Pakistan news February 2, 2010

Latif, city government join hands for Karachi Champions League

Former Pakistan wicketkeeper Rashid Latif and the Karachi city government have come together to launch, from next week, what might be the most lucrative club tournament to have been played in Pakistan.

The Karachi Champions League, a Twenty20 league, for the leading clubs of the city will begin next week with Rs 10 million (around USD 117,200) as the top prize for the winners. The tournament, a brainchild of Latif and the Rashid Latif Cricket Academy (RLCA) will feature a number of Karachi-based international players, as well as a host of domestic cricketers. Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Khalid Latif, Fawad Alam, Khurram Manzoor and Sarfraz Ahmed, among others, will be playing.

"It was an old idea of mine, one that I had been working on," Latif, who captained Pakistan as well, told Cricinfo. "I am a big follower of English football and I love the history of clubs over there, like Chelsea and Fulham. We have so many old clubs in Karachi and we need to revive that club culture once again here."

The idea was put into practice after Latif ran the idea by the city's mayor Mustafa Kamal during what was supposed to be a five-minute meeting. "We ran the idea by him and he agreed after a minute," Latif said. The prize money has been put up by Kamal's city government; as well as the winning club getting Rs 10 million, the runners-up will receive Rs 5 million (around USD 58,900), the semi-finalists Rs 500,000 (around USD 5900) each and the quarter-finalists Rs 250,000 (around USD 2900). All told there is Rs 17 million (nearly USD 200,000) in prize money at stake, easily the most lucrative local tournament in the country's history.

The tournament is expected to last nearly a month and will be played at various grounds around the city that are supervised and run by the RLCA. Malir Gymkhana, North Nazimabad CC, Korangi Al-Fatah CC and Airport Gymkhana are some of the more renowned 16 clubs in the tournament and each will be allowed only one international player.

The tournament will be televised on Geo Super, a local sports channel and plans are already underway to make it a national league - the Pakistan Champions League. "Karachi is the financial centre of Pakistan and a lot of MNCs are based here," Latif said. "The plan is to get them to sponsor a club each. Next season we will introduce player trading and hopefully in time, it can be pushed to a national league."

(USD 1= 85 Pakistan rupees approx)

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo