goalkeeper situation but they may finally pick one after Saqib Dadabhoy returns from personal leave. With their defensive leader unavailable last week, Jerusalem concede 4 for the first time this season. Nonetheless, management must be happy with the priceless victory last week and their current position in the standings. 

The good news for Anatolia is that they have nothing to lose.... We didn’t expect the club to lose their opening 4 games and there is no reason to believe they host an inferior squad. Somehow, they manage to concede leniently and thanks to the help of Abdullah Akhtar, have hit the post more times than their season goal tally. Last week they looked very sharp against Sham, particularly Junaid Akram, but were not able to cut all the way through the Sham defense despite creating many big chances in front of goal.  The squad is definitely technically sound, but lack the concentration to make that crucial interception or that killer finish. They will need to fight for each other in order to make a last dash for the playoffs. If they lose this time around, it may be too late to come back. One thing is for sure, Nehad Shihab will be glad his transfer came before the so far, horrific season. Anatolia always keeps things interesting.

Week 4 Rumours

Happy New Year!  2018 ended with Sham and Samarra separating themselves from the rest of the League, while Anatolia remain the only side yet to pick up a single point thus far.  However, there is a lot of matches to play, and things are far from set in stone.  Let's see how the matchups are looking for the first BISL matches of 2019.  But first...

Ibrahim Sardar of Jerusalem FC has withdrawn from the League due to an injury, and Jerusalem FC have elected to pick up rookie Nabil Muntazar as his replacement.  We wish Ibrahim a speedy recovery insha'Allah and welcome Nabil to the League. 

Now, onto the matchups.

Hejaz FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM - Field 3)

Hejaz FC are coming off a massive victory to put them back in the standings after losing the opening two in which they conceded 14 goals. It seems the lilywhites have finally settled on defense and can finally focus more resources on offense. There is still an uphill battle to recover from a hefty goal differential as many times, playoff standings are determined from this stat. Nabeel Jabbar had a notable performance as he made his debut as a defender and Riaz Murad had a solid game between the pipes. The after match analysis indicated positive changes to their style of play which included higher possession rates and improved build up. GM Taqi Ahmed has tweaked his game to limit his responsibilities to transitional play and it seems to have triggered these improvements. Syed Ahsan Kazmi, unsure of what role he would play in the side, brought much needed depth to the squad and will presumably be a first choice defender for Taqi and Los Blancos in 2019.

Jerusalem FC have held as steady as they can as the club went through some rough patches, including the withdrawal of star goalkeeper Ibrahim Sardar. Since then, GM Saqib Dadabhoy and Ismail Akhtar have given it a go between the sticks and have a good record to show for it (1.00 GAA). Quite the contrary to usual troubles, the blues have been very solid at the back but are failing to create and convert chances on offense. The Ali brothers seem to find each other with ease but lack the cutting edge in front of goal. The addition of Nabil Muntazar has helped ease the pressure to bring the ball up, especially when Saqib plays in goal, but as a Tottenham Hotspur supporter, will need to recondition his mentality and ambition. A win this weekend will help them onto a playoff spot as we expect much more rhythm from the offense after the break.

Anatolia FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM - Field 4)

With the worst ever start to their campaign, Anatolia is now in fear of losing 4 in a row. The club will prepare a season saving performance and we expect to see a match full of parity. Anatolia have still been competitive till now having lost 2 of their 3 matches by 1 goal but heavily rely on their GM for output. Zain Khilji has been directly involved in 5 of the team's 6 goals and they look real sluggish without him on the pitch. Abdullah Akhtar is still looking for the 1st point of his BISL career having hit the post on multiple occasions but it's only a matter of time before he starts converting. The underlying issue remains with their play off the ball while regaining and retaining possession. The defense will play a huge part of any success they are to achieve and the task at hand could be their toughest yet.                

Sham come into this match up in full confidence having taken all possible points from their opening 3 matches, while Anatolia have managed none. Nevertheless, GM Muhammad Shah will urge Sham to not take the Anatolians lightly knowing the talents they possess. Having missed the previous match, Shah will look to restore balance in the squad and help fill the void he left in the midfield. Fawad Akram has led the attack with 7 goals thus far and will continue to be given the green light with Shah back and a very reinforcing backline in Asif Ibn Rehana and Saifuddin Syed. We noticed that Sham's greatest strength is the quality of their play in their opponent's third which makes it difficult for teams to keep control of the game as they are forced to defend more systematically. Anatolia may fall victim to this phenomenon as their backline hasn't always been parallel to the attack from their opposition. 

Andalusia FC vs.  Samarra FC (9:45PM - Field 3)

Three matches in, and the Spaniards are yet to possess an identity. With a handful of rookies and so many players in new positions, it has led to the side putting a lot of work into understanding of rotations, developing chemistry and functioning as a team as opposed to a bunch of individuals. The growing pains have resulted in a trio of performances that are nowhere close to what they are truly capable of as a unit. In a high-profile matchup against Sham to close out 2018, the team just could not muster up chances in any capacity, with only four shots during the whole match. Not having GM Omar Sheikh and Shaheen Limbada in the side surely contributed to the tepid display, but nonetheless, the royal blues need to be more aggressive in attack and create more chances if they have any shot of making noise in the playoffs. A bright spot for the side has been Hassan Chaudhary in defense. Chaudhary, an attacking midfielder or support striker in previous seasons, has been asked to play a new role this season and has delivered impressively, breaking up play at the back and joining the attack when called upon. Also, Owais Ansari continues to grow in presence in the side, and he has done everything except score a goal so far this season – and we can't see Papi being kept off the scoresheet for long with the bevy of tools he possesses in his arsenal. With their two leaders back this week, we expect the side to come out ready for the challenge and focused on starting off 2019 with an upset against the champions-elect.  

Samarra have picked up right where they left off from last year, and have the look of a true threat to win the League again. While some of the personnel has changed, the team remains the most complete side every Sunday with a potent offense, an effective defense and a strong keeper. GM Danish Khan appears to be in even better form than his MVP campaign last year, and it appears that his knee problems that plagued him last year are completely in his rear view mirror. The redblacks struck gold again in drafting a rookie striker, as Jibran Sakrani has provided a direct approach to goal that has left defenses in disarray with his movement in front of goal. Add in engine and goal-scoring threat Omar El-Askalany and it will be hard to find a more effective front three in the League's history. With all the focus on the goal scoring quality of the side, there has been little talk of Hassan Syed's performance in goal. Hassan, a defender by trade, put the gloves on for the champions in the final few games of the season and made a lasting impression. He has grown into a commanding presence in the box, and his passing ability and understanding of the game has allowed the Samarrans to employ him as a sweeper when they push up to keep possession, as well as an initiator of quick counter attacks with his passes and throws from the box. 

The first matchweek of the new year always poses some surprises as teams try to get back into the swing of the season - let's see how the results play out.

Week 3 Rumours

We head into the final week before the holiday break with some big points up for grabs.
BREAKING NEWS: The Milton Turf Centre is ready and we are moving back to our home field this Sunday. The address is: 1145 Bronte St S in Milton.
Here are matchups for this Sunday: 
Anatolia FC vs.  Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
An early season six-pointer kicks off Matchweek 3 as Anatolia and Hejaz face off in a battle of the pointless teams.  Following exuberant exhibition match debuts, both sides looked poised to turn the league upside in unpredictable fashion.  However, the season itself has left little to write home about for both the Canaries and the Lilywhites.  

In Anatolia's case, playing on a smaller field has really limited the attacking presence of GM Zain Khilji.  Khilji, a silky-smooth playmaker needs space to work with, and sees openings many other players wouldn’t when playing in the final third.  A more compact pitch leads to a more compact game, and as a result, Zain has been a bit handicapped in being able to put his mark on the match.  While the front three, when available, boast attacking for days and they employ one of the premier shot stoppers in the League, the Turks once again have question marks on defense.  Abdullah Akhtar was drafted to provide a physical and athletic presence at the back, but he has been deployed in a forward position during most of the season.  Akhtar has been working hard up front and has been a great addition to the League, with opposing defenders resorting to pulling at his shirt (and allegedly at his shorts too) to prevent him from getting too much space.  If there is anything to be excited about, it's that Junaid Akram appears to be 100% fit.  After an incredible debut season where he scored 13 goals (and seven assists) in six games, Akram was forced to withdraw after just one match last season due to a nagging injury.  The talisman form looks as bright as the colour of his jersey now, as he has scored three goals thus far and is hungry for more. 
On the other side, GM Taqi Ahmed had the League wide-eyed after a commanding performance during their exhibition match, where his Hejaz side absolutely dominated last year's table-topping Sham.  However, this team has been anything but dominant this year, giving up 14 goals in a pair of outings.  Taqi, a noted tactician, has not seemed to strike the right balance in his side.  Poacher Murtaza Tirmizi has looked isolated up front, and there is only so much midfielder Nasir Rehman can do in midfield.  Taqi himself has been playing more of a defensive midfield role for Los Blancos, and perhaps moving him into a more attacking role he's typically taken up for teams in the past may be the key to unlock his side's potential.  Hejaz goalkeeper and League rookie Nabeel Jabbar has been subject to a firing range this year; though his goals against is a number no goalie would be happy to report on, he has played very well in net and has done all he can to stop the bleeding.  It's on his defence to close down opposing forwards faster and not rely on him as the last line of defence so frequently.  Lastly, we can't talk about Hejaz without bringing up the left boot of Asif Ali.  Preseason chatter surrounded the potential of his younger brothers leading the line for Jerusalem, and older brother Asif slipped under the radar.  He has taken a total of four shots this season, all with his left foot.  Three of them have hit the back of the net.  The forward is reminding the League that an older brother, no matter how you slice it, will always have something to say when the attention is turned to younger siblings. 

The good news for both of these sides is someone has to collect points on the night – the bad news is that one may end up heading into the December break with zero points to show for a bleak start to the season.  Let's see who comes out on top.
Jerusalem FC vs.  Samarra FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
Samarra come into week 3, leading the league in goals and individual points. The trio of Danish, Jibran and Omar has been deadly so far. Their defence has held teams in check with goalkeeper Hassan Syed barking out instructions from the back. The Redblacks have been stellar on the smaller field but now we transition to the bigger field and management believes their game will translate nicely onto the new pitch. With another W, they will be the clear favourites after the first quarter of the season. Last week Umair Ashaf made his presence felt with a goal and an assist. After being picked up late in the draft, he is showing he is a top tier defender in the L. 
They will face off against a Jerusalem side desperate for points this week. Sitting on one point, they need points to distance themselves from the relegation line. They will be in tough this week against Samarra but a short spurt of Ali, Azaan and Ismail showed they have some skill upfront. GM Saqib will be hoping those three mesh with more space to work with to breakdown defenders. They will have to do that with a new keeper though as former GM Ibrahim Sardar is withdrawing from the league due to a reinjured shoulder. Jerusalem is still negotiating a contract with a replacement player to have him in the squad for Sunday. Expect a big game from rookie Ali Raza who has impressed so far but hasn't found the back of the net yet The additional space should help him get more shots on net and open his scoring tally. 
Andalusia FC vs.  Sham FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Andalusia comes off a powerful performance from last week shutting down the Anatolians to 1 goal and scoring 4 of their own.  “Somehow”, they remind us of the 2017 Jerusalem champions and the way they played last week suggests they can go for it all. Sham FC on the other hand has been as dominant as expected from draft day. With the blockbuster acquisition of Fawad Akram, GM Muhammad Shah can take some (a lot) weight off his back and focus on the little things that will win him his 3rd championship. In terms of what we have seen so far, the 2 squads look like 2 of the top 3 and as such, this match up will be crucial to where they stand at the end of the season. News breaking out of both camps is Andalusia will be without Omar Sheikh while Sham will be without their Captain as well Muhammad Shah. The absence of both team leaders takes some of the luster away from the matchup but nonetheless these are very important points for both teams.
We are already rating Andalusia as the best defensive team in the league with top performances from Hassan Chaudhary and Rayhan Malik who help their star players focus their efforts in attack. When you add Hashim Ghazi to that mix, you have the key to success. Ghazi has never missed a finals in is career. Sham’s defense has not been as busy as their Spanish opponents but are better built to support their offense which gives Sham more chances to create goals. Andalusia will have to limit Fawad’s involvement in the match to jump Sham in the standings but it will be more difficult to do than their past opponents with the transition back to the John Vanier. WIth Omar out, Atif Mian will be expected to carry the offence upfront with him speed and big boot. The result will setup some serious implications in the standings and the way these teams will play going forward. Can Sham breach the air tight Andalusian defense?

Week 2 Rumours

Week 2 is here and we will be back at Milton Soccer Academy this week and next week. We hope to be back in the Milton Turf Centre after the holiday break. Due to the inconvenience, we have been able to add an additional week to the season for all teams. The remaining schedule has been updated on our website. 
Here is it for your reference: 
Dec 9 Week 2, Dec 16 Week 3, Jan 6 Week 4, Jan 13 Week 5, Jan 20 Week 6, Jan 27 Week 7, Feb 10 Week 8, Feb 24 Week 9, Mar 4 Week 10, Mar 17 Super Sunday, Mar 24 Semi Leg #1, Mar 31, Semi Leg #2, Apr 7 Finals
Anatolia FC vs.  Andalusia FC (8:45PM)
Coming into the matchup, both teams will be disappointed with their results in their opening games as Anatolia failed to finish their chances to lose 4-3 while Andalusia gave up their 3-2 lead with virtually the last kick of the game to settle for a draw. Both teams had trouble being clinical with their chances in front of goal and seemed more likely to score from distance. Respectively, GMs Zain Khilji and Omar Sheikh led by example with involvement in all 3 of their team’s goals and are expected to be pivotal in this week’s matchup as well. Andalusia was missing a couple pieces in the squad last week in Hassan Chaudhary and Rayhan Malik which strengthen their already strong defense.
Critics feel that Andalusia will have an edge in this matchup through their defense and possession control as Anatolia’s potent offence was not exactly potent last match and their defense lackluster. Both teams will have reviewed their shortcomings and implemented improvements in order to make up for the lost points last weekend. With a smaller field sustaining the match, both goalkeepers will be under fire and it doesn’t help that the new official match balls used at BISL have increased velocities when let fly. We expect a high tide from Anatolia and we'll have to see if the Andalusian walls are higher.
Hejaz FC vs.  Samarra FC (9:40PM)
New year, same expectations. Samarra sit atop the table after a victory last week over Anatolia. The redblacks seemed to have found seamless replacements from their championship roster. Omer El-Askalany has taken over for Khizer as the wing man and Rookie sensation Jibran Sakrani is Murtaza 2.0. There are still some question marks about their defence but they proved their worth last week. They are hoping to have Umair Ashraf back in the squad while they still wait for Umer Jabbar to finish his international duty for team Pakistan in the UK. Samarra come into week 2 hoping for another 3 points against Hejaz.
Hejaz were a completely different squad last Sunday than what we saw in their exhibition game. They were without defensive anchor Ali Wadee and no one was able to fill the void as they allowed 7 goals. Nabeel Jabbar had an impressive debut in net with some flashy saves but his defence didn't provide him much help. They will need to sort out their defensive shape as they face another offensive powerhouse in Samarra. Master tactician Taqi Ahmed has been playing Fifa 18 all week searching for a formation that fits his team. Expect more from Nasir Rahman this Sunday after he was left off the scoresheet last week. 
Jerusalem FC vs.  Sham FC (10:35PM)
Two teams who looked severely out of sorts in the exhibition inspired opening weekend and face one another in MW2.  Both teams offer contrasting styles and it will be interesting to see who got lucky last week and who's for real. 
Sham, after being completely disorganized defensively only two weeks ago, looked arguably the most dangerous squad in the League a week ago, with Fawad Akram continuing his blistering form.  Fawad pocketed four goals for the tangerines, and showed that time is no object, as he and Muhammad Shah played with each other seamlessly despite not being teammates for the better part of two years.  With his luscious locks buzzed off, Asif Ibn Rehana showed he has some goals in him too after scoring the first goal of his career and taking command of the Sham defensive line.  Asif aims to be the rock of the backline while Saifuddin Syed has free reign to join the attack, and with elite shotstopper Basil Jeelany behind the duo, we don't expect many goals to pass through.  Ahmad Alvi also struck up a partnership with Akram after collecting a few goals of his own, and the SAA (South Asian Alliance Shah-Akram-Alvi) trio will no doubt keep opposing defences up at night. 
Their opponents this week are Jerusalem, who played a gritty match en route to a 3-3 draw against Andalusia last week.  Jerusalem showed composure from kickoff in their last match, breaking up every combination the Spaniards threw at them and capitalizing on the opportunities presented to them.  Newcomer Azan Ali was the key man on the night for JFC, scoring a brace and being a constant threat in the final third of the pitch.  Keeper Ibrahim Sardar was a force between the sticks as well, having an answer for nearly everything Andalusia threw at him.  In his first season in non-Hejaz colours, we pin him as an early-season favourite for Goalkeeper of the year.  Kamil Lotia also showed shades of his old self; after a subpar performance last year due to being played out of position, he showed poise on the ball and contributed a goal of his own.  Jerusalem's style of play is demanding, as so much of it relies upon defensive discipline and making the most of the limited scoring opportunities that come their way.  While it remains to be seen if they can keep up that form all season, they definitely have the tools and tactics needed to stay in every game (and beat the living crap out of you while doing it). 

Week 1 Rumours

After a week delay, the season finally kicks off this Sunday but at a new facility. We will be temporarily playing at Milton Soccer Academy (821 Main St E, Milton) for this week. We apologize for the changes in the start times. The league will provide drinks for all players for this Sunday. Here are the matchups this week: 

Transaction: Adeel Dosani drops out due to injury; Jerusalem replace him with Furhan Azmat. Since Jerusalem had top waiver priority, Furhan clears waivers and joins the team.  

Sham FC vs.  Hejaz FC (8:45PM)

Hejaz and Sham kick off the 2018 season this Sunday after having faced each other in the exhibition game last week. Hejaz came away with a late victory but Sham was missing some key pieces. Hejaz has under gone a complete remodeling after 3 successful seasons. Los Blancos reached the finals in each of the first three seasons in the league but failed to reach the post season last year. High expectations from ownership forced a change at the helm, granting the job to Taqi Ahmed. Taqi is a top 5 player in career points but wasn't given the opportunity to lead any of the teams he played for; well, now he has his opportunity. The self-proclaimed master tactician will now get to put his theories to practice. With plenty of talent and experienced in his squad, Hejaz should be able to keep up with top clubs but a rocky start could put pressure on the rookie GM.  Hejaz will have to test their cleats against last year's runner up, Sham. Led by Muhammad Shah, Sham has been active on the training grounds since their exhibition loss. The team has their core from last year and some former trophy winners to round out the squad. In an early revenge match, they will be looking to put their stamp as the team to beat this season.

Andalusia FC vs.  Jerusalem FC (9:40PM)

Well, this is awkward.  The Jerusalem side that set records and won a championship that eluded them after a pair of finals losses suits up in the 9:40PM matchup against…Jerusalem? Yes, you read that right – all seven guys from that championship side play in the 9:40PM matchup, yet only a pair of them will be rocking that shade of baby blue.  GM Saqib Dadabhoy and late addition/injury replacement Furhan Azmat are the only two players who are still rocking sky blue threads, while the other five – Omar Sheikh, Shaheen Limbada, Atif Mian, Zahid Merchant and Hashim Ghazi – show up in a royal blue and take on their old team.  Dadabhoy no doubt wants this match more than anyone, as the dynasty he was fixated on taking over from former GM Zahid Merchant has a brand new identity.  The issue is, we don't quite know what that identity is. Dadabhoy drafted a number of new players to the league, who no doubt come with very high reputations.  However, it is tough to evaluate what this side brings to the table until we see them play a few matches.  What we do know is that they'll be led by a GM who is gritty and isn't afraid to win ugly as long as it's a win.  In the exhibition matchup, Dadabhoy was missing his top two picks, and therefore their performance which seemed flat at times cannot be treated as a true reflection of the side's potential.  On the other hand, Omar Sheikh and his boys looked to be in midseason form in their exhibition matchup, partly because they had already fitted in two scrimmages beforehand to get a feel of one another.  However, playing pretty means nothing if it does not lead to victories, and despite dominating possession throughout the match, their opponents struck when the iron was hot and beat the Spaniards 4-3.  Emotions will be running high in this one as former teammates become foes, and though there will be tons of smiles and emotions before kickoff, those will be put to rest once the game begins – both teams will be looking to make a statement and set the tone in a matchup that they've had circled on the calendar ever since the fixture list was announced.

Anatolia FC vs.  Samarra FC (10:35PM)

This late-night fixture will be the best way to end off the opening week as the defending champions, Samara take on the “always offense heavy”, Anatolia FC. Samarra came into the exhibition games with a lot of uncertainty sparking from their drafted unknown qualities. However, our critics weren’t ready to criticize as they knew GM Danish had the ability to recognize talent. It really seemed like the team was in mid-season form with all cylinders firing from back to front. The chemistry had no unstable bonds and the offensive looked like scoring with every wave of attack (converted most of their chances). The spotlight is always on the new guys at first, but let’s just say Jibran Sakrani and Salman Ahmed will be no strangers to it all season. Former GM, Umer Jabbar was on a mission at the exhibition game, but will be missed at the season opener due to personal travel. The Samarian defense pick off where they left off last year but for Anatolia, it’s back to the drawing board. Every season GM Zain Khilji surely must think on how he will mange on defense. We saw Abdullah Akhtar operating as a forward rather than a defender and fell vary on how different Anatolia will be without Nehad Shihab. Hussam Ayubi will be the team’s anchor on D who will face his former championship team and surely will bring some pointers along with him. With arguably the most dangerous attack in the league maned by Zain, Abdullah, Junaid Akram, and Humeid Masood we expect the Anatolians to keep the “score more goals then your opponents” mentality. Samarra’s attack is strong enough to compete head-on which makes this fixture a real cracker of a match. The pressure is on Anatolia as Samarra seems to already have their business figured out.


No games on Sunday Nov 25

Due to the Milton Turf Centre being unavailable, unfortunately all games are cancelled on Sunday November 25th. The schedule has been updated to make up the game at the end of the regular season. Sorry for any inconvenience and see you on Sunday December 2nd iA. 

2018-19 Team Previews

The 2018-19 season is a week away. With exhibition games this week, we will get a chance to see the new teams for the first time. In anticipation, our writers put together give us a preview of each team as we head towards the season. 

Anatolia FC

Team breakdown 
GM: Zain Khilji
Top 3 picks: Junaid Akram, Humeid Khan, Abdullah Akhtar
Predicted Starting VI: U. Sheikh; H. Ayubi, A. Akhtar; Z. Khilji, H. Khan; J. Akram
Former Champions: Humeid Khan (2016), Hussam Ayubi (2018)
X-Factor: Umair Sheikh
The Canaries enter into the season with a brand new identity.  GM Zain Khilji remains as the only GM that has withstood the test of time, as every other team has officially employed a different GM since the league's inaugural season.  However, a big part of the Turks identity is not suiting up this year, with Nehad Shihab being unavailable to join this season.  As such, Khilji had to approach his draft with a different mentality and a huge gap to fill.  We'd say he did a very good job in doing so, nabbing elite forward Junaid Akram and Humeid Khan with his first two picks in the draft.  Both players score when they want, but both also had their seasons cut short last year due to injury.  We are hoping they are 100% heading into the season, as their talent and presence on the pitch demonstrates everything you'd want in a front line.  With Khilji operating as a number ten, opponents will have to pick their poison when facing the Anatolian three-speared attack.  Khilji went on to draft rookie Abdullah Akhtar with his third pick; Akhtar brings athleticism to the side, and though his GM has been mum about where he envisions him lining up on the pitch, we expect Abdullah to be a complete defender with the strength and speed to match up with anyone.  Joining Abdullah in defence will be none other than Hussam Ayubi.  Ayubi was instrumental to the championship winning Samarra side last year, playing as a sweeper for the attack-focused side and shutting down opposing offences with his positioning.  Further, Hussam isn't afraid to put the gloves on when his team is in need of a backup shot stopper, which is no doubt a great safety net for any side to have.  Speaking of net, Umair Sheikh is expected to suit up in goal for the yellow submarine this year.  After a one year hiatus from the position, he looks to be the shot stopping extraordinaire we routinely saw him take the role of only a few years back.  Khilji also brought back two familiar faces in Hasan Afzal and Salman Ahmad.  Both players have been trusted by their GM in the past to play big roles for the side, and we expect their chemistry on the pitch to lead to definitive success.  Anatolia boasts two newcomers this year in Shahbaz Tayyab and Sohaib Siddiqui.  Khilji looks for both guys to play the role of a "Swiss army knife" for the side, putting them in different positions throughout practices and exhibition matches to get a feel of how to best position them for success.  With the talent Khilji possesses throughout the side, he can afford to tinker with his side bit by bit in the opening week or two to develop his recipe for success.  As always, Anatolia will be one of the top offensive teams in the League; but achieving some semblance of balance so Umair Sheikh isn't in front of a firing squad will be necessary in order for these men to make it to the Promised Land.
Andalusia FC
Team breakdown 
GM: Omar Sheikh
Top 3 picks: Shaheen Limbada, Atif Mian, Owais Ansari
Predicted Starting VI: Z. Merchant; O. Ansari, S. Limbada; A. Mian, H. Chaudhary; O. Sheikh
Former Champions: Omar Sheikh (2017), Shaheen Limbada (2017), Atif Mian (2017), Zahid Merchant (2017), Hashim Ghazi (2015, 2016, 2017)
X-Factor: Owais Ansari
Rookie GM Omar Sheikh takes the reins of the Blues this year, a team that he joined during the tail end of last season.  Sheikh, memorably, was part of a Jerusalem side that finally got over the hump in their third finals matchup against Hejaz FC, picking up regular season MVP, playoff MVP and a championship in arguably one of the most impressive individual seasons we've seen.  His approach to the draft was simple – grab as many members of that championship side as he could.  Well, he did just that – he drafted every available member of that 2016-2017 JFC side to build the core of his side.  Sheikh is a prolific goal scorer with an impeccable work rate, and he knew he needed a solid foundation in the middle of the pitch to allow him to press up front without compromising the team's shape.  He did just that in picking up superstars Shaheen Limbada and Atif Mian with his first two picks to act as a double pivot and can fill in anywhere on the pitch.  The three boast familiarity with one another, and appear to be the bedrock of the side.  It will also be great to see former Jerusalem GM Zahid Merchant between the sticks again, after having to take a year off to nurse an injury.  Ziggy hopes to pick up where he left off, and silently played a role as an effective coach for the Samarra FC side that won it all last year.  Hassan Chaudhary has played with this collection of ex-JFC players in the past, and has only found himself in some shade of blue since joining the League.  He brings a silky approach to the game, but may be challenged to take on the role of a defender at times in an effort to play it out from the back.  Owais Ansari will play his part in being a defender that will use his size, speed and energy to disrupt defenders and join the attack when called upon.  Ansari is one of four "rookies" making their debuts on Andalusia this year.  Rayhan Malik joins the side as a box-to-box midfielder who isn't afraid to do the little things that do not show up on the stat sheet; Salman Siddiqui hopes to use his British charm and feel of the game to make his imprint in his maiden season; and, Raza Zahur brings a lot of energy and pace up front to perfectly fit into how the team employs their striker tactically.  Lastly, Omar Sheikh brought in human victory cigar Hashim Ghazi into the side for a purpose we have yet to really understand – regardless, he had to put in time somewhere, and Sheikh did him a solid by letting him be a part of the Spaniards.  Andalusia possesses an identity we have seen win a championship in the past, but it will be crucial for this group to play as a unit on both sides of the pitch if they wish to achieve similar success.
Hejaz FC
Team breakdown 
GM: Taqi Ahmed
Top 3 picks: Nasir Rehman, Syed Murtaza, Ali Wadee
Predicted Starting VI: N. Jabbar; S. Kazmi, A. Wadee; N. Rehman, T. Ahmed; S. Murtaza
Former Champions: Zeem Khan (2015, 2018), Ali Wadee (2018), Syed Murtaza (2018) 
X-Factor: Syed Kazmi 
After 4 years of presenting his own revolutionary tactics to his GMs, only to see them scratched, Taqi Ahmed is crowned the new GM of Hejaz. He did not take anytime in recruiting his “Malton boys” who continue to grow in number with every passing season. He was able to scoop up 2 Malton superstars in Nasir Rehman and Syed Murtaza with his first 2 picks and from there on, Hejaz looked like it was in good hands. Having picked 2 guys who came up with 16 points and a golden boot for their teams, Taqi turned to a defensive leader in Ali Wadee who was instrumental in securing the championship for his team last year. Although it is unclear who Ali will pair up with, we predict rookie Syed Kazmi will step up to fill the role with his anything-for-the-team attitude. Zeem Khan will be the secondary offensive option along with Asif Ali who is known to bolster a thunderous left boot. Hamza Waheed gives them versatility with his ability to slot in given the strategy which will prove to be a benefit in the long-run. Our rumour reports suggest, Taqi was able to meet with Nabeel Jabbar in the transfer window and convinced him to sign as a goalkeeper to seal his master plan to win the league. Riaz Murad rounds off the squad as the back-up keeper and underestimated striker. With the talents of Nasir and Taqi in the squad, the club has many styles of play that they can adopt, but we are sure Taqi will choose the most unorthodox method to approach their season. Can he prove his former GMs wrong?
Jerusalem FC
Team breakdown 
GM: Saqib Dadabhoy
Top 3 picks: Ali Raza, Azan Ali, Ismail Akhter 
Predicted Starting VI: I. Sardar; S. Dadabhoy, A. Chawdhry; A. Raza, A. Ali, I. Akhtar 
Former Champions: Ibrahim Sardar (2015,2016), Saqib Dadabhoy (2017), Syed Murtaza (2018) 
X-Factor: Ismail Akhter 
GM Saqib Dadabhoy had a terrific season as both a player and manager last year and Jerusalem fans continue to chant his melodies from the 2016 championship run. Although it seems he’s changed his durable style and strategy this year, the club and fans trust his instincts to bring back the glory days. Saqib this season starts off without a braintrust of his own. Most teams went after former players to surround themselves with but JFC made a bold move by going straight after new talent. With his first 2 picks, Saqib selected brothers Ali Raza and Azan Ali who have played alongside each other since they went pro. Rumours suggest that Saqib employed scouts to monitor the development of the brothers since he was named Jerusalem’s next GM. Ismail Akhter was brought in next to play deeper and support the brother’s in scoring.  As the only defender GM, there was less pressure on Saqib to draft a go to Center-back as he opted for the speedy and experienced Arshad Choudhry.  To top it off, Ibrahim Sardar was taken from Hejaz after a 4-year spell to renew his magic in between the pipes for the blues. Ibrahim will be part of the new Jerusalem braintrust. Ibrahim for the longest time had been Jerusalem's worst enemy, eliminating JFC in the finals two years in a row while GM of Hejaz. It will be unusual seeing him don the baby blue this season. The reliable Kamil Lotia will slot into the midfield as the creative playmaker while the young Harris Shahzad will use his speed on the flanks to get through on goal as second offensive options. Adeel Dosani and Adnan Habib round off the squad to take on more defensive roles to add stability to their season. There are a few question marks surrounding the team, but if all the pieces stick together, the blues look pretty balanced. Transitioning between the thirds will be the key to their success and that success will only be attainable if Ali and Azan are able to perform here at BISL.      
Samarra FC
Team breakdown 
GM: Danish Khan
Top 3 picks: Omar El-Askalany, Jibran Sakrani, Shaharyar Khan 
Predicted Starting VI: H. Syed; S. Khan, S. Choudhry; O. El-Askalany, J. Sakrani, D. Khan 
Former Champions: Sheraz Choudhry (2016), Danish Khan (2018), Hassan Syed (2018), Umair Ashraf (2018), Umer Jabbar (2018)
X-Factor: Jibran Sakrani 
The defending champions made no mistake with Danish Khan and have now signed the former MVP to a long-term contract and the rights to GM Samarra FC. There was no man better for the job to carry the legacy of the club forward without compromising their championship talent and what the organization stands for. Danish’s first move was to bring in the pacey striker Omer El-Askalany (Egypt) who will complement the style of play Samarra wants to preserve. His next 3 picks secured good friends Jibran Sakrani and Salman Ahmed, and relative Shaharyar Khan to create a stable compound in the team chemistry. Jibran is relatively unknown to the league but may prove to be the gem uncovered by their new GM. Shaharyar is a very well-know figure in the league and can now break loose from the struggles of his previous club and lead alongside Danish. His versatility will, we predict, man the defensives for the club in partnership with Sheraz Choudhary who is also a recognized entity in the league. To round the edges of the uncertainty a new manger brings, Danish resigned his championship defense unit in goalkeeper Hassan Syed and defenders Umair Ashraf and Umer Jabbar. Junaid Mirza will deem the back-goalie and striker reinforcement for the club. It seems Danish has acquired only known commodities with matching chemistry properties although some are not traceable to BISL which could be their cutting edge. With Danish in the heart of the midfield, transition play will be a strength given their dependable striking and defensive units. However, we are still blurred on what Jibran and Salman will bring offensively and whether it will be enough to fill the void of last season’s Khizer Shahzad.

Sham FC

Team breakdown 
GM: Muhammad Shah
Top 3 picks: Fawad Akram, Asif Ibn Rehana, Ahmad Alvi
Predicted Starting VI: B. Jeelany; A. Ibn Rehana, S. Syed; M. Shah, F. Akram; A. Alvi
Former Champions: Muhammad Shah (2015, 2016), Saifuddin Syed (2016), Imad Siraj (2015)
X-Factor: Saifuddin Syed
All Shah does is win – he has led, either as an AGM or a GM, each one of his teams to the finals, having won two.  The more surprisingly part is that he's lost the last two – something he no doubt keeps front and centre heading into this season.  Muhammad Shah is everything you want in a footballer – he's got skill, strength, size, speed and style.  Every season you can count on him scoring a wondrous goal for his Orangemen.  When granted the first pick this year, he went with familiarity, as expected, drafting Fawad Akram to be the midfield maestro to play 1-2s with throughout the year.  Familiarity was a theme for Shah throughout the draft, as he picked up five guys he has played with in some capacity over the last four years.  That includes defensive juggernaut Asif Ibn Rehana and dribbling extraordinaire Ahmad Alvi, both members of the Orange side that lost to Samarra in the finals last year.  The son of Rehana will be expected to be the leader of the defence this season, a role he has not shied away from in the past, while Alvi will make up the third prong in an already deadly Sham front-3.  Shah welcomed back Saifuddin Syed to his side, a man who was instrumental to Hejaz's undefeated campaign in 2016.  Syed is a midfielder by trade, but sacrificed his role in the side a few years back to be an effective defender that always made the right decision and was not afraid to join the attack.  He perfectly complements Ibn Rehana's style of play, and should make for the best defensive pairing in the League this season.  Shah was also able to bring back Imad Siraj, who had his most prolific campaign in his first season in the League as a member of Hejaz.  Imad is exactly what you would want in a poacher, and joins a team with a bevy of playmakers to put him in positions to succeed.  In goal, Sham bring in reigning GK of the Year Basil Jeelany, who made his mark as a commanding presence in net last year, and looks to build upon his reputation as one of the best keepers in the League.  Sham has three rookies on the roster this year, in Atif Khan, Ibrahim Khan and Mustafa Tirmizi.  Atif Khan is new to the league and will bring grit and determination to the orangemen.  If Mustafa Tirmizi can have a debut season even half as good as his brother's last year, Sham have a steal on their hands.  Ibrahim Khan rounds out the side as a defender who will tower over most of his opponents with his height, and will be crucial in winning aerial duels to stifle opposing scorers.  On paper, the tangerines look like absolute heavyweights, and may boast the most complete starting six in the League – however, games aren't won on paper, and having this side show up week in and week out with the mindset of champions will determine whether they'll be lifting the trophy at year's end.

2018-19 BISL Schedule is up

The 2018-19 regular season season and playoff schedule has been uploaded. Visit your team schedule and click the download button to import the schedule into your calendar. 


Exhibition games are scheduled for November 18th at Invader Sports Complex. 

9pm - Jerusalem FC v Samarra FC
9:40pm  - Anatolia FC v Andalusia FC
10:20pm - Hejaz FC v Sham FC

2018-19 BISL Draft Board

The 2018-19 BISL Draft is complete. Here are the results in alphabetical order: