Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed and Daniel Bosley
Five members and two officials of Afghanistan’s national football team have suffered minor injuries in a bus accident at 6:36pm on Addu City’s link road.
Afghan team captain Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri and coach Yousuf Kargar were among the injured.
The team was traveling to Herathera Island Resort following its group stage win against Laos in the ongoing Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup this evening.
One police officer accompanying the motorcade broke an arm, while a female protocol officer suffered head injuries. Eight others, including two soldiers and two locals also suffered injuries, an AFC media official told Minivan News.
Local media said vehicles in the motorcade accompanying the Afghanistan and Laos national teams collided when a local on a motorbike cut in front of the motorcade. Police at the hospital were refusing to give further details at the time of publication.
The teams are to fly to capital city Malé tonight, the Football Association of Maldives (FAM) has said.
Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the Addu City Regional Hospital has confirmed there are no serious injuries and said the government will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Assistant Secetary General of the Football Association of the Maldives (FAM), Mohamed Nasir, said he was deeply saddened by the accident.
“Accidents happen. We took all the precautions, security was in place. Police are investigating how a motorcade with sirens met with such an accident,” he said.
The 14-kilometer Link Road in Addu City is the longest paved road in the country and is notorious for fatal accidents due to reckless driving. Most recently, a 17-year-old broke his collarbone in an accident on April 7.
Addu City journalist and road safety campaigner Amy Jabeen highlighted the lack of traffic police on the link road and expressed hope that the unfortunate accident would raise awareness for better road safety in the city.
“We are a city without any traffic police, poor roads and a younger generation with no lane discipline,” said Amy, who has recently held discussions with the city council regarding improvements to local road safety.
Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed tweeted criticism of the logistics of the AFC Challenge Cup in Addu City saying, “The standards of the facilities and logistics in Addu are an insult to our people.”
The last-minute construction of the Addu City football stadium has been marred by allegations of corruption. None of the knockout stage matches or any match in which the Maldivian team was to play has been scheduled in Addu City.
The Maldives, Phillipines, Afghanistan, and Palestine have qualified for the semi-finals which will be held in Malé later this week.
Speaking to Minivan News prior to the accident, Director of the Maldives national team, Ali Suzain, said the FAM was hopeful that the Maldives team will win the Challenge Cup.
“The chances of going to the final is very high now that the Maldives national team has to play against Philippines in the semi-final. Having to play against Philippines is an advantage to Maldives,” Suzain said.
The AFC had only noted minor issues such as a supporter entering the football field during the first match and an official from the Kyrgystan national team throwing a water bottle onto the field, Suzain said.
“We were asked by the AFC to install doors in the V.I.P area after the Kyrgystan football federation president ran up and down the stair case and went in to the field and threw a water bottle inside,’’ he said. “We have now installed a door in the area.’’
The FAM was very pleased with the Maldives Police Service’s oversight of security at the football matches, he added.