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2016-17 Season Recap, All BISL-Teams & Player Awards

After a season that featured plenty of new faces, a new playoff team, and finally a new champion (albeit in a final that had the same two teams for the third time running), it's safe to say that it was the best one to date. The parity amongst the League was beyond apparent, with four squads holding top position at different times throughout the season. However, this season featured a lot more than just parity. We saw league records smashed as well, notably:
  • most goals by the league in a season (172 compared to 156 last year);
  • most goals by a player in a season (Zain Khilji with 17);
  • most saves by a player in a season (Umair Sheikh with 80):
  • most saves by a player in a match (Umair Sheikh with 18);
  • most points by a player in a match (Omar Sheikh with 7);
  • most shots by a player in a match (Fawad Akram with 12):
  • most goals by ‎a team in a match (Jerusalem with 13); and,
  • most shots by a team in a match (Hejaz with 42)‎.
The season featured many incredible individual performances, which made player award voting even more difficult than usual. 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 two 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, Jerusalem FC      
G: Umair Sheikh, Anatolia FC
D: Zain Khan, Andalusia FC
D: Mohammad Variava, Jerusalem FC
D: Atif Mian, Jerusalem FC
D: Hassan Chaudhry, Andalusia FC
F: Zain Khilji, Anatolia FC
F: Fawad Akram, Hejaz FC
F: Omar Sheikh, Jerusalem FC
F: Junaid Akram, Hejaz FC
F: Muhammad Shah, Hejaz FC
F: Khizer Shahzad, Samarra FC

And now, onto the awards...

Golden Boot

Zain Khilji, Anatolia FC (17 goals)

Khilji set a BISL record with 17 goals this season, and average of almost 2 per match he suited up for. He opened up the season with a 5 goal outburst, and showed no sign of slowing down. What's just as impressive is that he did it on 38 shots, showing a clinical display of ruthlessness in front of goal.

Regular Season MVP

Top Three Nominees:
Junaid Akram, Hejaz FC; Omar Sheikh, Jerusalem FC; Zain Khilji, Anatolia FC.
Winner: Omar Sheikh, Jerusalem FC (14 goals, 6 assists, 20 points)

Sheikh joined Jerusalem FC midseason last year and has set the league ablaze since his arrival. Sheikh is known for his work rate, aggression, and superb finishing. He was instrumental in JFC's title winning season, and showed all he is capable of in his 7-point outburst against Sham that set plenty of League records.

Playoff MVP

Top Three Nominees:
Mohammad Variava‎, Omar Sheikh, Raza Ali.
Winner: Omar Sheikh, Jerusalem FC (5 goals, 2 assists in 2 games played; 3 goals in Final)

Sheikh carried his scoring boots into the postseason with a display that brought home the first title in Jerusalem FC's short history. Having moved to Vancouver for work, he flew back in time for the second leg of the semi-final against Anatolia FC, where he chipped in two goals and two assists. His display in the Final was equally impressive with a hat-trick that brought home the gold. Sheikh ran eight (!!!) kilometres in the 70-minute Final, showing that he was all over the pitch and made his mark on both sides of the ball.

Top Defender

Top Three Nominees: Atif Mian, Jerusalem FC; Umair Jabbar, Samarra FC; Zain Khan, Andalusia FC.
Winner: Atif Mian, Jerusalem FC (3 assists, +7 GD)

Mian is a newcomer to the League and made his mark as an All-BISL first team pick, a top defender award and a championship. A midfielder by trade, Atif was asked to move back into a defensive role to balance out the side and provide some control at the back. Mian relished the opportunity, providing a sense of calm and quality buildup from the backline. He also chipped in with three assists.

Top Goalkeeper

Top Three Nominees: ‎Ibrahim Sardar, Hejaz FC; Umair Sheikh, Anatolia FC; Zahid Merchant, Jerusalem FC.
Winner: Zahid Merchant, Jerusalem FC (49 saves, 18 goals against, 73.1% save percentage, ‎2 clean sheets, 1 assist)

Ziggy went from last year's most improved player in his first season between the sticks to the league's top goalkeeper this year. A move made out of necessity after being unable to pick up a keeper in the draft, Merchant put the gloves on himself and developed into an elite shotstopper in the League. His most impressive performance came in a gritty 3-2 win over Andalusia, where he made 10 saves and contributed an assist as well.

Most Improved Player

Top Three Nominees: Fahim Karamat, Andalusia FC; Mohammad Mahmood, Sham FC; Omar Adil, Hejaz FC.
Winner: Fahim Karamat, Andalusia FC (5 goals, 1 assist)

Karamat went from a player who had zero points and two shots in season one to a five goal scorer and lead offensive contributor this year. Andalusia FC were known for their defensive foundation, but Karamat chipped in with crucial goals throughout the season that led them to their first playoff birth ever, notably with a brace in a 4-0 win over Hejaz during Matchweek 2.

Brotherhood Award

Nominees: ‎A K, Hejaz FC; Danish Khan, Samarra FC; Hassan Zubair, Anatolia FC; Imad Siraj, Andalusia FC; Raza Ali, Jerusalem FC; Usman Aslam, Sham FC.
Winner: Danish Khan, Samarra FC

Though every one of these nominees (and many others that weren't) are deserving of this award, it could not have gone to a better brother than Danish. Khan exemplified the type of personality and mentality this League thrives on showcasing. He played hard and set the tone for his squad, displayed competitiveness while maintaining respect for his opponent, and showed class on and off the pitch. He set an example that resonated with everyone in the League.

That brings a close to Season Three of BISL, our most competitive one yet. 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!

Congratulations to the 2016/17 Champions - Jerusalem FC

Third time's a charm, isn't it? After being on the losing end of the scoreline the past two finals, Jerusalem finally got the best of their nemesis Hejaz to be crowned as Champions. The Final score read 4-1 and it played out exactly as you'd expect a final to be - intense, gritty and focused. Both teams left it all on the field, but only one team can be crowned champs, and it was finally the Sky Blues turn to hoist the trophy. The game started off with a great individual effort by Raza Ali that put his side ahead 1-0. A second came only a few mins after by Omar Sheikh to put JFC up two and Hejaz looking for answers. They got an immediate return as Muhammad Shah, as he always does, took matters into his own hands right off the kickoff - dangling his way into a great finish that saw them pull back one in unison. Omar Sheikh made sure not to let the tide fall in favour of the Hejazis though, as he answered back quickly with another goal to put his men up 3-1 at the break. In the second half, Hejaz looked to get another goal early but the solid defensive partnership of Mohammed Variava and Atif Mian for Jerusalem could not be broken down. Credit to Shaheen Limbada for putting in a shift of his own as defensive mid, as the three of them (and Jerusalem as a whole) looked poised in preventing Hejaz from getting any more goals. Omar Sheikh finished his hat trick off with another great finish on the counter that put the game all but away. Hejaz kept chipping away but couldn't get any end product. As the game waned down, both teams showed signs of fatigue with the extended game length. As the final whistle blew, Jerusalem GM let out a roar as he finally claimed the championship that's alluded his side in year's past.

Hejaz FC v Jerusalem FC - Finals Rumours

After a season that on paper showed the most parity the League has seen in its short history, it comes down to the matchup it seems to always come down to - Jerusalem FC vs Hejaz. Both sides faced their own challenges throughout the year and had their ups and downs, but after the regular season as seeds 1 and 2, they find themselves head-to-head for the third consecutive time. Let's break down this vaunted rivalry as we head into the season finale this Sunday.  

Hejaz FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:30PM on Field 3)

Historic Head to Head: 3-1-2 for Hejaz FC
Previous Matchups: MW1 3 -1 for Jerusalem FC; MW6 6 - 3 for Hejaz FC
Playoff Matchups: 2-0 for Hejaz FC in last two finals
Playoff History: Hejaz FC 2014/15: Champions, 2015-16: Champions; Jerusalem FC 2014/15: Runners-up, 2015-16: Runners-up 
Season Record (Place): Hejaz FC 6-0-4 18 points (2nd); Jerusalem FC 7-2-1 22 points (1st)
GF/GA/GD: Hejaz FC 35/25/10; Jerusalem FC 37/21/16
Top Goalscorers: Hejaz FC - Junaid Akram (14); Jerusalem FC - Omar Sheikh (16)
Projected Starting VI:
          Hejaz FC - A. K; O. Adil, A. Ibn Rehana; M. Shah, F. Akram; J. Akram
          Jerusalem FC - U. Wasim; A. Mian, M. Variava; S. Limbada, S. Dadabhoy; O. Sheikh

Old foes. Despite there being a total of nine 'rookies' spread amongst both sides, the Zahid/Saqib/Shaheen trio faces off against the Shah/Sardar/AK trio. In case it hasn't already been made apparent, these two sides have a rivalry that dates back to season one. Hejaz were steamrolling sides and had their only defeat of the whole season at the hands of Jerusalem. Hejaz finished top of the table with Jerusalem not far behind in second. The two then met in the finals, where Hejaz went up to an early 3-0 lead before Jerusalem came storming back . It was too little, too late as Hejaz held on for a 4-3 victory that saw them dubbed as inaugural champs of the League. The following season, Hejaz went undefeated, taking a total of four points of six on Jerusalem - a season in which again Hejaz was top heading into the playoffs with Jerusalem in the 2 spot. They met again in the final, and this time it remained a very close game. Hejaz managed to hold onto a 2-1 lead to capture their second championship in a row, and finish the season undefeated.

This year, they find themselves 1-2 again, except this time, JFC held top spot. Hejaz, somehow, found themselves in surreal form to close out the season, moving from fifth spot to second in the final three weeks. Both teams travelled very different roads to get to this point, but that does not matter - what matters is that they're here. Heading into the matchup, the main things making news is who won't be suiting up this Sunday.

Once again, Hejaz's GM Ibrahim Sardar will be out of the lineup as he embarks on his annual Umrah trip (we wish him safe travels). Therefore, with Sardar out, it looks as is Los Blancos will be turning to either two-time Playoff MVP AK or newcomer Asif Ibn Rehana manning the gloves. Sources say the team is leaning towards AK in order to keep the formidable Hejaz starting five intact. With that being said, we will see if Hejaz make a change at halftime to maximize on AK's perennial second gear that comes out when the stakes are at their highest. ‎The Hejazis had another scare last week when superstar striker Junaid Akram was visibly limping during the match due to an ankle injury. However, all signs point to the young lad being 100 percent for the big match.

On the other side, Jerusalem have been bit by the injury bug at the worst possible time. GM Zahid Merchant had to give up his role as starting 'keeper due to a fractured wrist, but made himself more than useful as an energetic substitute performance that saw him net two goals (not a typo - that really happened). Umair Wasim filled in admirably between the sticks, as did Mohammed Variava in a late cameo that featured his self-proclaimed 'best save of the season' (on a goal that would not have counted anyways, but that's not important). However, Zahid is not the only injury concern the Sky Blues face. Furhan Azmat and Saqib Dadabhoy are due for late fitness tests as they nurse foot and ankle injuries, respectively. The potential loss of these players is even further magnified by the extended match length for the final - each half will be 35 minutes (instead of the standard 25), and thus, the need for fresh legs and depth (or lack thereof) will be paramount for success. We expect them both to suit up and be ready to make a difference in some capacity come kickoff.

Both teams possess solid backlines, dynamic midfielders and clinical forwards. Both play an open style that relies on his soccer IQ and movement. Both teams possess the type of individual talent that can change the impact of the game with a single move. Hejaz obviously holds the historic advantage over their counterparts, but Jerusalem come in with the best squad they've ever assembled. The problem is, Hejaz might have their best squad they've ever had to.

All that doesn't matter though - what matters now is the final seventy minutes. The teams will be pitted against each other like they have the past few years. One side will be hoping history repeats itself, while the other looks to finally change its course. Let's see how it plays out in this year's final kicking off at 8:30PM this Sunday.

Second Leg: Semi-final Recap

The second half of the semi-finals failed to provide the drama we experienced last week with two one side affairs. Congratulations to Anatolia and Andalusia for a fantastic season with plenty of accomplishments this year. Here's how we got down to the final two.

Anatolia FC   1   |   6   Jerusalem FC (Jerusalem advance 7-2 on aggregate)

After a tight draw last week, Anatolia sorely missed their Captain and leading goalscorer while Jerusalem got a surprise late addition for their match. Omar Sheikh caught a flight to return from his west coast assignment to join his team in time for the game. He made an impact immediate as he scored the opening goal. Raza Ali would have his best match of the season as he score two brilliant goals and got a helper as well. Nihad Shihab did his best to carry the scoring load for his squad and got an early goal to keep his team in the match but was held at bay after that. With the match falling out of reach, Jerusalem helped set up their former keeper Zahid Merchant with two late goals to put an exclamation on the match. Anatolia fought hard but were unable to generate enough offense to keep up. Jerusalem advance to the finals once again but health of their squad will be the talk all week. 

Andalusia FC   0   |   2   Hejaz FC (Hejaz advance 6-1 on aggregate)

The second match required Andalusia to come up with a three goal victory to force a shoot-out after their lapse in the first leg. That task got even more difficult when Fawad Akram scored a goal early in the first half to give them a four goal advantage. Andalusia were in all out blitz mode and struggled to generate quality scoring chances through out the match. Early on Shaharyar Khan got a few chances that could have changed the complexion of the game but failed to capitalize. Later in the first half, Muhammad Shah scored to end any chance of a comeback. Andalusia reached the playoffs for the first time and had a fantastic season that saw them lead the tables for much of the season. The solid core should give them the ability to get back to the semis in future years. Hejaz once again find themselves in the finals against a familiar opponent. 

All that is left now is the finale which kicks off at 830 next Sunday. 

Semi-Finals Leg #2 Rumours

We head into the second leg of the semis in anticipation of what the finals have in store. Will we have the third Hejaz-Jerusalem final in a row, or will Anatolia and Andalusia have a chance to pepper some fresh colour into this BISL history books? Though all that there is to say about these matchups has essentially been said, we head into the penultimate week of the season with more questions than answers. 
Anatolia FC vs. Jerusalem FC : 1-1 after First Leg (8:45PM on Field 3)
After a very tight-knit affair that saw both teams play conservative in hopes of catching the other on the break, we head into the second leg even at one goal apiece. However, expect a very different look from both sides. As has already been mentioned, Jerusalem are missing Omar Sheikh, as his status is uncertain for the remainder of the season. The team has encouraged him to rejoin the team for the finals if they get there but after a poor finishing display by the team last week, they desperately need him to advance. However, the bad news doesn’t stop there, as it has been confirmed that JFC Captain Zahid Merchant has suffered a hairline fracture in his wrist, and is currently nursing a hard cast. Though we do not expect Merchant to put the gloves on come Gameday, we may, just MAY see him lace up his boots for his first appearance in the outfield since 2015. On the other side, we have Anatolia not having Captain and MVP Candidate Zain Khilji in the side for the remaining weeks as he travels on a family trip to Pakistan. Knowing Khilji’s competitiveness, we truly cannot rule him out until he’s not there at kickoff. So though he says he will be in Lahore by the time the semis roll around, will he REALLY be in Lahore by the time the semis roll around? We’ll have to wait and see. Both teams will have to rely on stars Shaheen Limbada and Nehad Shihab to get through to the finals. Expect this game to remain cagey again, and whoever scores first will park the bus in hopes of holding the result for the big show next week.
Projected Starting VI: 
     Anatolia FC - U. Sheikh; M. Salman, T. Mirza; T. Ahmed, N. Shihab; K. Lotia
     Jerusalem FC - U. Wasim; A.Mian, M. Variava; S. Limbada, R. Ali; S. Dadabhoy

Andalusia FC vs. Hejaz FC : 1-4 after First Leg (9:45PM on Field 3)
If our games consisted of twenty minute halves, this one too would be dead even at 1-1 heading into the second leg. However, Andalusia, after tirelessly working to keep at a low goal tally just did not have enough gas in the tank to see it through. Hejaz put up three quick goals in the closing minutes of the match to take a commanding 4-1 lead heading into leg two. Though the front three of Akram, Shah and Akram will again receive plaudits for their ruthless display, it all starts with the defensive pairing of Omar Adil and Asif Ibn Rehana. Omar has been arguably the most complete defender in the league this year, shutting down opponents and confidently carrying the ball up field to allow the attacking starlets to stay deep in the opponent’s half. He has a perfect partner in Ibn Rehana who isn’t shy to mix it up and break up play, while also showing some crafty distribution with the ball at his feet. The two of them together have seamless chemistry that forces opposing forwards into compromising situations, and allows the front three attackers to focus on just that – attacking. Andalusia have been a low-scoring side in comparison to the other playoff teams, but they play a very fluid game that relies on movement and incisive playmaking. Zain Khan was welcomed into the mix last week after a long hiatus due to injury, and though there may have been some signs of rust, he’s amped and ready to go this week. If there’s one thing you can say about this year’s iteration of the Blues, is that they’re fighters. A lot of teams would look at a 3 goal deficit as daunting, but not these guys. They play with energy, are aggressive and have the will to win. We wouldn’t count them out just yet. Expect the Spaniards to come out blazing in the first ten minutes in hopes of a few quick goals. If Hejaz concede early, expect this game to really take form as the pressure will be on

Projected Starting VI:
     Andalusia FC - J. Mirza; H. Chaudhry, Z. Khan; S. Khan, H. Chaudhary; A. Chaudhry
     Hejaz FC - I. Sardar; O. Adil, A. Ibn Rehana; M. Shah, F. Akram; J. Akram

By 10:45PM on Sunday, only two teams will remain standing in the most competitive season in BISL to date – the next chapter awaits.

First Leg Semi-Finals Recap

Playoff footy is finally here, and the first leg of the semis did not disappoint. One matchup looks all but done, while the other is wide open heading into leg two. Here's how it all went down.

Andalusia FC   1   |   4   Hejaz FC

A matchup that featured one of the more intense battles throughout the season lived up to its billing. This game had that 'playoff intensity' you look for - it was chippy, it was aggressive and it featured some heated exchanges between the sides. The match started off 0-0 until just before the end of the half, when a pair of All-BISL 2nd teamers exchanged goals. Defender Hassan Chaudhry deposited his first playoff goal with the set-up by Shahrayar Khan, and young'n Fawad Akram 'Maradona'd' his way through the entire Andalusian side to score a goal for the ages. The game remained a close-knit affair for the first fifteen minutes of the second half, but the Spaniards just couldn't hold the three-pronged attack of Hejaz. Muhammad Shah put away the go-ahead goal with an assist by Fawad Akram, and the other Akram brother, Junaid, nabbed two quick goals to give Los Blancos a comfortable lead heading into the second leg. The scoreline doesn't do justice to the actual run of play - Andalusia was in it throughout the match, but the wheels just came off at the end. They find themselves down three goals heading into what could be the last 50 minutes of their season.

Anatolia FC   1   |   1   Jerusalem FC

The second match was a tight affair as well, as the rivalry between the sides‎ looked to write another chapter. The game was back-and-forth, with both teams not taking too many risks and aiming to play on the counter. It also featured both goalkeepers voted onto the All-BISL teams - Zahid Merchant and Umair Sheikh. The first half featured a few chances by Jerusalem that were impressively handled by Canary keeper Sheikh. Just before the halftime whistle, a mishandled ball by JFC led to a great chance for the Turks - the ball danced along the goal line but didn't cross, and both teams went scoreless into the half. The second half featured a few one-on-ones between Zain Khilji and Shaheen Limbada, but the veteran managed to keep the young superstar at bay. Limbada made an impact on the other side of the pitch with a beautifully taken goal set up by Atif Mian to put the Sky Blues up. That didn't last for long as the Yellows evened up the score when Nehad Shihab took a Taqi Ahmed pass and slotted it by Merchant on a tight angle. Both sides showed tired legs down the stretch and didn't muster up many more clear-cut chances, and they head into the second leg at 1-1. We also heard that post-game GM and keeper Zahid Merchant suffered some heavy swelling on his wrist after stopping a Nehad Shihab laser. The team awaits test results on what could be a huge loss for the post-season if Ziggy is out. We wish him well.

The second leg of the semis go next week, with one of Anatolia & Jerusalem breaking the current deadlock at 8:45 followed by Andalusia fighting for their season against Hejaz at 9:45.

Semi-Finals Leg #1 Rumours

This season, the league was as open as it’s ever been. Four different sides held pole position throughout the year, with mid-season table toppers Jerusalem coming back on top to be crowned top seed heading into the playoffs. However, with this level of parity, seeding means nothing. Anybody can beat anyone, and when you factor in that this is the first time the League will feature a two-leg semi-final, there are sure to be some surprises. The road to this year’s championship starts here – the first leg of the semi-finals.

Hejaz FC vs. Andalusia FC : First Leg (8:45PM on Field 3)

Historic Head to Head: 2-2-2 Even
Previous Matchups: MW2 4 -0 for Andalusia FC; MW7 1 - 0 for Andalusia FC
Playoff Matchups: None
Playoff History: Andalusia FC 2014/15: DNQ, 2015/16: DNQ; Hejaz FC 2014/15: Champions, 2015-16: Champions
Season Record (Place): Andalusia FC 5-1-4 16 points (3rd); Hejaz FC 6-0-4 18 points (2nd)
GF/GA/GD: Andalusia FC 24/18/6; Hejaz FC 35/25/10
Top Goalscorers: Andalusia FC - Ali Chaudhry (6); Hejaz FC - Junaid Akram (12)
Projected Starting VI:
     Andalusia FC - J. Mirza; H. Chaudhry, Z. Khan; S. Khan, H. Chaudhary; A. Chaudhry
     Hejaz FC - I. Sardar; O. Adil, A. Ibn Rehana; M. Shah, F. Akram; J. Akram

In the first matchup, we see the team that’s never played in the playoffs against the team that’s never lost in them. Both these teams had very different paths that led them to the postseason, yet find themselves facing off in a matchup that features a free-flowing, trigger-happy offense against an organized and stout defense. Hejaz started off the season in shambles, losing their first three matches and looking like the complete opposite of what we’re used to seeing from Los Blancos. Andalusia was also the complete opposite than what we’re used to seeing from them…in a good way. The blues were storming through matches collecting win after win with a disciplined tactics and ruthless chance conversion. However, the second half of the season saw Hejaz go on a tear while Andalusia had some rough patches due to key players either injured or missing. The result leads to a 2 v 3 matchup few would’ve ever predicted. Andalusia have to be confident going into the tie, having won both matchups with Hejaz this season. However, the final matchup between both sides led to a major injury to defender Zain Khan that forced him out for the remainder of the regular season. Both he and Shay Khan face fitness tests prior to this weekend, and GM Junaid Mirza hopes they can contribute in some capacity, even if they’re not 100 percent. On the other side, Hejaz’s offense continues to build chemistry, with a front three that may even be better than the front three featured by the side in last year’s undefeated season as champions. Factor in the defensive foundation of rookies Omar Adil and Asif Ibn Rehana, plus the always perenially underrated keeper GM Ibrahim Sardar, and these guys have the tools to three peat. However, Andalusia clearly having a gameplan that has worked against Hejaz during the season, they remain the favourites going into the tie. It will be contrasting styles facing off with both sides trying to have the advantage heading into the second leg. If Andalusia can get another top result against Hejaz and give another week for the Khans to get back to full fitness, watch out.

Jerusalem FC vs. Anatolia FC : First Leg (9:45PM on Field 3)

Historic Head to Head: 4-1-1 for Jerusalem FC
Previous Matchups: MW4 7 -2 for Anatolia FC; MW9 3 - 1 for Jerusalem FC
Playoff Matchups: 2014/15 Semis 1-1 (JFC on penalties)
Playoff History: Anatolia FC 2014/15: Semis, 2015/16: DNQ; Jerusalem FC 2014/15: Runners-up, 2015-16: Runners-up
Season Record (Place): Anatolia FC 5-0-5 (4th); Jerusalem FC 7-1-2 (1st)
GF/GA/GD: Anatolia FC 34/29/5; Jerusalem FC 37/21/16
Top Goalscorers: Anatolia FC - Zain Khilji (17); Jerusalem FC - Omar Sheikh (14)
Projected Starting VI:
     Anatolia FC - U. Sheikh; M. Salman, T. Mirza; T. Ahmed, N. Shihab; Z. Khiilji
     Jerusalem FC - Z.Merchant; A.Mian, M. Variava; S. Limbada, U. Wasim; S. Dadabhoy

The two top offences in the league take on each other in BISL’s first ever two-leg semi-final, and it has the makings of a classic. These two teams have quite the history. From the 1-1 draw in the semis a few years ago that went on to penalties, where Shaheen Limbada put the side through on a clutch penalty, to the personal rivalry between Taqi Ahmed and the entire sky blues side after some choice words exchanged following the last time the teams faced off – this matchup will live up to the hype. After the Canaries drubbed Jerusalem 7-2 in their first meeting this season on the back of a dominating performance by Nehad Shihab, Jerusalem looked like they were in trouble. However, in the follow-up fixture only a few weeks ago, Jerusalem looked the better team and despite a close scoreline, felt like they deserved the win. Following the matchup, Taqi reached out to Jerusalem GM Zahid Merchant letting him know that he expects more from a team than what JFC put in that night, and come playoffs, Taqi will show them how a real team plays. Both teams wanted this matchup – JFC so they can exorcise the demons of their worst loss in BISL history, and AFC so they can prove that they have what it takes to take down the top-ranked sides. Also, of note in this matchup will not only be who is playing, but who isn’t. JFC’s top scoring threat Omar Sheikh is out for the semi finals after making a career move that took him to the west coast; he unlikely will not be suiting up unless his team makes it to the finals. Likewise, GM Zain Khilji is missing the second leg for travel commitments as well and thus will need to play his heart out and give his team a big margin heading into a Khilji-less second leg. This matchup promises to be open, high-scoring and full of theatrics.

The first leg of the semis kicks off this Sunday, where we’ll see if Andalusia and Anatolia can put a dent in the chance of seeing a Jerusalem-Hejaz final for the third year running. It all starts at 8:45PM. LET’S GO.

Week 10 Recap

Matchweek 10 completed the 2016-17 regular season. Anatolia move on to play Jerusalem in the Semis while Andalusia will make their playoff debut against Hejaz. We bid farewell to Sham and Samarra. Sham had a difficult year but kudos to them for showing competitive spirit and fighting right till the end even though the results were lacking. Samarra sat in first place in week 7 but found some rough form and free falled all the way out of the playoffs. We thank both teams for a great season and hope to see you all again next season. Here are the recaps:  

Samarra FC     8   |   0     Sham FC

Samarra knew coming into the match they needed a miracle to earn a playoff spot but they were determined to do their part. Samarra struck for 3 goals in the first ten minutes while Sham was still waiting on their goalkeeper to show up. Samarra needed a 17 goal differential to move up in the standings. Sham put up a valiant fight but once again their offense was unable to breakthrough. Samarra finish with a convincing 8-0 victory but it wouldn't be enough to make amends for their poor goal differential. Both teams fail to move on to the second season after they both made the semi finals last year. We thank them for their contributions to the league this year. 

Man of the Match - Khizer Shahzad

Anatolia FC     4   |   7     Hejaz FC

In a huge fixture for both sides, this match would determine the playoff seedings. The match started off with a dandy as Hejaz jumped out to an early 3-0 lead by the midway point of the first half but Anatolia stormed all the way back to tie up the match on two goals from Riaz Murad. However, Anatolia was unable to control the Akram brothers as they ripped apart the Turkish defence. Four of Hejaz's goals were tap-ins which tells you how well their players were covered. Junaid Akram would finish with another 6 points to give him 12 in two matches. Hejaz is on fire and they enter the playofs on a hot streak. They will face Andalusia in the two-leg semi final while Anatolia fall down the fourth place and will face league leaders Jerusalem. 
Man of the Match - Junaid Akram 

Andalusia FC   1   |   2     Jerusalem FC

In the late match, both Andalusia and Jerusalem knew their playoff standings and the only thing that could change their seeding would be a Andalusia victory by more than 5 goals. Both teams played with one sub each which meant the pace of the game would be slower. Andalusia struck first with Shaharyar Khan beating his man down the wing and smashing it short side to give his side the lead. That lead would last less than five minutes as Shaheen Limbada set up Raza Ali with a brilliant cross for the easy tap in. Both teams traded shots but went in the half content with the tie. Late in the second half, Jerusalem went for victory by peppering 5 shots in quick succession and eventually found the winner on a backheel goal by Umair Wasim, set up by Raza Ali. Jerusalem top the tables for the first time and play Anatolia in the semiis while Andalusia will regroup before their semi-final encounter against Hejaz. 

Man of the Match - Raza Ali

Week 10 Rumours

The final week of the regular season is here. All playoff teams are a virtual lock barring a miracle for Samarra however none of the seeds are assured yet. All four teams in a playoff spot play each other this week in a tuneup for the playoffs. Here is a breakdown of the matchups for Sunday: 

Samarra FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Samarra FC
Samarra FC lost their chance at the second season in a valiant effort against the league's best defense. They were charged with 4 goals while only depositing 2 of their own, but the match was closer than the score suggests. With player injections of Danish Khan and Khizer Shazad, the club made a lot of noise this season under the black banner. With continuous attacks from Numair Bari off the wing, the blacks kept the opposing goalie on his toes, registering 11 shots on goal. Their talisman Khizer was kept off the score sheet who is usually key to Samarra's conversion rate and may be the reason why they returned empty handed. With the exciting football the squad plays, their defense was not up to scratch as diva Umair Jabbar was unable to clot up a go to pairing with his defensive unit. Taha Iqbal had a rough season with an outburst of shots leaving him helpless to concede as often as he did, but when we look back at the blacks, what a show they put on at BSL. It's not over just yet as an Anatolian or Hejaz loss resulting in a 10 goal differential win could see them a glimpse at playoffs and the way Sham's been losing, it could be done. Samarra will need a New England Patriots type miracle on Sunday get back into the playoff picture. 

Sham FC
Sham FC are going through a dreadfully rough patch having lost again in another untidy affair. This time it was Hejaz making the mess with an 8-2 score line. Although it was better than the infamous 13-0 loss, it seems the Orangemen have lost the drive to exceed their opponents. With only 2 points on the season, we can see that there is not much to play for, but there are talks amongst reporters that GM Usman Aslam could be responsible for the unfathomable scores. Since his inception as GM, Usman was actively making corrupt remarks on how he could influence the extraordinary which is sparking attention of reporters who think he may have accepted bribes to skew player stats (only kidding). Sham is certainly a better team than the previous 2 matches suggest and the media is once again on top of it. Sham will play Samarra this week who could still make the playoffs if they win with a differential of 10 with favourable outcomes from other matches. All eyes will be on Usman’s Sham. Despite what is being said about Sham FC, the club will fight for their first win of the season to better their record for the history books. Sham’s elite will be upto the task and will have the authority to stop Samarra from the playoffs.

Anatolia FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Anatolia FC
Anatolia FC will be disappointed for missing out on the top spot after their loss against league leaders Jerusalem. The absence of Nehad Shihab was once again felt on the pitch as his long-range presence was missing from the Anatolian offense. Though Anatolia got on the scoresheet first, the style they were implementing became too predictable as Jerusalem eliminated their technical short passing routine. Kamil Lotia made another appearance as the lone striker scoring 2 goals in 2 games as Zain Khilji dropped back into midfield. Zain also dropped into second on the stats sheet as Omar Sheikh surpassed him in the most points category. The defensive unit in the squad is still to be praised for keeping the game in reach as Jerusalem countered often after spells of ineffective possession. Although Anatolia has essentially qualified for playoffs, they will need the last game of the season to get their offense firing again. The canaries will be without Taher Mirza and Hamza Waheed this week causing another shuffle in positions seeing that a loss could drop them to 4th and force a semis matchup against Jerusalem. Anatolia has much to do against Hejaz who will look to steal 3rd spot from the mesh behind Umair Sheikh.

Hejaz FC
Hejaz FC have come from worse to great in such a short period of time and the greatness continued as they pummeled Sham 8-2 last week. Muhammad Shah has finally got his rhythm going recording 7 points in 2 games and crucially so as the playoffs approach. With the insertions of the Akram brothers, Junaid and Fawad, Hejaz are once again contenders and will try to keep the cup in their possession for a third time. The squad has seen so many changes this season that there was no time to apply the gel and let it dry in time for their matches. GM Ibrahim Sardar was forced to reside at the transfer market as injuries in his squad kept him and his manager duties at bay, but is now reaping the benefits as they practically clinch playoffs after a horrific start to the season. Among their signings was Maaz Mouiudin who is no stranger to danger with an expertise on defense, and with the form Omar Adil has been in, a potential playoff partnership is in the making. Rookie Zain Malik is also on the defensive shift, but is just there for comic relief but has his work cut out for him with the help of the veterans in the side. Hejaz will see Anatolia in their last game of season which could turn out to be who they play in the playoffs. This fixture will host many of the league superstars and will be a spectacle to watch.

Andalusia FC vs. Jerusalem FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Andalusia FC
Andalusia FC force themselves back into 2nd place and create a slight chance at first after a confident win over Samarra. The club has made a total transformation from previous seasons and is now known for their resilient defense. Boasting the lowest goals against tally in the league, management knows that scoring 2 goals could be good enough for at least a draw. Although their offense has not been potent as of late, their stronghold in front of Junaid Mirza has stood sturdy and tall with the likes of Hassan Chaudhry and Shahrayar Khan. The Karamat Brothers Farhan and Fahim are on top form and a lot of credit goes to the policy changes implemented in the team by succeeding management. Zain Khan has been a vital player for the side, who will once again be questionable this week with an ankle problem. Imad Siraj is finally starting the find the goal in the depths of the season and hopefully for the playoffs while Ali Chaudhry went straight from goalie to striker to scoring 2 more goals for his club. Teams will try to avoid playing Andalusia as their style of play is quite dissimilar to what the league offers and their defensive capabilities could frustrate opposing forwards. The general public don’t feel they have what it takes to win it all but that could all change with a convincing victory in the final regular season game.

Jerusalem FC 
Jerusalem FC take first place to the bank after their crucial victory against the Anatolians last week. Their organization is the stem of their success, starting from goalkeeper to striker. Ever since Atif Mian began making appearances on defense, the blues have looked solid at back. Having a posture like Mohammed Variava means Jerusalem wins most 50/50 balls and the contrast of Mo and Atif is turning out the be a real rewarding defensive partnership. The versatility and experience of Shaheen Limbada was the difference in their previous match having scored the game winner and taking responsibility for ending Zain Khilji’s scoring streak. The man of the moment, Omar Sheikh has been instrumental to the side and deserves praise in getting his team where they are while toping the charts with most points in the league. The team also leads the league with most goals scored but critics say they don’t deserve that title which includes the 13-0 abomination. There is a general consensus that Jerusalem is the most balanced team and are the favorites for the title this season. Their regular season won’t end without another test from 2nd place Andalusia who could still finish top if they manage to beat the blues by 6 goals. The matchup will be a thriller especially being last match of the regular season.

Matches kick off at 8:45pm. See you there. 

Week 9 Recap

Matchweek 9 had huge victories for three sides that will be moving on to the playoffs while it set back Samarra and Anatolia. Here are the recaps:  

Anatolia FC     1   |   3     Jerusalem FC

In a showdown for first place, Jerusalem and Anatolia both struck early. Anatolia scored on their first shot when Zain Khilji met Kamil Lotia with a sleak through-ball which Kamil calmly deposited for the early lead. Jerusalem responded right back with Saqib Dadabhoy guiding an Omar Sheikh corner into the back of the net to tie the match. In the 20th minute, Saqib set up Shaheen Limbada who blasted it home for a 2-1 lead. At the half, both squads made some tactical changes. Both goalkeepers made some huge saves early in the second half to keep the game close. With three minutes to play, Mohammad Variava headed a goalkick forward to Omar Sheikh who put the match away with the insurance goal. With the victory, Jerusalem essentially lock up first place in the standings regardless of next weeks results. Anatolia drop down to third place with a crucial matchup against Hejaz in the final week.  

Man of the Match - Saqib Dadabhoy

Samarra FC     2   |   4     Andalusia FC

In a huge fixture for both sides, Samarra was looking to keep their playoff hopes alive while Andalusia were looking to punch their ticket to the post-season. Samarra struck early with Numair Bari proving a clinical finish to give his side the lead. Both teams traded chances but neither team could beat the goalkeeper to change the scoreline. With a 1-0 lead at halftime, Samarra were looking for an insurance goal and see out the match but Andalusia had other ideas. To open the second half, Imad Siraj got back on the scoresheet on a feed by Hassan Chaudhary. Samarra would strike back with Danish Khan giving Samarra the 2-1 lead. That was when man of the match took it upon himself to score two critical goals to put Samrara on top for good. Samarra pressured to get an equalizer but got caught on the counter for Farhan Karamat to score the insurance goal. With the victory, Andalusia lock up a playoff spot for the first time but that comes at the expense of Samarra who would need a miracle next week to get in on goal differential. 
Man of the Match - Ali Chaudhry - Video

Hejaz FC     8   |   2     Sham FC

In the late match, Sham was looking to play the spoiler while Hejaz had sights set on the post-season. The match started off with Hejaz taking the early lead on a goal by Omar Adil right infront of the net. Sham showed fight when Usman Aslam set up Mohammad Mahmood for brilliant goal to even the match. Late in the first half, Hejaz got the benefit of a deflection infront of the net which rolled past the Sham keeper to give them the lead. At halftime, Hejaz held a narrow one goal lead but Sham would get another goal from Mohammad Mahmood early in the second half to tie up the match. Hejaz would dominate from that point on where they put up 6 unanswered goals to end the game. Junaid Akram finished with four goals and two assists to earn match honours. 

Man of the Match - Junaid Akram

Week 9 Rumours

We head into the penultimate week with plenty to play for. No team has locked up a playoff spot yet and with four playoff hopefuls playing each other, we could have some promotions on Sunday. Here is a breakdown of the matchups for Sunday: 

Anatolia FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Anatolia FC
The Canaries scored a huge victory last week without their Captain and leading goal scorer in a 3-1 victory over Andalusia. Most teams would buckle under the pressure of playing without their leader but every man stepped up to deliver a solid outing. Candidate for most improved player, Muhammad Salman was phenomenal at the back and has been a rock for the Turks in recent weeks. Anatolia’s defense has significantly improved of late which has meant keeper Umair Sheikh has had more time to polish his boots while in goal. Kamil Lotia was promoted to center forward last week and responded with a goal to close out the match. We will have to wait for Captain Khilji’s decision on whether Mr.Purple boots will be a part of the backline this week. Anatolia have won two in a row and have a chance to move to the top of the table this week but it won’t come easy as they face current league leaders Jerusalem. Anatolia dominated their last matchup with JFC last time out as they pummeled them for seven goals. Taqi Ahmed faced his former club for the first time and admitted afterwards that he had never tried so hard in a match before. Jerusalem fans will remember those words as they face Anatolia again this weekend. Expect Anatolia to have a full squad this Sunday with Zain back from his England trip and Riaz Murad back from Pakistan. Fitness might be an issue for Riaz as he was constantly sending pictures of his immoderate meals to the rest of the squad. Anatolia have one of the toughest schedules to close out the season with Jerusalem this week and Hejaz in the final regular season game.

Jerusalem FC
Jerusalem FC are beginning to round into form at the right time. After two consecutive shutout victories, JFC moved back to the top of the table but will face a real test this week. Last week they set plenty of BISL records with 13 goals and 9 in a half. Omar Sheikh’s boot contributed five of goals to go along with two assists. Jerusalem have been a different squad since changing up their rotation a few weeks ago. GM Zahid Merchant has put his squad on a strict diet after many players showed up out of shape during the holiday break meanwhile the GM himself has been packing on the pounds to cover more of the net. Saqib Dadabhoy has shown he can still finish with four goals since moving up the pitch, finding instant chemistry with Omar. Shaheen Limbada and Umair Wasim have been moved to the back in an effort to be more physical and play as ball carriers from the back. Jerusalem will be without Raza Ali again this week as he visits the motherland until next week. Jerusalem have been dominate all season except for two lopsided losses where they have shown they can be exploited by pace up front. They were embarrassed the last time they faced Anatolia by a score of 7-2. The squad has a picture of Taqi Ahmed framed on their whatsapp group since Taqi called them out after their last match. JFC will be looking for redemption this Sunday and take a strangle hold of the number one seed.

Samarra FC vs. Andalusia FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Samarra FC
The redblacks find themselves on the outside looking in on a playoff spot after two consecutive losses since being league leaders. Despite being tied for the fourth playoff spot and only one point back of third place, they hold a negative seven goal differential which makes this Sunday’s matchup critical. A loss for Samarra this Sunday along with a Hejaz victory would almost eliminate Samarra from the playoffs. However, a Samarra win would leap them into third place and drop their opponents Andalusia out of the playoffs (with Hejaz victory). Samarra management will be hoping for a full squad this week after they struggled last week with a shortened bench. Keeper Taha Iqbal has struggled as of late, allowing nine goals in his last two matches. Samarra has hired a goalkeeping coach, Mr. Yu Tube, to help Taha improve his butterfly stance. Samarra was the first team to figure out Andalusia and hand them their first loss back in week 4. They play a perfect counter attacking style that offsets the high-pressure approach of Andalusia. Samarra management will be hoping Numair Bari didn’t get lost in Cairo and will be available to lead the team again this Sunday.

Andalusia FC
The Spaniards have held top spot in the league for a total of four weeks but face the crossroads after a lackluster effort last week. Andalusia squandered a golden opportunity to lock up a playoff spot against a shorthanded Anatolia squad and came away with no points. They now find themselves one point up on a playoff spot with a match up against a Samarra squad that is snapping at their heels. A win would lock up a playoff spot, the first in their franchise history. However, a loss could drop them down all the way to fifth and have them chasing a playoff spot in the last week. Andalusia could still be without Zain Khan who still receives treatment on his injured ankle, the club hasn’t provided a timetable for his return. Andalusia like to play a low scoring game and have allowed the least amount of goals in the league. However, their lack of goal scoring and poor finishing has resulted in two goals in their last two matches. Ali Chaudhry is expected to be moved to his natural position up front with Junaid Mirza expected back. The clubs leading scorer Fahim Karamat generated interest at the trade deadline but the club decided to hang on to the young striker. Andalusia has been forced to use a substitute regularly since the break and will hoping all members put their travel schedules aside for the final playoff push.

Hejaz FC vs. Sham FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Hejaz FC
The reigning champions moved into a playoff spot for the first time this season after a convincing 5-2 victory over a short benched Samarra last week. Hejaz got back to their goal scoring ways after being shut out by Andalusia a few weeks ago. The club is attributing the difference to Junaid Akram who was absent in their shutout loss but provided the spark last week in their victory. Hejaz for the first time since week one had a full complement of players on the bench. New additions Zain Malik and former defender of the year Maaz Mohiuddin found their place in the squad together at the back as defensive partners. Hejaz can firm up a spot in playoffs this Sunday with a victory and other results in their favour. That seems farfetched only a few weeks ago when Hejaz were sitting in last place. Los Blancos have really come together since then and have benefitting from improved play by their stud defenders Omar Adil and Asif ibn Rehana. Vocal leader A K finally returned last week for his first appearance of the second half and was visibly darker in complexion after an extended trip down under. The league is considering changing his profile picture to Vincent Kompany to match his new complexion. They face last place Sham this week who are coming off a disheartening loss and Hejaz will be looking to further add to their misery. They will expect nothing less than full points from this match as they push towards the final four.

Sham FC 
The Orangemen suffered their worst day on a soccer pitch last Sunday and team management is hoping ownership will quickly erase Jan 22nd from their memory banks. Sham hadn’t lost a match by more than two goals since week one of the season and have been in every match they have played. Despite a disappointing record, players have given full effort every week but the results haven’t been coming. Sham have lead in three matches this season and have multiple goal leads but they haven’t had the discipline to close out matches. No one could have expected the final score from last week and team management is urging players to regroup as they face their final two matches of the season. Sham have the ability to play spoiler against two teams fighting for the playoffs. They face Hejaz this Sunday who narrowly beat them out in week 4 after Sham led for majority of the match. Sham will be hoping midfielder Ahmad Alvi will be available and will bring some Paramount bread with him after his shift this Sunday. Sham need to change their style of play and focus more on their counters due to their lack of midfield play. They will be looking to finish off their season on a positive note starting this Sunday.

With big matchups this Sunday, every team will be hoping to have a full squad to book their ticket to the second season. It all begins at 8:45pm on Sunday.

Week 8 Recap

Matchweek 8 had two blow outs and a new leader of the table. Hejaz sneak back into the playoff picture while Samarra drop down to fifth. Here are the recaps:  

Hejaz FC     5   |   2     Samarra FC

In a matchup with playoff implications, both Hejaz and Samarra played a tight contest in the first half. Samarra were playing without a bench and as the match went on, it caught up with them. Midway through the first half, Fawad Akram beat the Samarra defence to score the opener. Muhammad Shah would add the second to give Hejaz a 2-0 lead going into the half. Samarra were once again struggling to generate offense and needed to reset. Early in the second half, Muhammad Shah added his second and Junaid Akram would add another to give Hejaz a commanding 4-0 lead. Samarra would score two goals quick goals but it was a little to late. Fawad Akram would add his second to close off a 5-2 victory. Hejaz move into a tie for 4th place but take over the playoff spot on goal differential. Samarra drop from first place to fifth after two consecutive losses. They face another big match next week to get back into the playoff picture.  

Man of the Match - Muhammad Shah

Sham FC     0   |   13     Jerusalem FC

The other side of the pitch saw a one sided match where Jerusalem took control of the early and never looked back. Sham had some quality chances early in the match with two off the post and a couple Jerusalem goal line clearances but were unable to get it across the line. Umair Wasim would open the scoring for Jerusalem and it was quickly followed by two goals by Omar Sheikh. Before we knew it, the score was 7-0 in the first 15 minutes. To Sham's credit, they still played hard despite the scoreline. Saqib Dadabhoy would get his third of the match in the dying minutes while Omar Sheikh finished with a total of 5 goals and 2 assists to break a BISL record of points in a match. Jerusalem move back to the top of the table with a matchup against Anatolia next week. Sham however look to redeem themselves next week against Hejaz. 
Man of the Match - Omar Sheikh

Andalusia FC     1   |   3     Anatolia FC

In the late match, both Anatolia and Andalusia came into the fixtture without their GMs. Zain Khilji was celebrating an Aresenal victory while Junaid Mirza was en route to South America. The match coudn't have started better for the Spaniards as they took an early 1-0 lead on a brilliant finish by Ayaz Sethi. Taqi Ahmed would reply in the 20th minute on a fancy finish infront of the net to even the match. Both teams went into the half looking to take control of the final 25. It was Nehad Shihab that scored the difference maker as he muscled his way to the net to score the game winner. Andalusia had their striker playing in goal and he seemed to forget a few times he was wearing the gloves. The third Anatolia goal came off a wide kick-in that the goalkeeper decided to take and passes it in the pathway of Kamil Lotia who walked the ball into the net for the finishing touch. Andalusia once again vacate top spot in the standings while Anatolia take control of second place with a tilt against the league leaders next week. 

Man of the Match - Taqi Ahmed

Week 8 Rumours

With only three weeks left in the regular season, every matchup is a key matchup. Four different teams have sat in pole position during the course of the season, and we look to another week that can end with a new team at the top of the table. Let’s see how things are shaping up for Matchweek 8: 

Hejaz FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Hejaz FC
We’ll be straight up – the outlook on Hejaz changes with every passing week. These guys lose a bunch of games, and then win a bunch of games. Their roster is essentially a merry-go-round of guys coming in and out of the side. It’s all over the map. However, despite the highs, the lows and everything in between, a win this week against Samarra would put them in the final playoff spot with two weeks to go. Funny how things work, eh? Los Blancos looked like the furthest thing from competitive in the first few weeks, but with some unlucky breaks, they suddenly find themselves as an above-average side right when the playoff race is getting tight. This week, Hejaz received word that yet another two players, Tayseer Bharucha and Syed G Hussain, are out of the league due to injury. In their place come defensive stalwart Maaz Mohiuddin and the REAL Zain Malik (sorry Gigi, he's been a heartthrob for way longer than your beau has). Here’s a crazy stat though – of Hejaz’s original seven draft picks, five (!!!) have withdraw because of long-term injuries. The replacements have reshaped the side, but concerns regarding developing enough chemistry to close out an intense last few weeks of the season remain apparent. Adding Maaz and Zain into the mix this week is definitely a welcome set of fresh legs, but here’s to hoping they assimilate quick before it’s too late. After a cagey one-nil loss to Andalusia last week, the Hejazis set their sights on a matchup with the team currently in the final playoff spot – Samarra. Getcha popcorn ready, this one is gonna be a battle to say the least.

Samarra FC
Samarra had a taste of the top after a phenomenal run of form, winning four straight matches. However, they suffered a relatively one-sided defeat at the hands of Jerusalem that put them in a freefall into fourth, with Hejaz lurking on the outside in fifth. Samarra's offense was stifled last week with most of Hejaz management in the audience scouting their next opponent. One of the Redblacks standout performers from last season, Furhan Azmat, had some choice words for a former teammate entering this week.  WPG's Finest said of Numair Bari, "Guy shows up wearing gloves in an indoor dome and thinks he's the next Khizer Shahzad. Get the [heck] out of here. The worst. He needs to find himself and stop trying to be something he's not - wouldn't be surprised to see him show up with pink shorts next time out." While it's evident that Azmat's comments were of a joshing nature, he does bring attention to an important observation.  These guys put it all out there with their appreciation for accessorizing on the pitch. Gloves in indoor domes, tight beard lineups, pink shorts, hairbands…you’d think these guys were attending Milan Fashion Week with their sartorial choices. However, they look destined for their third consecutive trip to the playoffs and will need a victory on Sunday against Hejaz in a big six-pointer. The battle will be tougher than usual, as NB2 (a moniker Numair frequently refers to himself as) is traveling to Egypt with his wife. Let’s hope the youngsters in the side pick up the slack without their veteran leader and keep the strong results coming.

Sham FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Sham FC
Sham faced Anatolia last week and got off to a roaring start. With two goals in the first five minutes by sharpshooter Adeel Ansari, things looked amazing for the Orangemen, who need as many wins as possible to sneak into the playoffs. However, they could not stop the famed one-two punch of Anatolia and lost the match 3-2, and Sham officially found themselves out of the playoffs. However, that does not mean that these men will look to roll over and die in their remaining three games. It helps picking up a strong defender from last year, Hassan Syed formerly of Andalusia, officially joins the team as a replacement player for Athar Siddiqui. Syed was unable to join the league from the outset due to a hairline fracture suffered while traveling, but after a few sub cameos (including one where he suited up for Jerusalem and Samarra in back-to-back games, both wins), he’s ready to become an everyday player to close out the season. Speaking to Hassan, he mentioned that he’s excited to be in this situation, as it’s reminiscent of his time with Andalusia last year. He went on to say “Next three matchups: Jerusalem, Hejaz, Samarra – loving it! I’ve had practice being in the spoiler role before with Andalusia last year. Sure it ain’t playoffs, but it’s fun!” Hassan’s positive outlook and competitiveness should invigorate the rest of the Sham squad to close out the season on a high note. His official debut comes this Sunday against Jerusalem – let’s see if he comes through on his promise to spoil the fun.

Jerusalem FC
See what having a full squad does? Jerusalem had all ten players suit up for their matchup with top-of-the-table Samarra last week, and the fresh legs allowed the team to roll to a convincing 4-0. It’s interesting that JFC’s best performances came from the one time they had their shortest bench and the other when they had their deepest. A positive sign is that these guys bounce back after defeats. Both of those big performances came after disheartening losses, and against teams that led the league at the time. The big story was moving Saqib Dadabhoy into an attacking mid role and pushing Atif Mian back into defence. We will be the first to tell you that Mian wasn’t thrilled about the move, but he definitely did not take it as a demotion and was awarded Man of the Match for his performance (with GM Zahid Merchant all up in the post-match video like he’s Puffy Combs). Merchant made the change simply because it just allows both players to play to their strengths. Mian is composed on the ball and is key to JFC’s buildup while not being afraid to mix it up when an opponent has the ball. On the other hand, Saqib enjoys playing more aggressive – or, as one teammate put it, ‘gets too emotional at the back’ – which may be risky when he’s the last line of defence, but is a major asset when pressing up front. The Sky Blues were humming in possession and felt great after last week's fixture, but a matchup with Sham waits. Sham put together an impressive defensive display against them the last time out and saw out a 1-1 draw, but JFC will be looking to collect all three points to all but confirm their spot in the playoffs.

Andalusia FC vs. Anatolia FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Andalusia FC
Top spot was collected by Andalusia once again this week – a position they’ve found themselves in for four of seven weeks thus far this season. Honestly, I love the way these guys play. Gritty, aggressive, cagey – they’re at their best when the ref ‘let’s them play.’ And boy did the ref let them play this week. The Blues matchup with Andalusia was a battle, with both sides showing no fear of mixing it up and using their bodies to their advantage. However, this side isn’t just all grit – they have some smooth playmakers in Shaharyar Khan and Hassan Chaudhary that put their teammates in positions to score. Despite the silky runs of offense peppered throughout their performances, the team is all about their defense. Zain Khan and Hassan Chaudhry make up a formidable pairing, with Khan controlling the tempo and building up play from the back and Chaudhry acting as a sweeper as the last man back and breaking up the opponent’s counterattacks. The duo coupled with goalkeeper and GM Junaid Mirza make up the best starting defensive unit in the league with only nine goals against. They kept another clean sheet against the up-and-coming Hejaz, with Ali Chaudhry scoring the lone goal for his side in yet another impressive box-to-box performance. Team doctors are still evaluating Zain after he hurt ankle in the final few minutes of their match last week. Andalusia faces a short-handed Anatolia side this week, and with another win, they’ll be one step closer to locking up the team’s first playoff spot in their young history.

Anatolia FC 
The Yellow Submarine got off to a shaky start last week against the Orangemen, but as per usual put their trust in the dynamic duo of Nehad Shihab and Zain Khilji to score three unanswered to seal the win. Anatolia finds themselves in third spot, level on points with Samarra and one point off from the top spot. Anatolia’s top offense faces Andalusia’s top defense this week, but the Canaries will be at a severe disadvantage as Zain Khilji will not suit up. Khilji heads to fulfill a lifelong dream of attending the Arsenal. Despite having dreams of suiting up for the best club in London, he will have to settle for taking a spot up at the Emirates to watch Wenger and his men take on Burnley. That leaves Anatolia without the league’s MVP thus far, so how do they make up for the missing talisman? Two words: Taqi Ahmed. Taqi has taken a backseat to the heroics of Khilji all season, but now the number one overall pick has a chance to make the creative midfield position his own. Taqi will relish in all the free space he has to operate in mid, and we will finally get to see the man pulling the strings at the forefront of the Turks offense. Usually a week without Khilji would amount to a definite loss, but given Taqi’s adeptness with the ball at his feet, the Yellows seem up for the challenge. Andalusia’s defense is the class of the league, so Anatolia’s offense will have to be firing on all cylinders to get a full three points. A win would see them exact revenge on the Blues from their last matchup in week three, where Andalusia dominated the Yellows in a 2-1 victory. This game has major playoff implications on the line, and has the makings of a classic.

Will we have yet another change at the top of the table, or will Andalusia continue to stand as the team to beat heading into the second season? We’ll find out starting at 8:45PM this Sunday.

Week 7 Recap

Matchweek 7 had plenty of storylines and drama on Sunday night. Top of the table was once again relenquished with Andalusia scoring a huge win in the final minutes. Jerusalem knocked off Samarra back into the middle of the pack and Anatolia got a big comeback win over Sham.  Here are the recaps:  

Hejaz FC     0   |   1     Andalusia FC

In a highly anticipated match up, Hejaz went up against Andalusia. Hejaz were the clear favourites with their three game win streak, while Andalusia were surely feeling some pressure given their own three game winless streak. If the Spaniards sensed an opportunity against the Hejaz side missing Junaid Akram, AK, Syed Hussain and Tayseer Bharucha, Their opponents quickly put them on their heels with Muhammad Shah and Fawad Akram consistently creating chances to score. It took some solid defending and display of speed by the two Andalusian Khans -- Shay and Zain -- to keep the score even at half time. The rest of the game was a defensive tussle with neither side creating too many chances. The only goal of the game would come from Ali Chaudhry halfway through the second half on an indirect free kick setup by Shay Khan. Despite the win, Andalusia ended the game subdued by an ankle injury to Zain Khan which may end up ending his spectacular rookie season prematurely. 

Man of the Match - Ali Chaudhry

Sham FC     2   |   3     Anatolia FC

On the other side at 8:45, Anatolia started off pushing forward but out of sync and Sham looked dangerous on the counter. Adeel Ansari finally tapped in the first goal early on and 5 minutes later scored another from distance dipping it into the bottom left. Down 2-0, Anatolia finally put it together as Nehad skipped a beauty behind Yasser Zia from a tight angle and Zain Khilji netted a long range freekick 5 minutes later. At 2-2 and just before the half, Nehad scooped one for Zain who guided the game winning goal over the keeper. The second half was all Anatolia with the rare Sham counter, but the score held steady at 3-2.
Man of the Match - Nehad Shihab

Jerusalem FC     4   |   0     Samarra FC

In the late match, Samarra looked to hold on to top spot against a struggling Jerusalem squad. Fans were amazed that Jerusalem finally fielded a full squad for the first time this season. The match started off with both teams countering but it was a Jerusalem counter that found Omar Sheikh setting up Saqib Dadabhoy for the easy tap in. A few minutes later Raza Ali found Umair Wasim infront of the net who put in a nifty back-heel past the keeper. Samarra continued to try to find scoring chances but the Jerusalem defence was up to the talk. In the second half, Samarra found a couple openings but were unable to find the finishing touch. Omar Sheikh was gifted a goal when the Samarra keeper mishandled a shot into his own net. Omar would finish the match with a brilliant short angle goal to give Jerusalem the huge win. Jerusalem move back into a first place tie while Samarra fall hard to fourth place with a huge matchup against Hejaz upcoming. 

Man of the Match - Atif Mian

Week 7 Rumours

We come down to the final four weeks of the season. All four playoff spots are up for grabs between five teams as we enter the home stretch. Here are the matchups in matchweek 7: 

Hejaz FC vs. Andalusia FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Hejaz FC
Hejaz FC has gained enough steam to perform the three peat thanks to the Akram brothers Fawad and Junaid who have literally turned the club’s fate 360 degrees. Hejaz have won 3 in a row after losing 3 in a row and seem to function in streaks. We can’t forget the previous season where the club won the title without being defeated the entire competition. The current Hejaz squad is quite different from the last but management will now feel they can chase their goals from last season. Muhammad Shah finally makes his mark on the league contributing 4 points in their latest win. Although their star signings have much to play in their success, the entire squad has come together to put in some quality performance. Notably, Omar Adil has been the rock at the back for Hejaz and Ibrahim Sardar the gatekeeper. Despite the improved performances, Hejaz have been lacking reinforcements as they are getting used to playing with no bench. Soon enough, it will catch up to them, especially on the counter. The white knights will hope to see a bench this time out as they take on Andalusia who are looking to get back to their winning ways. The matchup will realize a lot about the 2 sides as we inch closer to the playoffs.

Andalusia FC
Andalusia FC will be disappointed in their draw against Sham as 3 points would have taken them top last weekend. The Spaniards were without the Hassans, Chaudhary and Chaudhry but found a way to equal their opponents through grit and determination. Andalusian Legend, Farhan Karamat picked up a pair of goals for his club and Imad Siraj scored the draw with his first goal of the season. The club boasts a talented and athletic squad with many players possessing the ability to play multiple positions, but critics want to see Zain Khan control the midfield and the pace of their matches. Andalusia are now winless in 3 games after winning their first 3 and management is deciding whether the league has figured them out or they aren’t producing enough chances anymore. What we do know is that they utilize the high-pressure tactic, winning the ball high up the pitch to increase their chances in front of goal, but are uninformed of its effectiveness. Goalkeeper Junaid Mirza used to talk about how he doesn’t concede goals as easy anymore, but has probably changed his mind after conceding 10 in the last 3 games. Their task doesn’t get any easier as they take on the redecorated Hejaz who are taking the standings by storm.

Sham FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Sham FC
Sham FC have been sweeping the BISL basement all season and as playoffs approach, their broom sticks are running out of dust to collect. The club has managed to accumulate only 2 points in 6 games and it seems they will be BISL’s next Andalusia. Coincidently, the squad collected half their points last week against the Andalusians and hopefully are on their way up the basement stairs. We also hope these insults in the rumors can translate into points for the club. Technically speaking, the team has a lot a talent on paper and their performances seem up to par with their opponents, but they somehow can’t manage to salvage points very often. We have seen time again where the squad goes through a mental lapse or some sort of distraction from which teams at this level tend to take advantage of. The most obvious failure is their ability to score goals. With only 9 goals in 6 games, there no wonder why they can’t gain traction in the standings. Yasser Zia has been doing his part by holding down his goal, but the offense doesn’t even come close to the damage Yasser is preventing. On the bright side, Mohammed Mahmood is getting used to netting the ball, scoring all 3 goals last weekend to give his side some respect and an all so valuable point. Sham square up against Anatolia who tend to score more than their opponents and they know their usual won’t be enough.

Anatolia FC
Anatolia FC fall short again to another late goal in their 4-3 loss to Samarra last weekend. With 3 wins and 3 losses, management will now need to focus on retaining points rather than topping the table to secure a playoff spot this season. They are currently on the edge of the playoff umbrella on goal differential and dropping points now could leave them out in the rain again. A similar story was written last season where the Turks led the league in goals but sat the post-season on the couch. With a greater talent pool at their disposal this campaign, we expected better from the Anatolians, but in theory they are only 1 game behind the league leaders. Zain Khilji, Nehad Shihab, and Taqi Ahmed are not clicking efficiently and it’s hard to say if they will be able to develop some stable chemistry this season. Their starting defenders in Hasan Afzal and Shoaib Gaya are no longer at the club forcing them to develop a new partnership at the back with new additions Taher Mirza and Hamza Waheed. Mohammed Salman has helped the club through these tough times as the only natural defender left from draft day. Goalkeeper Umair Sheikh is making save after save for the club but is disappointed to concede 4 goals last game. Anatolia will look to collect all 3 points and prove they are not a team that concede 4 goals a game.

Jerusalem FC vs. Samarra FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Jerusalem FC
Jerusalem FC forfeits top spot once again after a truly disappointing display at Hejaz last week. Not only were they facing a 6-man squad, they finally had enough players to avoid calling up a sub last week. GM Zahid Merchant was under the impression that when they finally got their full squad back they would be unbeatable especially because they were top. Zahid’s usual cocky behaviors could have played a part in their saddening 6-3 defeat and if they are to challenge for the title, division 9 like performances are unacceptable. Shaheen Limbada welcomed himself back into the squad with 2 goals and perhaps an official start to his season playing only 3 games thus far while Omar Sheikh continues to collect points for the club. With a lot of their players coming back and regaining match fitness, their chemistry has certainly stirred and it seems the once praised defensive partnership of Saqib Dadaboy and Mohammed Variava did not live up to their expectation. Mohammed did flash a fine strike into the top corner of his own net for what that’s worth. Also on the defense, Hashim Ghazi had a great view of his former team returning to their usual winning ways and may have felt he was better off at Hejaz. The blues take on Samarra this week and will try to end their streak and redeem their top spot.

Samarra FC 
Samarra FC solely claim the top spot for the first time in club history and deservingly so. The squad has rallied a 4-game winning spree under the leadership of Umer Jabbar and the boot of Khizer Shahzad. For a club that lacked goals in their bloodline, this season has been one that can define them for decades. The club’s fan following has seen a dramatic increase and the Samarra FC online store sales have reached new heights. Among the store’s “hottest items” is their match-day women’s hair-band worn by Umair Jabbar at every game. In the absence of Taha Iqbal, Umair was reunited with his days between the posts and has now played every position on the pitch this season. Numair Bari and Danish khan have been essential to the black flag run, most notably, the game winning assist last game where Danish froze time for Arshad Chaudhry to score all 3 points. With a shift in focus on offense, the defense has suffered a bit which is unlike the Samarian squads we have seen in the past, but the variation is reaping benefits for the club. This weekend will be the team’s ultimate test on whether they are ready for a title. Jerusalem will stand between them and another 3 points as the battle for supremacy and top spot resumes.

Matchweek Seven kicks off at 8:45 Sunday Night.

Week 6 Recap

The second half of the season kicked off on Sunday and every team looked like they had played that gained a few pounds over the break. However, we had two big winners that shook up the standings. Here are the results:  

Hejaz FC     6   |   3     Jerusalem FC

Jerusalem took an early 1-0 lead in the first minute but a 6 man Hejaz squad dominated the match without any subs. Junaid Akram tied up the match 10 mins in and then his brother Fawad dazzled his way to a hatrick include a fifa-like chip goal. Despite being short benched, Hejaz dominated possession and their offense always found odd-man rushes. With the victory, Hejaz moves within striking distance of the playoffs and first place while Jerusalem fall down to 3rd place with a terrible goal differential. 

Man of the Match - Fawad Akram

Andalusia FC     3   |   3     Sham FC

Sham jumped out front 1-0 on a fine goal by Mohammad Mahmood but Andalusia would find the equalizer 20 mins in by Farhan Karamat. Right before the half, Farhan would find his second just before the half to give Andalusia the lead. Mohammad Mahmood would strike early in the second half to tie up the match and then added his third minutes after to give Sham the lead. However, Imad Siraj would find his maiden goal of the season two minutes after Sham took the lead. Both teams fought hard for the points and settled for the draw. 
Man of the Match - Mohammad Mahmood

Samarra FC     4   |   3     Anatolia FC

In the late match, Samarra and Anatolia were both fighting for top spot in the league. Samarra would jump out to an early lead on a Khizer Shahzad blast that ripped through the netting. Zain Khilji replied for Anatolia by beating two defenders on his own to level the score. Zain would score minutes after Nehad Shihab laid a beautiful through ball to give Anatolia the lead. Khizer replied right back with his second and his third just as the first half ended. Anatolia would tie it up early in the second with Zain setting up Nehad this time. With six minuts left to go in the match, Dansh Khan set up Arshad Chawdhry infront of the net for the winner. Anatolia had their chances late but couldn't get a shot on net. With the victory, Samarra move up to the top of the table. 

Man of the Match - Arshad Chawdhry

Week 6 Rumours

After a long but relaxing holiday break, the second half of the BISL season begins this Sunday. The standings are tightly packed with a three way tie for second place, the league leader only ahead by a point and the 5th place team training by three points. Sham have a chance to get back in the playoff race against a struggling Andalusia while two rivalries are renewed with Hejaz-Jerusalem and Samarra-Anatolia. Matchweek 6 should be a dandy. 

Hejaz FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Hejaz FC
Hejaz finally showed shades of their old selves the last few weeks thanks to some timely reinforcements. Hejaz looked done after losing their first three, and to make matters worse, they lost top-pick Faheem Kotwal to a season-ending injury. With three defeats to their name, an injured top-pick and superstar Muhammad Shah out of the lineup in Matchweek Four, the season was all but over a mere few weeks into the season for Los Blancos. However, replacement #1 Junaid Akram looked up to the challenge and made his presence much felt in his first week of play, scoring two decisive goals to give Hejaz their first win of the season. Junaid caught the eye of every observer at the dome that night, but what he said to his teammates after was even louder than his performance: if you think I’m alright, wait until you see my brother…he’s better. Hejaz faced league leaders Anatolia in the final match before the midseason break, welcoming back Shah into the mix and also debutant Fawad Akram replacing the injured Farhan Ahmad. Despite only having six dressed players, they came out roaring. Forty-one shots, seventeen on target. SEVENTEEN. Saying this team is a force to be reckoned with heading into week 6 is an understatement. They expect to welcome back a few missing pieces in Asif ibn Rehana and Omar Kayal this week as they hope to have a full squad. These guys are ready to turn their fortune around and get back to the winning ways of previous years. They face league leaders again this week in Jerusalem FC. These two faced off opening weekend in an affair dominated by the Sky Blues. But with the Akram brothers and the rest of Hejaz hitting stride, we really cannot be certain week one really gave us an idea of what to expect in the tie. Hejaz holds the head-to-head lead in this tie historically, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top this week.

Jerusalem FC
Ah, Jerusalem. The team seemed to have started off on a high and worsened week over week until a devastating loss to Anatolia in Matchweek Four. The Sky Blues just cannot get a full squad to show up, forcing guys to play out of position and disrupt the team chemistry they were hoping to develop by now. For a team that has used a substitute in four weeks of five, and have been without top player Shaheen Limbada for the last three, they cannot really complain about having the slightest of margins atop the table heading into the second half of the season. Jerusalem looked to add another L to their record in MW5 after only having seven players dressed for the match. However, with Atif Mian dropping into defence and JFC developing a gameplan focused on playing deep and capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes, they looked to make the most of the situation. With some first-half heroics from GM Zahid Merchant and some gritty play up front, they managed to surprise even themselves with a 3-2 victory over Andalusia to give them sole possession of top spot. Jerusalem is excited to get back onto the pitch and all signs point to a nearly full squad this weekend against Hejaz – yes, you read that right…no substitute! Team management has imposed a travel ban on all players until the season is over in mid-March. Jerusalem and Hejaz carry a long and bitter rivalry with each other and expect this match to be no different. Though Hejaz have typically gotten the better of Jerusalem, Jerusalem looked far superior to them in week one. JFC also are the sole team to have beaten Hejaz twice in League history. Hejaz are showing more signs of life heading into the second half, but the Sky Blues look ready for the challenge.

Andalusia FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Andalusia FC
Andalusia FC were once on top of the world and were talking about challenging for most points in a single season but those hopes perished after two consecutive losses in the final two weeks before the break. The blues couldn’t have asked for a worse way to end the first half, losing a 7-man squad but that just means that they have had 3 weeks to erase the memory. GM Junaid Mirza needed a trip to Disney world to raise his spirits after a few difficult weeks on the pitch. He is expected to be rejuvenated after visiting ‘the happiest place on earth’ and come back with a clear mind to stand between the pipes. Andalusia’s aggressive play caught many of their opponents by surprise at the beginning of the season but as the season has gone on, teams have been able to burn them on the counter attack. AFC will need to figure out a better balance in their formation otherwise they will continue to expose their back end (not literally). The squad will be hoping Karamat Jr. maintained a healthy diet over the break to continue his torrid run of goals from the first half. He has already tied the Andalusia record for most goals in a season with 5. Andalusia has had been fortune to have a full squad almost every week but rumour has them missing a few key pieces for their 2017 opener with the two Hassan’s being unavailable. Imad Siraj has been invisible on the scoresheet thus far and supporters continue to urge team management to give the former Pakistani international a chance at moving up front. The team has plenty of important decisions to make as they face pressure in the middle of the table.

Sham FC
Sham finished the first half on life support and come into the second half looking to turn their fortunes around. After a disappointing first few games, Sham had plenty of opportunities to gain points but their lack of cohesion has resulted in late goals or missed chances that could have delivered different results. After a morale building draw against Jerusalem, they held a lead against Hejaz which they lost and then had the lead twice versus Samarra, only to come away empty again. The next two games will almost determine the fate of the Orangemen as they need a full 3 points against the teams they are chasing for the final playoff spot. Sham GM Usman Aslam has been trying his best to get the squad on the same page, scheduling practice sessions and team meetings during the break. It has been the lack of offense that has let their team down but it isn’t for lack of talent. Zeem Khan, Athar Siddiqui and Mohammad Mahmood need to step up their game and find the chemistry needed to carry the offensive load for the team. Speedster Ahmad Alvi has been the only play maker on the squad which is where the problem lies. Someone else needs to give him support to open up space. Super keeper Yasser Zia has saved Sham already once this season and supporters will be hoping he can steal the show again this Sunday. Sham opens the second half against rivals Andalusia. Earning full points will be crucial for Sham’s playoff hopes.

Samarra FC vs. Anatolia FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Samarra FC
Samarra FC have turned it all around just as we expected after a lackluster opening to the season. The blacks have won their last 3 games and are now in a position to top the table. Late signing, Khizer Shahzad aka Pink Gloves has been a constant threat in front of goal for his opponents playing the spearhead striker for Samarra. Numair Bari and Danish Khan pyramid behind him combining for 14 of the 15 Samarian goals this season. The remaining goal was scored by Umair Jabbar who wears a hair-band from his local women’s sports store. His band keeps his hair out of the way for his excellent performance on defense which has changed the way Samarra go forward except for the one own goal he has scored. GM Umer Jabbar finally decided to return from vacation and at a time where the team is on a high. He will be hoping he fit right in without affecting team chemistry. Umer will pair up with his brother on defense to protect Taha Iqbal’s goal from harm against a side that crossed the line 6 times in the previous fixture. Samarra will look to prove they are not the same team that played in the loss but better than their opponent.

Anatolia FC 
Anatolia FC forfeited their top spot last week after a loss to a revamped Hejaz and now sit in second, level with 2 other teams. While the side fell short last week, their bench continues to grow shorter as Kamil Lotia and Riaz Murad are away on personal leave. The club has lost Hasan Afzal for the season after the youngster has found the season difficult to manage with his school priorities. Anatolia will welcome back Hamza Waheed to take over for his cousin. The club does welcome back Nehad Shihab whose absence left a void in the heart of the Anatolian midfield. Zain Khilji and Taqi Ahmed backboned the squad last week and for much of this season, but their form will be uncertain as Zain forwent training for a club expensed vacation and Taqi vanished in preparation to tie the knot. Among those who are committed is ‘protégé’ Mohammed Salman who has shown the determination to become a top defender and Anatolia’s sweeper in front of goal. He will partner up with speedster Tahir Mirza who will make his debut on Sunday to protect his boastful buddy Umair Shiekh in goal. Anatolia lead the league in scoring and are keeping up with their opponents defensively and with half the season gone, consistency will be key in their race to the finals. Samarra stands in between them and 3 points this Sunday.

The second half of the season and Matchweek Six kicks off at 8:45 Sunday Night.

Week 5 Recap

Matchweek 5 wraps up with some huge upsets that shift the balance of power in the tables. We take two weeks off to enjoy the holidays and then we return on January 8th. Here are the outcomes from Sunday: 

Jerusalem FC     3   |   2     Andalusia FC

Jerusalem were once again out numbered and had to reach into the reserves while Andalusia were missing striker Ali Chaudhry. Andalusia played their full press style while Jerusalem were just sitting back and taking the pressure. Midway through the first half, Jerusalem caught them on the counter with keeper Zahid Merchant finding Furhan Azmat with a pass that Furhan bowled over a defender and keeper to put in the net. Andalusia kept getting chances with a few point blank opportunities but they were unable to beat the keeper or find the net. Majority of the match was played in the Jerusalem end with Andalusia playing keep away. In the second half, Jerusalem once again caught Andalusia on the counter with sub Hassan Syed beating the last defender and setting up Raza Ali for a 2-0 lead. Omar Sheikh would add another to give JFC a shocking 3-0 lead with 7 men. Andalusia finally found an opening with Shaharyar Khan setting up Fahim Karamat twice in less than 2 minutes for two straight goals. Jerusalem would hang on in the final few minutes for a huge three points to take them top of the table. Andalusia lose their second in a row after a brilliant start to the season. 

Man of the Match - Zahid Merchant

Hejaz FC     3   |   2     Anatolia FC

Hejaz entered this match with six men against an Anatolia squad missing two crucial pieces in Nehad Shihab and Kamil Lotia. Hejaz would strike first with Muhammad Shah taking a nice feed from Fawad Akram for an early lead. A few minutes before halftime, Zain Khilji would wiggle his way through and blast one home to tie up the match. In the second half, Hejaz kept getting quality chances while Anatolia keeper Umair Sheikh would stand on his head to keep his squad in the match. Hejaz would break a record for most shots in a game with 41 while Umair Sheikh would break the record for most saves in a match with 18. In the dying seconds on the match. Junaid Akram laid a throughball for Fawad Akram who slid it far post for the winner. Anatolia falter in the final minutes after a brilliant showing but Hejaz showed grit and determination to win with six men and no subs. Hejaz now move within striking distance of the playoffs while Anatolia drop down into second place going into the break. 

Man of the Match - Fawad Akram

Sham FC     2   |   3     Samarra FC

In the late match, Sham was looking to enter the break on a winning note while Samarra wanted to continue their solid run over the last few weeks. This match had some brilliant goals from youngsters of the league. Ahmad Alvi opened the scoring for Sham with a brilliant run through three defenders and then blasted it top shelf to give orange the lead. A few minutes later, Samarra got a long shot that was deflected in by Numair Bari to tie up the match. Early in the second half, Numair Bari put in perfect cross which Khizar Shahdzad met with the perfect header to give Samarra the lead. Sham would tie up the match with Samarra defender Umair Jabbar Jr. heading into his own net for an own goal. Samarra would recover with Samarra putting on their best hockey play, Numair Bari screening the goalie and Danish Khan taking a shot from the point which Sham keeper Yasser Zia couldn't see to give Samarra the lead. Sham had some great oppportunities late in the match with Adeel Ansari and Mohammad Mahmood missing shots by inches. Samarra move into a three way tie for second place with the win while Sham have a 2016 to forget and will be hoping 2017 will be much kinder to them. 

Man of the Match - Numair Bari

That ends the first half of the season and wraps up 2016. We wish everyone a Happy New Year and we will see you back on January 8th. 

Week 5 Rumours

Week 5 is here. We hit the halfway point of the season this Sunday and the final week before the league takes a break. A few teams crawl to the midway point while others are flying high. It is amazing how victory or defeat can change the mood in a side. Both undefeated teams tasted defeat last week and a few teams got much needed victories. Most teams are struggling with missing players this week with the holidays upon us. Let's check out the match-ups: 

Jerusalem FC vs. Andalusia FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Jerusalem FC
Jerusalem’s roller coaster season continued last week as they reached rock bottom with a disappointing 7-2 loss to Anatolia. The Sky Blues continue to roll out a different squad every week and the regulars are starting to get frustrated with the lack of consistency. The team is loaded with talent but they haven’t been able to find the chemistry to yield desired results. Not all is lost though, - the season is still early and there is only one week left before the mid-season break for JFC to finish off on a high despite underperforming to expectations. Omar Sheikh continues to do his part by adding to his goal tally and Umair Wasim scored another on his release from being goalkeeper. We expect JFC to once again be missing some crucial members of the squad and doctors are still evaluating Atif Mian after he suffered a forearm injury playing hockey. Jerusalem tried matching the firepower of their opponents last week and got burned for 7 goals. They will need to be more conservative against a counterattacking Andalusia squad. Jerusalem are much better than they performed last week and we expect them to have a bounce back game this Sunday.

Andalusia FC
After dominating their first three opponents and only allowing a single goal, Andalusia suffered their first loss of the season to an up and coming Samarra squad. Samarra found unexpected holes in the Spaniards defense to put four goals past keeper Junaid Mirza. The squad took plenty of positives from the match as their relentless attack fought back to make it a one goal game. The biggest surprise thus far has been the play of Karamat Jr (aka Fahim) as he has already surpassed his career goal totals this year. When asked about his recent form, he attributed the success to the play of his midfielders and most importantly, the Jr. on the back of his shirt. On the other hand, many pundits are shocked that Imad Siraj has been held goal-less thus far. As the only BSL player with an International cap, even if it was for Team Pakistan, we expect the poacher eventually break out of his scoreless streak. With the squad missing Ali Chaudhry this week, there is no better time for Imad to break out of his funk. Andalusia plays a great team game and will be looking to bounce back after a poor performance last week.

Hejaz FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Hejaz FC
The reigning champions put the league back on notice this week with a resounding victory without their best player. Last week, Hejaz lost a close game but also lost two players in Farhan Ahmad and Faheem Kotwal to injury. Hejaz made a couple sly pick ups with the addition of Fawad Akram and Junaid Akram as replacement players. Junaid had a great debut with 2 goals including the game winner. Friends of the duo reckon that older brother Fawad will out do his younger brother this week in his debut. With Muhammad Shah back from his spiritual journey this week, expect Hejaz to be a dangerous squad again. The new additions have also lit a spark under the entire squad as everyone seemed to be more confident and composed this week. They know they now have the talent to be competitive. Omar Adil continues to turn heads with his improved play of late. The question remains if GM Ibrahim Sardar is enjoying his time burning calories on the pitch or if he wants to go back to standing between the posts. They face a huge test this week against the high flying Turks.

Anatolia FC
Anatolia made a statement last Sunday as the team to beat with another blowout victory. The Turks were held to a single goal and suffered a disappointing loss to Andalusia the week prior and quickly turned things around with a 7 goal output. The twin towers Zain Khilji and Nehad Shihab continue to run up their point totals with a total of 16 goals combined in 4 games. Both are on pace to have record breaking campaigns. They both also celebrate a birthday together this Sunday which makes supporters wonder if they will be in top form. The addition of playmaker Taqi Ahmed has given them the third ball carrier that they have been searching for since year one. The improved play of Muhammad Salman has solidified the Anatolia backline which held their opponents in check this week. At the start of the season, there were huge question marks around the Canaries defense, but they have proven to be consistent thus far. Rookie goalkeeper Umair Sheikh has also been a revelation for the squad as he continues to surprise many with his stellar play every week. They have lost top defender, Shoaib Gaya to a knee injury and have replaced him with speedster Taher Mirza. Taher is a stud on the softball field but the soccer pitch is completely different. Anatolia face another stiff test this Sunday against a revamped Hejaz squad looking to move up the table. Anatolia have a chance to top the tables at the break for the first time with a victory.

Sham FC vs. Samarra FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Sham FC
Sham FC come into the final week before the break with one point and a total of 4 goals in 4 games. Sham built their team around defense and goalkeeping but all that means nothing if you can’t score more than one goal a game. The Orangemen have plenty of firepower but continue to struggle to complete the final pass that could lead to a scoring opportunity. Athar Siddiqui, Zeem Khan, and Mohammed Mahmood all come with a scoring pedigree and can spark the offense at any moment, they just haven’t figured out how to do it together. Youngster Ahmad Alvi has been doing his best to run all over the pitch but some consider he might be doing too much. GM Usman Aslam faces a tough decision on whether to continue to play a defensive style or go full throttle. It might mean introducing himself into the scoring attack. Sham carefully watched Samarra last week and GM Usman Aslam was seen taking notes while scorekeeping the match. Sham desperately need to claim points in this final match before the break as Samarra currently holds the final playoff spot which they are chasing.

Samarra FC 
The Red-blacks pulled off the upset of the season thus far with a complete game against league leaders Andalusia. Samarra came in as the huge underdogs but took control of the match early and never looked back. The squad looks totally transformed from a few weeks ago. The dynamic duo of Danish Khan and Khizer Shahzad continue to complement each other as they wreak havoc on the pitch. Since the addition of Khizer, they have combined for 8 of the teams 9 goals over 3 games. Most importantly, they have settled down on defense with Numair Bari and Umair Jabbar taking responsibility at the back. Workhorses Omar Shakil and Arshad Chawdhry have settled in the backline for their new team and have been much better since their opening week debacle. The squad is doing all this without their GM Umer Jabbar who enjoys summer in Australia until the New Year. Samarra will look at this matchup as a crucial three points if they want to compete for top spot. With both Hejaz and Sham chasing them for the 4th playoff spot, they will need points this week to hold on or move up the standings.

Matchweek Five kicks off at 8:45 Sunday Night.

Week 4 Recap

Matchweek 4 wraps up with upsets and some high scoring games. On a snowy night, the players toughed out the difficult road conditions to take the pitch. Here are the outcomes: 

Jerusalem FC     2   |   7     Anatolia FC

In a match was supposed to be a close affair, Anatolia came out storming and came away with lopsided victory. Jerusalem was missing some key fixtures from their side but Anatolia's overpowering offense was too much from the blues. JFC actually started off with the lead on an Umair Wasim goal but Anatolia struck back minutes later. Omair Sheikh would give JFC the lead again but Nehad Shihab produced one of his three goals to tie the match. After that, it was all Anatolia as they continuously had odd-man rushes that produced goals. The huge margin of victory puts Anatolia back at the top of the table on goal differential and they face a revamped Hejaz side next week.

Man of the Match - Nehad Shihab

Andalusia FC     3   |   4     Samarra FC

In a dramatic upset, Samarra shocked league leaders Andalusia in a close affair. Samarra new recruit Khizer Shahzad is turning heads with his brilliant play and he blasted Samarra out in front. The dynamic duo forming with Danish Khan and Khizer controlled the match in the early stages as Samarra went up 3-1 at the break. Andalusia rallied back on a pair of goals but Samarra always kept their noses infront as they came away with a huge victory. Samarra put themselves firmly in the middle of the table with a victory and face Sham in the final week of the season. 

Man of the Match - Khizer Shahzad

Sham FC     1   |   3     Hejaz FC

In the late match, the two sides at the bottom of the table looked to take advantage of the other to move up in the standings. Hejaz had two players drop out last week with Farhan Ahmad and Faheem Kotwal suffering injuries. Hejaz replaced them with the Akram brothers and the younger brother already made his presence felt. Junaid Akram introduced himself to the league with 2 goals to turn Hejaz's season around. Without Muhammad Shah, Hejaz couldn't have asked for a better result. The team looked much better balanced and created scoring chances. Junaid's brother, Fawad will make his league debut next week. Sham played a better match this week but continue to struggle with scoring chances. With another single goal game, they need to find a way to create more chances. Mohammad Mahmood was the lone goal scorer on a blast from distance but Sham barely had any close chances. Hejaz face Anatolia next week and will need another victory to get back in the playoff race. 

Man of the Match - Junaid Akram

One week left until the holiday break. Important matchups next week that could shift the balance in the tables. 

Week 4 Rumours

We head into Week 4 of the season with the standings completely inverse from week 4 in 2015 - Andalusia top the tables with Hejaz at the bottom. With only two weeks left before the break, every team is fighting for important points before the holidays. The big matchup this week will be Anatolia v Jerusalem in a battle for second place while Andalusia v Samarra could have plenty of drama as well. 

Andalusia FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Andalusia FC
Andalusia FC profit from a valuable win against Anatolia which sees them atop the table at BISL. The once basement chickens are now high flying eagles and no one could have guessed. What a surprise indeed – it seems every player in the squad is contributing to what has already been a successful season for Andalusia. Fahim Karamat and Ayaz Sethi are in the best form of their lives. Even Farhan Karamat isn’t playing like his usual 'retired player' play-style. What did Hassan Chaudhry do? Ever since he took on a role in management we’ve seen nothing but enhancement. The club will be pleased with their ability to perform on both sides of the pitch limiting their opponents to 8 shots last week and taking 27 of their own. 2 goals from 27 shots isn’t a great conversion rate, and it’s clear to see they are lacking the finishing touch. Shaharyar Khan is known for his finishing and must create opportunities for himself to take on shots that will force their opponents to chase their score. Andalusia now being top are expected to take home another win, but they won't be sneaking up on anyone anymore. Every team stayed back to watch Andalusia play last Sunday and will be looking to dissect their formation. 

Samarra FC
Youth is a good thing. Nay, youth is a GREAT thing. If you look at the rosters in BISL, you’ll see that most players are rather…how do we put this lightly…old. Let’s face it – this is a league for guys that can’t keep up with the rigorous demands of intense football anymore, but do not want to give up on it completely. A perfect medium for the (Barbican) beer-bellied brothers that suit up every Matchday in Brotherhood Soccer. You can only imagine how excited Malton mavens Danish Khan and Khizer Shahzad are every Sunday to dribble circles around opposing geezers Sunday nights. Both men have been in rampant form and providing a ton of flair, finishing, and pace to the Samarra frontline. When you factor in the always-working Umair Jabbar and calm and collected 'Tasmanian Devil' Numair Bari, these guys have a side that’ll give fits to many old heads in the League. The Redblacks picked up their first win of the season against Hejaz last week despite not having the character of GM Umer Jabbar in the backline (who too is travelling). Numair 'the Hedgehog' seamlessly goes from defensive distributor to counterattacking playmaker, and does a great job pulling the strings for his young strike-force to wreak havoc up front. However, the Samarrans face a potential buzz-saw to their developing confidence this week as they go up against the dominant Andalusia this Sunday; they will really have play their best to take any points in this fixture.  

Jerusalem FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Jerusalem FC
With all due respect to Yasser Zia and the mighty Sham, Jerusalem has to be gutted with that result last week. The Sky Blues seemed in control for most of the match, and had repeated chances to take the lead but for Yasser’s impressive shot-stopping ability and a few unlucky bounces off the post. It almost felt like Zia was trying to make a statement with the team he was so integrally a part of in 2014-2015 –a statement along the lines of ‘you REALLY think you are better off with Zahid in net over me’? We won’t confirm whether that is indeed the case or not (largely because the Commissioner does not take well to criticism), but we can definitely say that Zia is more than capable of putting his team on his back and getting Sham back to the semi-finals where they lost to Jerusalem last year. Also, it doesn’t help that JFC once again had to call upon a sub because they only had seven men available to suit up from their squad. Unfortunately, this looks to be the same story until the midseason break for the team, as Mohammed Variava and Shaheen Limbada face extended absences due to travel commitments. While Jerusalem prides itself on having a team full of men capable of playing any position, it begins to become difficult to build chemistry and consistency when guys are asked to fill in different roles week-in/week-out. And the schedule does not do any favours to them, as they face Anatolia’s venomous offense this Sunday. The squad will welcome back their Captain and keeper Zahid Merchant in the mix, fresh off his spiritual journey, which should mean Umair Wasim can move back up to forward. Let’s see if Jerusalem can stay undefeated and ideally get back to their winning ways.

Anatolia FC
Anatolia FC suffered their first defeat at the hands of the Andalusians, which handed them a real wake-up call. The Canaries were outshot 8-27 and thank goodness to the prowess of rookie Umair Sheikh who had a stunning game in goal to keep the score line very respectable for his team. Anatolia only scored one goal and for a team that manufactures goals at such a high rate, it does come as a surprise. The team experienced some downtime in their facilities when Zain Khilji pulled up with another groin injury midway through the first half and was unable to make his mark on the game. He will be questionable for next game; But the Anatolians were able to cope well without their captain, making dire changes in position which enabled a stronger second half performance and a goal to show for it. Taqi Ahmed and Kamil Lotia are praised for their versatility as players, but Taqi can be a little too versatile breaking formation to regain possession and carry the ball forward himself. Shoaib Gaya has been sidelined with a knee injury as the club patiently waits for his MRI results. His loss softens the backline and increases the responsibility of Hasan Afzal to safeguard his goalie. The Anatolia-Jerusalem rivalry continues this Sunday and is even more enticing with former JFC members facing their former club for the first time.

Sham FC vs. Hejaz FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Sham FC
Sham FC worked hard to gather their first point of the season in another very disciplined performance. Sham spend a lot of time on the drawing board and in the video room to dissect the strengths and weaknesses of each team to cater their gameplan. Not only do they have too much free time, they also are too lazy to come up with their own strategies. We already covered their stud goalkeeper in the Jerusalem column. The Tangerines have a threatening amount of talent but are lacking the precision of the final ball to score. Mohammed Mahmood and Adeel Ansari have been great in the midfield while Athar Siddiqui has been a nuisance to opposing defenders. The one-time Athar was put through, he found the back of the net with a great far-post finish. Ahmed Alvi is playing the transitional role of carrying the ball forward from a defensive position which has really solidified their backline. So much organization goes into the Sham defense, but they throw it all away in just a moment. Again, this week Sham lost their concentration on a set piece and conceded a very preventable goal. They will try to play a complete 50 minutes this week to shut out the struggling Hejaz and retain all 3 points for the first time this season.  

Hejaz FC 
Despite a scoreline that once again had them on the wrong side of it, Hejaz looked a lot less jaded after this loss than they did the previous two weeks. The team finally showed semblance to a coherent side, and though they are still a long way from the standard set by the team in the previous two seasons, they made some progress in getting there. The jury is out on whether this squad can perform like the Hejaz of old, but with AK, Muhammad Shah and Ibrahim Sardar in the mix, you can never count them out. They have too much talent and heart to simply be the team that every opponent looks forward to facing for an easy win. However, Los Blancos will have to do it without rookie Farhan Ahmad in the mix, as the rookie suffered a severe sprain that forced him to withdraw from the competition. The League wishes him well in recovery and hope to see him back next year. Many questions surround what Hejaz should do with the open roster spot. A team that has looked lost at points in defence has found a solid pairing in Asif Ibn Rehana and Omar Adil, which allows them to play the ball out from the back to their superstar wings Shah and AK. However, with Asif also travelling until the new year, they may be best off picking up a replacement defender of the waiver wire. Hejaz face Sham this week in a tie that they can steal three points from if they perform like they did in the second half of their last match.

We’re beginning to see top players depart their sides for the holiday season, so there may be some surprise results this week. Matchweek Four kicks off at 8:45 Sunday Night.

Week 3 Recap

Matchweek 3 wraps up with one team, Andalusia, staying perfect with 9 points, and one team, Hejaz, being on the opposite end of the spectrum without a point to their name. Here's the recap. 

Jerusalem FC     1   |   1     Sham FC

In a match that featured one team looking to go 3-0 and the other looking to avoid sitting at 0-3, Sham, thanks to the heroics of 'keeper Yasser Zia, held on to collect their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw.  Jerusalem were short-handed again with a few key starters unavailable for the match, and Sham looked to take advantage with a side focused on counterattacking.  GM Uslam Aslam again went with a 3-man backline in stretches against the Sky Blues, and his team fended off whatever chances JFC could muster up.  The counterattack paid off as Athar Siddiqui netted his first goal of the campaign to put the Orangemen up early.  Jerusalem responded with a beautiful attacking move of their own started by Atif Mian and finished by talisman Omar Sheikh to even up the tie before the half.  Jerusalem looked in full control in the second half and looked to put the match away, but Yasser Zia and his defence had other plans (as did the goal posts on repeated occasions).  Zia proved why he is one of the top goalies in the League with a stellar display in the draw, earning him Man of the Match honours. 

Man of the Match - Yasser Zia

Samarra FC     3   |   2     Hejaz FC

In a battle featuring two sides yet to collect points, one came through with three while the other remained pointless.  Samarra collected their first W of the season after an impressive performance by newcomers Danish Khan and Khizer Shahzad.  The Redblacks started off brightly with three goals in the first half - two from Khan and one by Shahzad.  Hejaz got a goal of their own from Muhammad Shah before the break and added a second from AK to add some pressure to their opponents.  However, Samarra managed to hold on and get the full three points.  Despite the loss, Hejaz played their best football so far this year in second half of the match, and look to carry that momentum into the matchup against Sham FC next week.  However, injuries continue to haunt the team as defender Farhan Ahmad joins Faheem Kotwal on the sidelines, both of which may be facing extended layoffs.  The Samarrans will be happy to collect a much deserved win, and look to turn their season around next week against Andalusia. 

Man of the Match - Danish Khan

Anatolia FC     1   |   2     Andalusia FC

This story continues to write itself - Andalusia beat Anatolia in a commanding display to put them in sole possession of top spot in the League.  Though the scoreline reads as a close matchup, this was anything but.  The Blues made their opponents look anemic with a defensive display that completely shut down the Turks.  Meanwhile, they could have made the scoreline look a lot more one-sided if not for more ruthless finishing (and a valiant display by Canaries 'keeper Umair Sheikh).  The first goal by the Spaniards featured a lovely poacher's finish by Ayaz Sethi, and a second came in quick succession by newcomer Hassan Chaudhary.  They had a plethora of chances throughout the match, but could not get the ball on target - and any shot they did was repelled away by Sheikh.  Anatolia made it interesting down the stretch with a late goal by Nehad Shihab, but they just could not collect another quality chance to try and redeem a point.  Hassan Chaudhary was a menace up front for the Andalusians and got the nod for Man of the Match.

Man of the Match - Hassan Chaudhary - MOTM video

After three weeks, Andalusia carve a two point lead on Jerusalem FC at the top of the table, and Hejaz remain pointless at the bottom.  Week 4 will see who continues their hot form, and who bounces back from disappointing displays. 

Week 3 Rumours

Week two saw further separation between the contenders and pretenders, and though it’s early, it looks like certain teams look a cut above the rest, while others seem like they have their work cut out for them. The season is still in its infant stages, but we have some excitement already budding around the league table – let’s see what’s going down heading into Matchweek 3.

Jerusalem FC vs, Sham FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Jerusalem FC
“Dekha hai pehli baar, Saqib ki aankhon main pyaar.” Alone. Alone he sat on draft day. Saqib ‘Ramos’ Dadabhoy (Ed Note: Saqib requested we put the ‘Ramos’ thing in) only knew one thing in his BISL career – Jerusalem blue. But, after GM Zahid Merchant faced a tough decision of who to keep going into the next season, Dadabhoy was the odd man out. This coupled with the fact that Saqib’s defensive partner and childhood friend Rizvan Merchant would not lacing up his boots this year left the man from Pickering in a disheveled state. What if he gets picked up by another club? What if he is partnered with a poor defensive partner? What if he is asked to play something other than defence? So many questions. So little answers. But slowly, things sorted themselves out. Dadabhoy fell to Jerusalem and they without hesitation brought him back into the mix, but surrounding him were a bunch of newcomers and guys he had not played with before. Unsure of what to expect, he decided to put faith in the team’s core as he had in years past, and ‘trust the process.’ The team set up a practice a week before opening day, and Saqib was partnered with newcomer Mohammad Variava, and what a pairing it proved to be. Saqib’s happy, really happy. So happy that if you look close, you see a little twinkle in Saqib’s eye when he hears Mohammad’s English accent on the pitch. Could this duo prove to be better than Riz & Saqib for the Sky Blues? It is too early to tell, but while Riz and Saqib both were aggressive and fantastic defenders, Variava and Dadabhoy have contrasting styles that compliment each other perfectly. Though not all of Saqib’s questions were answered with utmost positivity (he still has to ply the backline with champion-coattail-riding extraordinaire Hashim Ghazi for a few defensive shifts every week), the man could not help but hum the most romantic of Bollywood songs every night building up to Matchday. This week, Saqib and JFC are again without Variava and the boy named Ziggy, but look to come out proving that they have the depth to make it three in a row in the early stages of the campaign.

Sham FC
In six-a-side football, there are only so many ways to line up. Basically, you go 2-2-1, or if you’re really pushing for a goal, you go 2-1-2. But a squad of six won’t limit Sham’s new GM Usman Aslam from trying new tactics to better match up with the competition. Aslam set his men out in a 3-1-1 – yup, three defenders. With Anatolia’s silky display with the ball in week 1, he knew that in order to stop them, you had to limit their space to operate. And so he did just that, stifling his opponents for the first thirty or so minutes of the match. However, when Sham realized they not only had a shot of holding the Turks from putting up big numbers, but actually scoring some goals themselves, they lost their shape and pushed to put the tie away. This led to a loss of shape, and a 4-2 defeat. Sham had a lot of positives to take from the match though. For one, switching your approach just a week in shows that Aslam is not afraid to take risks and ask his squad to play in a system that gives them the best chance to win – even if it changes every week. And his men responded, but got caught up in old habits that led to their demise. Will the Orangemen maintain their shape this week? The schedule has not been too kind to the lads either, as they faced two of the three most impressive teams in the League thus far. This week? They face the third in Jerusalem FC. It will be interesting to see if Aslam goes with the 3-1-1 again, or whether he trusts the dynamic play of Ahmad Alvi and Mohammed Mahmood to try and take the game by the reins from the get-go. The team is starved of points in the table and will need a commanding performance from everybody in order to change that this week.

Samarra FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Samarra FC
I know. I know, I know, I know. We have to say it again, but it truly is the case – these guys are WAY better than their record shows. The redblacks played a good game versus Jerusalem FC last week, and fought back from 2-0 down only to give up a goal in the last few minutes to their opponents for the loss. Week 1 was difficult, as they just could not figure out how to set up defensively. GM Umer Jabbar had the staunchest defence in the League last year, and would come through on whatever few scoring opportunities they had to win games. One-nil. Two-nil. Two-one. They would shut down the opponent with excellent organization at the back, and then do what was necessary to get the W. After week one, it looked like they had to do the opposite. With Assistant GM (and Hakka-free diet advocate) Umair Jabbar now putting in work up front, and League rookies Danish Khan and Khizer Shahzad striking fear in opposing defenses, Umer went bold. He started the match last week with Numair Bari, the self-proclaimed ‘fastest man in the League,’ in defense. Usain Numair was an all-star last year in midfield, but being the professional he is, took the role with pride and added some much needed distribution and control at the back for the boys in black. de Grasse Bailey Bari was superb in his defensive position, and played a role in the team’s offense down the stretch as well – he screened and put on the slightest of touches on a laser by Danish Khan to even up the tie last week (which he happily gave credit to Khan for - which is 'character' in the truest sense). However, Samarra face an injury crisis as newcomer Mueed Tanveer, a steady contributor to the side, faces a fitness test prior to kickoff next week. They face Hejaz this week, and if they play like last week’s version rather than the Week 1 version, they will be confident in collecting their first points of the season.

Hejaz FC
Oh, what a difference eight months can make. Since BISL’s inception, Hejaz has been the toast of the league; they won back-to-back titles, and have dropped a total of 11 points during those years. This year? The team has lost two matches, which is one more than they lost over the last two years combined. Has there officially been a changing of the guard in BISL? It’s too early to say, considering that both losses came at the hands of two teams that look in top form so far, but it’s definitely not too early to say that Los Blancos have their work cut out for them. Do you start with the defence (7 goals against in two matches) or with the offense (a shocking one goal thus far)? The squad needs to sort itself out at the back for starters. With talented marksmen like Muhammad Shah, AK and Faheem Kotwal (when healthy) in the side, the goals will surely start to come. But what about that backline? There’s talk of potentially moving one of their stronger midfielders to the back to solidify their base, and then rely on movement and opportunistic counter-attacking to put numbers on the board. Not all is bleak for the reigning champs though. Asif Ibn Rehana looks like a gem of a signing, proportionate to Sol Campbell in his hey-day, since he's come in for Salim Jaichi after the striker withdrew due to injury, and newcomer Omar Adil showed a lot of poise in last week’s drubbing at the hands of Andalusia. Those two will only build on their chemistry and will need to in order to resuscitate their side's season. It has to happen soon, as with every coming week, Hejaz finds itself in a deeper and deeper hole to get out of. They go up against fellow 0-2 squad Samarra this week, could this be the week it finally comes together? All that quality has to bear fruits eventually…right?

Anatolia FC vs. Andalusia FC (9:45PM on Field 3)

Anatolia FC
A lot of questions surrounded Anatolia after their draft, especially from yours truly. How are you going to draft two guys that play exactly like their star player Zain Khilji? There is only one ball on the pitch – how do you expect playmakers Taqi Ahmed and Kamil Lotia, both known for their playmaking ability, to share the ball, much less with someone who arguably may be the best playmaker in the League. However, Khilji knew something the rest of us didn’t. He figured that by playing with two elite playmakers, he could finish plays instead of set them up. The result? Khilji’s netted an audacious 8 goals in his first two matches, with Taqi and Kamil contributing five assists to what looks like the League’s best offense. Factor in this trio with the box-to-box play of Nehad Shihab, who is the only other Turk to score this season besides Captain Khilji, and these guys look GOOD. In MW1 they looked dominant with a controlling display against Samarra, but in week two, they got tested by Sham and showed their true grit by coming back from behind and getting another three points. However, not all is rosy on the Yellow Submarine. Defensive stalwart Shoaib Gaya missed the opening week of the season with a knee injury, and was seen limping off the pitch last week after the team’s victory. Sho6i remains a vital piece of keeping the backline strong and commanding while his teammates continue to do work up front. If he is to miss more time, then Anatolia will have no choice but to pin Nehad back as opposed to letting him storm forward when called to. Shihab is at his best when he has the positional freedom to contribute on both ends of the pitch; but losing a stud like Gaya may require the all-star to put his offensive presence on the backburner to fortify the defence. Anatolia’s flowing offense take on the impressive Andalusia this week, who have yet to give up a goal. Who will come out on top – the unstoppable force or immovable object?

Andalusia FC
I said it before, but it bears repeating…oh, what a difference eight months can make. Andalusia were repeatedly basement dwellers in the League, mustering up a meek 14 points in their first two seasons combined. The team clearly knew how to play the game, but just could not convert their performances into wins. This year is a different story. They have scored seven and have yet to concede a goal. Again, they have yet to concede a goal in indoor soccer. That is nothing short of incredible and they deserve praise for it. They play a cohesive and aggressive style of football, with every man putting in work on both sides of the pitch to keep them ticking. The recipe? New guys! Andalusia brought in essentially the same team two years running, and management recognized the need to rebuild if they wanted to succeed. Back in blue are familiar faces in the Karamat brothers, Junaid Mirza, Hassan Chaudhry and Shaharyar Khan. But the new guys are the ones making all the noise. Ali Chaudhry debuted in the league with a pair of goals in week one and a clean sheet (while rocking no goalie mitts) in week two. Zain Khan has been a rock in defense, and chipped in two goals of his own last week. And Hassan “the one with the a” Chaudhary has been giving fits to opposing defenses with his size and length up front. This team is a complete 180 from what we are used to, and the League is taking notice. With GM Mirza likely back between the sticks this week, the Spaniards look to keep their shutout season going. However, they face their toughest task yet in Anatolia, a squad that has already put up ten goals in two weeks. All signs point to this one being an action-packed match.

Week 2 Recap

Matchweek 2 is in the books, and half the teams went to 2-0 and the other half stand at 0-2. Here's a recap of the night's action.

Samarra FC     2   |   3     Jerusalem FC

The match was an open contest with both sides trading jabs until Jerusalem engine Omar Sheikh opened up on the scoring on a great counterattacking move midway through the first half. The score remained 1-0 heading into the break, and Furhan Azmat, who continually pops up in the right spots in front of goal, netted his second of the season to put his team up 2-0 early in the second. Not looking to lose another game, Samarra ramped up the intensity and aimed to get back into the game. It all started with some pressure by newcomer Khizer Shahzad led to an uncharacteristic cough-up by JFC in their own half and the lad pulling one back for his side. Then Numair Bari, who played in the backline for his side to add some stability, pushed up on a set-piece that led to a goal by Danish Khan after Bari’s movement in front of net disrupted the JFC fill-in keeper Umair Wasim’s view of the shot. The momentum shifted completely in favour of the Samarrans, but Jerusalem held their ground and focused on getting the W. They indeed got it, as workhorse Omar slotted in his second of the night in the last dying minutes to give his men a hard-fought three points.

Man of the Match: Omar Sheikh

Anatolia FC     4   |   2     Sham FC

The match was very entertaining to witness as both sides were pushing for the win despite their respective weaknesses. Anatolia had most of the possession and play very pretty and nimble football but sham played an unconventional 3-1-1 to tighten up the gaps keeping the explosive Anatolia side scoreless at half. As a result, Sham were able to counter and a Mohammed Mahmood shot from distance beat the keeper to his top right to put Sham 1 up. The second half was a more open game where Zain Khilji came alive and scored 3, to tie the game at 1 apiece, then scoring the winner at 2-2 and finishing it off with a 4-2 final score. Nehad Shihab’s top corner tying goal gave Anatolia the momentum to push for the win while Sham lost concentration to keep from conceding. Ahmad Alvi scored one of his own early in the second half, but wasn’t enough to put Sham ahead for good.

Man of the Match: Zain Khilji

Andalusia FC     4   |   0     Hejaz FC

Andalusia is really looking like a contender having not conceded thus far. The game was very fast paced from both sides, but Hejaz were unable to create a quality chance in front of goal. Andalusia pushed high up the pitch and connected well in the final third where Fahim Karamat put in a pair of goals early in the game. Faheem Kotwal withdrew from the game 10 minutes in and Ibrahim Sardar took the role in the goal to make some spectacular saves to keep the score from getting out of hand. Ali Chaudhry was a goalie on the mission, leaving his goal to have a shot at goal from 20 yards and hitting the post. Zain Khan was able to score 2 more from the high pressure up the pitch. Hejaz seemed to be scrambling all match which allowed Andalusia.

Man of the Match: Fahim Karamat

Week 2 Rumours

Matchweek One is in the books, and we already have some juicy storylines heading into MW2. Who look like contenders and who look like pretenders? Who has the makings of a champion and who is already looking ahead to a new draft strategy for next year? Let’s kick off with this week’s rumours.

Another Transaction of Note: Samarra FC's Faraz Siraj withdraws from the League due to injury, and Samarra will be replacing him with Khizer Shahzad.  BSL wishes Faraz a safe and speedy recovery and hopes to see him back next year, iA. 

Samarra FC vs, Jerusalem FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Samarra FC
Samarra FC had a tough start to the season, incurring a heavy loss and forfeiting most of the possession in their first match. They were able to salvage 3 goals and capitalize on miscues, but overall didn’t look threatening going forward. In fact, the only other thing that was going for them was the great colour combination of their jersey kit that made players across the league second think a transfer to the side. Newcomer Danish Khan has shown glimpses of his undeniable talent and it’s clear to see he will be the heart and soul of the Samarian midfield and transitional play. Numair Bari and Umair Jabbar were on the scoresheet and it’s great to see your forwards score, but as the best players on the team, they may have to convert positions in order to balance the weaknesses in the squad’s defense. Defense has been a strength for the club, and they are no strangers to protecting their goal – they had the least goals against last season and made the playoffs as a result. The judgment on what the club philosophy is falls upon GM Umer Jabbar. Will the team play 3 behind half and counter or push forward to create chances on their own? Regardless, we expect to see a change and see Samarra rise once again. A great test befalls them as they line up against Jerusalem this weekend.

Jerusalem FC
Jerusalem FC started the season off by defeating their rivals Hejaz FC in the “BSL Derby”, who have had their number for the most part in the past. GM Zahid Merchant managed to hold on to a clean sheet till the dying seconds of the match, but Muhammad Shah stained it with a decisive consolation goal. Zahid brought back the Jerusalem core, but the additions to his squad are really the ones paying dividends. Mohammad Variava has become a leader in the team after just saying his hellos and has had a prominent effect on the backline and overall team shape on the pitch. The goals also came from the additions of Umair Wasim and Furhan Azmat, who have fit in with the team seamlessly as if they’ve been here for years. With Saqib Dadabhoy on D and Omar Shiekh in the midfield, we can only conclude that the baby blues look like the most balanced and consistent team in the league. Zahid will be missing a couple weeks for Umrah and will look to Umair to take on his duties, but with the new striker stirring up a pair of goals this week, the team may have a change in heart. Jerusalem take on Samarra this week, a squad that gave them fits in this fixture last year

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

Anatolia FC
Anatolia FC, once again, start the season with all 3 points and a flurry of goals to take the league by storm. As expected, Anatolia's offensive output is their greatest strength and teams already know it will be difficult to prevent them from scoring. However, the best defense against this team is to score more than them. The team conceded 3 goals despite having a heavy majority of the possession. The offensive options are plenty at the club and it could be a challenge to select the correct players in a balanced formation. Zain Khilji and Nehad Shihab are branded goal scorers combining for all 6 goals in the previous match while Riaz Murad has the knack of sneaking a few of his own with unexpected (due to his size and width) support play. Speaking of support, Taqi Ahmed and Kamil Lotia have proved they have the ability to provide an excess of opportunities for their scorers and just thinking about it, the goal tally for this team could get out of hand. The team will hope to welcome Shoaib Gaya after his absence last week to solidify the back line and take leadership at the back to mop up mishaps and strengthen their intensity. Goalkeeper Umair Shiekh could turn out to be an unsung hero at the club from what we saw last weekend, but he's one to feel the defense should do better to make him look better... Anatolia will push for even more goals against a struggling Sham side, but more importantly, will look to protect their goal with more resilience in their back line.

Sham FC
Sham FC will try again to find any sort of rhythm to get them back to their old goal scoring ways. The team was held scoreless by a pestering Andalusian side, but there is a consensus that the team was not able to create opportunities going forward. It seems the team hasn't jelled as quickly as they wanted to, which is always a part of rebuilding a team. With the likes of Zeem Khan and Athar Siddiqui, the side definitely has goals in them, but it's a matter of whether the midfield can give them the ball at the right times. Human wall Yasser Zia will be welcomed to the new season this week and even though he is not involved in the offense, his presence and leadership has an effect on their performance. The club supporters will demand a positive response this weekend after rumoured bad fitness practices at the club. A BSL reporter had attended a Sham practice midweek and claims the superstars did not attend, and those who did were too tired to play at game pace after just 15 minutes. Among them was Omair Zuberi, who took too many water breaks. Sham won't have time to breathe against the explosive Anatolians, as the only way to win is the keep pace with your opponents.

Andalusia FC vs. Hejaz FC (9:45PM on Field 3)

Andalusia FC
Andalusia FC (now known as Anda-liers FC amongst the league’s gaffers) emerged victorious in their opening match and the change in management seems to have much to do with it. Members of the League board have made a strong case accusing incoming players of providing wrongful and misleading information which may cost the club thousands in fines. These players rated themselves as 1 out of 5 on every category of their self-evaluation sheets, and are performing well beyond those capacities. Andalusia has never won on opening day fixture and has only registered 2 wins in each of the previous 2 seasons. We wonder if this was the cause for immoral behaviors within the club. Certainly, the corruption started with new management, Hassan Chaudhry in particular, as he brought his brother and friends to club for little cost. Andalusia has already registered a quarter of the number of wins in club history in just one game. We expect them to break all club records this season. GM Junaid Mirza was very pleased with his team being able to score goals without conceding and of course making him look good as the only goalie with a clean sheet thus far. The new guys, Ali Chaudhry, Hassan Chaudhary, and Zain Khan certainly have what it takes to compete for top spot and by bringing their own chemistry, they could put their team above their opponents. Their talent will be put to test again this week against reigning back-to-back champs Hejaz FC.

Hejaz FC
After a seventeen game undefeated streak dating back to early 2015 and featured two champions, Hejaz FC finally tasted defeat at the hands of their rivals JFC. It's definitely a slow start by Hejaz standards and it's expected the club will take the loss seriously. The championship squad was broken with the departure of the Masood brothers and a couple of key player suiting up for the opposition, but GM Ibrahim Sardar remains confident in the team’s chance of capturing a three peat. Although they are still capable, it won't come as easy as the previous two. Superstar Muhammad Shah must take on a greater burden offensively as the squad's capacity to go forward has diminished. With his partner in crime A K manning the midfield, Shah may have to take on a more forward role and rely on others to support the D in mid. Goalkeeper Faheem Kotwal is a former superstar in the league, but has been safeguarding his knee and talents on the goal line to avoid re-injury. He can be the answer Hejaz and Sardar are looking for, but will we see him combine in the midfield this season? Ibrahim is also playing out of position to make room for Faheem and will take some getting used to on defense. The lily whites perhaps need more time to jell and discover their tendencies to return to their winning ways. Andalusia is the next to stand in front of them – a fixture that by no means is as easy as it has been in the past.

Week 2 kicks off at 8:45pm on Sunday.

Week 1 Recap

Week 1 of season 3 is officially in the books and some teams are already drawing attention around the league. All three games were lopsided affairs with the winning sides dominating throughout the match. Here are the results: 

Anatolia FC     6   |   3     Samarra FC
Anatolia FC started off their season with a vengeance with a lopsided 6-3 win over Samarra FC. Zain Khilji broke a BISL record with 5 goals on the game and ruining Samarra keeper Taha Iqbal's debut. Zain got his first with 10 mins into the match on a defensive giveaway and then added his second a few minutes later to go up 2-0. Samarra would strike back with a Numair Bari blast that beat keeper Umair Sheikh. Anatolia would score 2 mins into the second half on a Khilji goal on a feed by Kamil Lotia. Khilji would complete his hat-trick a minute later on a feed by Nehad Shihab while Nehad would score his own a few minute later to give Anatolia a quick 5-1 lead. Numair Bari would score a second and Umair Jabbar would one but the Samarra defence gave the match away with a flurry of second half miscues. As expected, Anatolia's offence is a powerhouse and will score a ton of goals. Samarra will be looking to change up their defensive rotations after a horrid 5 minute spell in the second half. 

Man of the Match: Zain Khilji

Sham FC     0   |   3     Andalusia FC

In a matchup of two new GMs, Junaid Mirza and Usman Aslam have been yapping all week about their encounter. This time, Andalusia got the better of them with a 3-nil victory. Early in the first half, Sham gave the ball away in front of their net with Shaharyar Khan bouncing on the miscue to put his side up 1-0. Andalusia seemed to dominate all the scoring opportunities and fill in keeper Abdul Ahad Ahmadzai kept his team in the match. In the second half, Andalusia won a free kick in front of the Sham goal and Zain Khan set up Ali Chaudhry for a header to take a 2-0 lead. A few minutes later, Ali Chaudhry would find his second on a set up from Hassan Chaudhary to give blue a comfortable lead. Sham struggled to string together passes to get quality scoring chances. Sham will need to change up their offensive strategy. Andalusia starts off their season on a winning note and will hoping they can continue this form against Hejaz next week. 

Man of the Match: Zain Khan 
- MOTM Video 
Jerusalem FC     3   |   1     Hejaz FC
In the final matchup of the night, we had a rematch of last year's finals. Both teams looked poised to start off their campaign. In the early going, it was all Jerusalem with them ringing the posts twice in the first few minutes. Midway through the first half, Omar Sheikh intercepted a pass and found Umair Wasim on the counter to open the scoring. Hejaz struggled to get behind the Jerusalem defence and played the long ball. To open the second half, Umair Wasim intercepted an errand pass by Hejaz keeper Faheem Kotwal to score his second of the match. With 5 minutes remaining, Omair Sheikh fed Furhan Azmat a through ball that Furhan somehow blast shortside to get his first of the season. Hejaz would find a goal in the final minute on a defensive lapse that found Muhammad Shah open in front of the net which he deposited to break the JFC clean sheet. Jerusalem looked solid all round while Hejaz looked like they were still learning to play with each other. We expect Hejaz to be much better after 8 new guys played together. Jerusalem move on to play Samarra next week. 

Man of the Match: Umair Wasim - MOTM Video 

Week 1 Rumours


As we approach the beginning of Season 3, there is plenty of excitement and lots of questions to be answered about each team. With over 20 new players spread out across all 6 teams in the league, there will be plenty of faces trying to make an impression. Each week throughout the season, we will be posting news and rumours from around the league so be sure to check back here regularly to find out what's up in BISL.

One transaction to announce from the first week: Salim Jaichi, 4th round pick of Hejaz FC withdraws due to injury. Hejaz FC chose Asif Ibn Rehana as a replacement player.

Anatolia FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Anatolia FC
The yellow fellows are back after shockingly missing out on the playoffs last year. Incase you forgot, Anatolia had the second most goals last year and led in almost every offensive category but couldn't defend their own goal. GM Zain Khilji looked to correct that this year but rather chose another offensive juggernaut in Taqi Ahmed with his first pick. Anatolia will be playing a fast paced game with Kamil Lotia playing the wing along with superstar Nehad Shihab. The Anatolia defence will be anchored by Hasan Afzal and Shoaib Gaya, a duo that will not incite fear in opposing forwards eyes. Anatolia chose unseen prospects Hassan Zubair, Muhammad Salman and Umair Sheikh to fill out the rest of their squad. Anatolia will be hoping Umair 'gold glove' Sheikh can be a huge upgrade in net this year after they have allowed the most goals in the last two seasons combined. Riaz 'energizer bunny' Murad takes his talents to his third team in three years. His hustle and passion should be welcomed by this young group. Anatolia have the youngest team in the league and should have no shortage of speed upfront to pester opposing defences. However, their lack of experience has always prevented them from making the leap into the final two. Expect the canaries to play a lot of counter-attack soccer and take advantage of their fantastic midfield to take over the game. However, the counter attack cannot start unless you dispossess the ball. The key to Anatolia's success this year will be their D core of Shoaib and Hasan who will have to help start the break for their midfielders.

Samarra FC
The men in black chose to rebuild their team from scatch and chose youth over experience. GM Umer Jabbar screened each player for certain traits that compliment a high synergy style of play focusing on intangibles and chemistry. Samarra chose to solidify their midfield and net first by picking up unseen prospect Danish Khan. Danish comes with plenty of soccer experience but we will see if that translate to BISL success. Next Taha Iqbal was chosen as the successor to now promoted forwad Umair Jabbar. Umair has lost 20 pounds on his 'absolutely no-hakka' diet and will attempt to find his childhood goal scoring days. Numair Bari comes back to Samarra after a fantastic 2015/16 rookie campaign. Samarra chose veteran Arshad Chawdhry to anchor their defence along with GM Umer Jabbar. The rest of the Samarra team are young guns that should provide them some pace upfront. Teenagers Faraz Siraj and Mueed Tanveer will play up and Samarra will be hoping they can find chemistry together. Newcomer Mohsin Zubair and veteran workhorse Omar Shakil round out the rest of the Samarra squad. Samarra have a rare mix of youth and experience which should be interesting to watch. Samarra have a lot of unknowns on their roster with four new players. The one glaring weakness is a proven goal scorer. After only scoring 10 goals all last season, a lot of pressure will be on Umair Jabbar and their teenagers to score regularly for their side. Everyone including Samarra will learn a lot about themselves this Sunday.

Sham FC vs. Andalusia FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Sham FC
Sham FC snuck into the playoffs last season but crashed out in the semi-finals. Assistant GM Usman Aslam was promoted to GM and president of soccer operations with hopes of guiding his team to the top. Usman cemented his core by bringing back young phenom Ahmad Alvi and superstar goalkeeper Yasser Zia. The orangemen picked up defender of the year Sheraz Choudhry and Forward Zeem Khan early in the draft. Usman had a plan going into the draft and stuck to it by picking up proven players. Sham brought back Adeel Ansari and former GM Omair Zuberi to keep their team chemistry from last year. Sham also picked up former Andalusia midfielder Mohammed Mahmood and his brother-in-law Abdul Ahad Ahmadzai. Mohammed has lots of skill but struggled to get results on his former squad. He will be hoping change in management will help him break out this year. Abdul Ahad was listed as a keeper but there is no way he takes that job away from the league's best in Zia. Ahmadzai will have to settle for a role as a defender. Sham picked up striker Athar Siddiqui that struggled with injury last season and wil be hoping he has fully recovered. Sham FC have an impressive side with some of the leagues best midfielders in Alvi, Zeem and Mahmood. Their other strength is having Yasser Zia between the sticks. However, their defense and forwards have a lot to prove this year. While Sheraz Choudhry was the best defender last year, he will now have responsibility of managing the defense at the back. With newcomer Ahmadzai and Zuberi as his partners, Sheraz will carry a heavy workload. Sham will be hoping strikers Usman Aslam and Athar Siddiqui can find their scoring touch from year one. They scored a combined 15 goals that year and they will need just as many if this team is going to be contenders. They take on a revamped Andalusia team in week one and will be hoping to get their season off on the right foot.

Andalusia FC
After two disappointing seasons, Andalusia ownership ousted GM Farhan Karamat but somehow convinced him to sponsor the team instead. GM responsibilities were handed off to Junaid Mirza with hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time. In a surprise move, Andalusia decided to chose Hassan Chaudhry as an assistant GM along with Shaharyar Khan. Junaid might be hoping Hassan can bring some trade secrets from his successful run in softbal this year. Andalusia picked up Imad Siraj with their first pick and then proceeded to pick up all of Hassan's buddies. Ali Chaudhry, Hassan Chaudhary, and Zain Khan begin their rookie campaign with the Spaniards this year. No one knew much about this trio so Andalusia management are hoping they have found a 'Messi, Neymar, Suarez' trio. We speculate that Andalusia's sponsorship agreement had a clause built in to resign the Karamat brothers, Fahim and Farhan. Both are consistent players and should be much better suited in their complimentary roles. The round out their squad, Andalusia selected Ayaz Sethi. This entire team lives in the Churchill Meadows area and have their training ground on Eglinton/9th line. Andalusia looks like they may have solved their goal scoring problems with the addition of Imad but who plays defence on this team? Hassan Chaudhry will lead the backline but who else will help him back there. Losing one year wonder Hassan Syed to an injury that prevented him from signing up left a gaping hole in the team's plan. Rumour has the Karamat brothers being converted into defenders to shore up the backline. The Spaniards have already suffered some key injuries on the practice ground just like they did last year. It will be interested to see the new Andalusia squad this Sunday as they look to reverse their fortunes. Team management is keeping details about their players and their practices on the down-low with hopes of surprising the competition.

Jerusalem FC vs. Hejaz FC (9:45PM on Field 3)

Jerusalem FC
Jerusalem FC finally changed up their team after falling short for the second time in two years. GM Zahid Merchant kept core intact but opted to fill out the rest of the roster with new faces. Omar Sheikh and Shaheen Limbada will help lead the squad and provide most of the offense while Saqib Dadabhoy will be the anchor for the defence. JFC took plenty of risks during the draft, one of them a top two pick on Mohammad Variava. The bloke from Leeds joins the league relatively unknown but will be asked to partner with Saqib on defence. Two other rookies joining JFC will be Atif Mian and Umair Wasim. Both claim they have some soccer experience and will be asked to play pivotal roles in the midfield for the men in blue. Jerusalem chose to bring family together with the additions of Raza Ali (related to Zahid) and Hashim Ghazi (related to Shaheen). Both beat JFC in the finals last year and team management will be hoping they can bring that championship experience to the club. Furhan Azmat 'the most interesting man of BSL' brings his talents to Jerusalem this season. Furhan played a key defensive role on his former club and will now be asked to bring that same intensity to JFC. Furhan will also bring his large fan following with him which should make Jerusalem games the hottest ticket in town. We expect GM Zahid Merchant to put on the keeper gloves again this season. This year's club looks to have plenty of offensive firepower with Omar, Shaheen, and Raza upfront. Their success will depend on how well they can defend and intregrate the new pieces. They will be tested from the onset as they face their arch-nemesis Hejaz who defeated them in both league finals.

Hejaz FC
The league champs come off an impressive two year run where they have dominated the competition. The trio of Ibrahim Sardar, Muhammad Shah and A K have only lost one game in two years together. Last year they gambled by picking only newcomers to the league and it results in an undefeated season. GM Ibrahim Sardar took the same gamble this year, picking 6 players new to the league. In a shocking first pick, they selected Faheem Kotwal who is coming off a devastating knee injury and is still only retricted to goalkeeper until the new year. That means Ibrahim Sardar will have to tighten his boots to play out for the timebeing. To play forward, Los Blancos picked Tayseer Bharucha and Omar Kayal who both played together in the past. They will have one of the best midfielders in Muhammad Shah feeding them so they both will be expected to finish. Shah will have rookie Farhan Ahmad joining him in the midfield who comes with experience from other leagues. Unfortunately for Hejaz, Salim Jaichi has been put on injured reserves due to a nagging injury. Hejaz selected defender Asif ibn Rehana to replace Salim for the upcoming season. Asif will be matched up with new addition Omar Adil at the back. Omar comes from his previous club with high praise and is expected to be an impact player at the back. Syed G Hussain makes his return to BISL after only playing one match last year due to injury. Hejaz is hoping they are able to find success again this year with their new recruits. A lot remains to be seen whether they can follow in the footsteps of last years team. On paper, this team looks like it lacks scoring atleast until Faheem Kotwal is cleared to play forward. But any team built around Shah, Sardar and A K mustn't be underestimated - these guys remain the team to beat until another competitive proves otherwise.

Season starts in only a few days. Let's Kick-off!


2016-17 Brotherhood Indoor Soccer League Draft Results

The 2016/17 BISL draft was held Sunday morning and there were some surprise picks throughout the draft. Here are the teams for this season (in alphabetical order) however sources reveal there are some trades in the works.