President Yameen pledges additional MVR1 million for national football team

After gifting MVR1 million to the national team for making it to the Asian Football Federation (AFC) Challenge Cup’s semi finals, President Abdulla Yameen has promised an additional million to the team.

Speaking to news agency Haveeru, Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the additional million is to recognise the good reputation the football team has brought to the Maldives and to encourage the team to more success.

The money is to be handed over this week. It is not clear if the money will be distributed from the state budget.

The Maldives lost the semi-final against the Philippines last week. Prior to the match, Yameen had promised one million rufiyaa if the national team won the Challenge Cup.

Palestine were the eventual winners, beating the Philippines on Friday (May 30).

Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim has also gifted MVR 500,000 to the team.


Syrian fighters, Majlis speakers, and soccer – The Weekly Review

May 24th – 30th

The Syrian civil war hit the headlines here as the  Bilad Al Sham Media media group reported that two Maldivian nationals had died in Syria while fighting pro-government forces.

Local media identified the individuals as Hassan Shifaz from Galolhu in the capital Malé, and Ali Adam from Shaviyani atoll – the latter reportedly dying in a suicide attack.

The government’s response to the reports has been muted and subsequently criticised – though the Islamic minister opined that Maldivians should not be fighting foreign wars in the name of Islam.

The government may well have been preoccupied with the predictable fracturing of its ruling coalition, with Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim’s attempt to secure the Majlis Speaker’s role enough to see its agreement with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives dissolved.

After President Abdulla Yameen warned the JP leader that his candidacy must be withdrawn, Gasim’s refusal to defer resulted in the PPM’s announcement that its 15-MP ally was no longer part of the Progressive Coalition.

The fragility of the coalition’s remaining advantage in the new Majlis was indicated by the narrow victory of the PPM’s Abdulla Maseeh – beating Gasim by just four votes. Meanwhile, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik edged out his PPM opponent to take the deputy speaker’s chair.

At the start of the week, the MDP had set eight areas any prospective Majlis speaker would need to focus on in order to receive the backing of its 25 MPs, including judicial reform, income tax, and the empowerment of local councils.

Prior to the appointment of his successor, former Speaker Abdulla Shahid told Minivan News of his fears for the Majlis’ future as the institution’s independence and oversight functions continued to be eroded by conservative forces.

Despite the government’s now wafer-thin majority in the legislature, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed assured that the work of government would be unaffected as the clearout of JP ministers began.

The AFC Challenge Cup made up the third major theme of this week’s news, beginning with the Afghan team’s bus crash in Addu City last weekend.

While the police commissioner gave credence to conspiracy theories surrounding the crash in which ruled a number of Afghan players out of their semi-final match, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced it would be looking into potential wrongdoing in the sale of tickets.

Adding the sea-sickness of his players to his list of grievances, the Afghan team coach advised the Asian Football Confederation to reconsider holding further tournaments in the Maldives, while the AFC itself advised the ACC that investigations into ticketing would stray onto its turf.

The Afghan team were subsequently knocked out by eventual winners Palestine before losing the third place play-off to the Maldives – themselves exiting the tournament in a dramatic semi-final against the Philippines.


Vice President Jameel began the week by assuring the government’s commitment to press freedom, and finished it with the announcement of plans for 26 sea-ambulances by the year’s end.

Home Minister Umar Naseer meanwhile revealed his plans for correctional reform, with the division of detainees into open prisons and work gangs, with others released after being electronically tagged.

Current inmate Hussain Humam – convicted of the murder of MP Dr Afrahseem Ali – appealed his death sentence at the High Court this week.

President Yameen journeyed to India for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration – reaffirming bilateral ties – while staff of the MMPRC went down-under to convince more Australians to holiday in the Maldives.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy saw his contempt of court case dismissed, while the auditor general’s preliminary investigation into the tourism minister’s alleged corruption appeared to falter as the ports authority refused assistance.

The discovery of the body of a new-born baby in Maafannu – and the subsequent arrest of its 18-year-old mother – prompted Hope for Women to suggest that social and religious stigma was damaging the sexual health of young women.

The Health Protection Agency explained how it hoped to alleviate some of these issues with the introduction of a health education programme in Hulhumalé later this year which is to include sexual health guidance for 10 – 24-year-olds.

Finally, Minivan News this week profiled the Rajjetherey Meehunge Party – an online group aiming to highlight the continuing income disparities between those from the atolls and the Malé elite.


Coach labels players “heroes” after dramatic cup knock-out

Maldives coach Drago Mamic has described his players as “heroes” after their dramatic extra-time defeat in yesterday’s AFC Challenge Cup semi-final.

“I told the players after the game that they are my heroes and I am proud of them and the whole country must be proud for what these boys showed today,” said Maldives coach Drago Mamic.

The Maldives exited the tournament after having fallen behind twice to the Philippines n the match before levelling the score. A third comeback proved too much for the team, however, after Chris Greatwich put the Philippines ahead once more in the 104th minute.

“Both teams should have won today if this can exist in the rules,” said Mamic. “But unfortunately the rules are very clear that who scores more goals will be the winner and that is why this time the Philippines scored three and we scored two and my congratulations to the Philippines as they scored more goals.”

The Phillipines will go onto play Palestine in Friday’s final after beating Afghanistan 2-0 in the day’s early kick-off. The winner will go on to appear in next year’s Asian Cup in Australia.


Afghan coach suggests Maldives should not host further tournaments

Afghanistan national football team coach Mohammad Karger has called on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) not to hold further tournaments in the Maldives.

“We have suggestions for the AFC that they do not again organise games in a country in which we can’t go and play football. This is for holidays, we come [here] for holidays,” said Karger.

The AFC has meanwhile suggested today that the Maldives could face suspension from further tournaments should local authorities carry out investigations into possible corruption regarding ticket sales.

The Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday announced it would investigate potential misconduct after irregularities in the sale of tickets prompted fans to protest outside Football Association of Maldives (FAM) headquarters yesterday.

Speaking during a pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final against Palestine in Malé, Afghan coach Karger complained of the logistics surrounding the team’s group matches – held in Addu City.

Echoing comments made by Phillipines coach Tom Dooley yesterday, Karger suggested that it was inappropriate for teams to have to travel by boat prior to games.

Dooley told media yesterday that the 20 minute speedboat between Herathera resort and Hithadhoo was “unusual”, and that this had caused some of his players to suffer travel sickness before games.

Karger – speaking through his captain Zohib Islam Amiri who acted as translator – advised the AFC today not to organise games where transport to matches causes players to vomit.

Addu City is scheduled to hold the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Challenge Cup later this year.

Prior to the tournament, Assistant Secretary General of the Football Association of Maldives Mohamed Nasir had cited the unusual geography of the country as a reason to celebrate the staging of the tournament as something “remarkable”.

The after-effects of the Afghan team’s bus crash on Saturday were also revealed during today’s press conference, with the head coach stating that three players injured in the incident were now unavailable for the game, while three more were being assessed.

Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed has stated that the incident may have been deliberate, although the road on which the crashoccurred is a notorious accident hot spot, and the motorcyclist involved has tested positive for opiates.

Addu City Council has today expressed its regret over the incident as well as defamatory remarks during the ongoing investigation.

“We call on the organisers of this tournament to identify what has caused this and to take action to further strengthen organization in order to ensure that such a sad incident is not repeated during future international tournaments,” read a council statement.

Possible penalisation

Following the Anti-Corruption Commission’s announcement that it would be looking into potential wrongdoing in the sale of tickets for tomorrow’s semi-finals, the AFC today released a statement today warning that such investigations fall under its jurisdiction.

“If any domestic investigative authority attempts to intervene in the affairs of AFC or in any tournament conducted by AFC in partnership with FAM [Maldives Football Association], the Republic of Maldives, as a member of AFC and FIFA is at risk of being penalised for such intervention, including suspension from international events and tournaments,” read an AFC statement.

Minivan News has previously received information that relatives of FAM staff had been selling tickets at inflated prices. Unrest broke out among queuing fans as the number of available tickets dropped dramatically yesterday.

Local media reported that sales had continued this morning. FAM officials were not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, local media has reported that President Abdulla Yameen has pledged a further MVR1 million to the Maldives team should it win its semi-final against the Philippines tomorrow.

Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal is said to have made the announcement at a function held to award the team with the previous MVR1 million – promised in return for the team’s progression from the group stage.

Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim was also reported to have offered a further MVR500,000 to the players.

With the tournament touted as an opportunity to bring unity to the country after an extended period of political division, the Civil Service Commission today requested that all employees wear red tomorrow in order to demonstrate support for the team.

The winner of Friday’s final will automatically qualify for next year’s Asian Cup in Australia.


Corruption and conspiracy allegations mar AFC Challenge Cup

With additional reporting by Ahmed Naish

The national unity created by the AFC Challenge Cup appeared to waver today as protests broke out in ticket lines amid claims of corruption while the police commissioner alleged a conspiracy in yesterday’s Addu City bus crash.

Supporters of the national team staged a protest outside the Football Association of Maldives (FAM) after ticket sales for Tuesday’s semi-final against the Phillipines were halted, with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) promising an investigation.

Sources who wished to remain anonymous told Minivan News today that they had bought tickets at inflated prices from relatives of senior FAM officials – the organisation has denied these claims.

ACC President Hassan Luthfee expressed confusion over the sale of tickets, telling local media that the commission will investigate how the number of available tickets in the 8,000 capacity stadium suddenly dropped to 150 today.

Luthfee was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed told police media that suggestions yesterday’s accident was pre-planned were credible. He did not provide details, saying the police would be looking into the matter further.

FAM President and MP Ilham Ahmed said today that Asian Football Confederation (AFC) officials had called him to ask if the environment in the country was safe to continue the tournament. The confederation intends to take action against the FAM regarding yesterday’s accident, reported Ilham.

After AFC reportedly raised concerns about security at the National Stadium, Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen today said that – despite proceedings having been peaceful up to now – police were now upgrading security services of the national stadium.

Speaking at the press conference held today, FAM’s director of football said that tickets were not sold or given to FAM staff in a way that could lead to misuse.

Ilham – who said that police had advised the FAM stop selling tickets after people broke the queue – said the FAM had sold three tickets to each member of staff , while locals were only allowed two tickets each for the semi-final.

Ilham claimed that 50,000 people wanted to get into the 8,000 person National Stadium for Tuesday’s semi-final saying that the FAM would try to screen the upcoming matches in Olympus theatre, Adi Park, and in the Social Centre in Malé.

Today’s events followed yesterday’s accident in which five members and two officials from the Afghan team suffered minor injuries in a bus accident on Addu City’s link road.

Police and media reports describe the accident as having been caused when the driver attempted to overtake a van travelling in front of the team’s motorcade. The van was forced to break, causing the following vehicles to hit it from behind.

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.

The site of the accident – the 14-kilometer Link Road in Addu City – is the longest paved road in the country and is a notorious accident hot spot.

The tournament, which concludes on May 30, has been lauded for uniting the people of the country after a prolonged period of political division.


Afghan football team injured in Addu City accident

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.


Mamic confident team can progress in AFC Cup despite early defeat

Maldives national football team coach Drago Mamic has insisted his team can still reach the knockout phase of the AFC Challenge cup after “cheap” goals cost them three points in yesterday’s tournament opener.

“I am very sorry that we concede very cheap goals and that’s why I told you before that one skillful player can change the score and I still believe that we can qualify for the semi-final,” Mamic told

Myanmar striker Kyaw Ko Ko scored twice as the Maldives lost 3-2 despite dominating much of the game before a capacity crowd at Malé’s Galolhu Stadium.

Despite going down to ten men after just 22 minutes, the tournament’s lowest ranked side were two goals up by half-time. Number 10, Kyaw, was not tracked in the 39th minute, neatly latching onto a through-ball to give his team the lead.

Kyaw was again involved in the second goal, exchanging a one-two before setting up Nyein Chan Aung for a simple finish.

After pulling a goal back ten minutes after the re-start, the Maldives hopes of salvaging a point were ended as an unmarked Kyaw struck again in added time. The Maldives’ captain and talisman Ali Ashfaq immediately replied with what was no more than a consolation goal.

Mamic said that his players may have relaxed following the sending off, suggesting that his instructions to closely mark the dangerous Kyaw were not followed.

When asked about the absence of playmaker Mohamed Arif from the staring eleven, Mamic said that the midfielder had been unable to train in the run-up to the tournament and so was not considered fully fit.


“Remarkable” tournament taking Maldivian football to the next level, says FA

“I think one small country in football taking on something like the Challenge Cup is something very remarkable.”

Speaking ahead of the Maldives opening Group A with tournament outsiders Myanmar this evening, Assistant Secretary General of the Football Association of Maldives Mohamed Nasir pointed out the logistical novelty of an international football tournament in Asia’s smallest country.

“I’m not sure there’s another tournament where land, sea, and air transport is involved in day to day player movements.”

Games will take place in both the capital Malé and the country’s second city Addu, with players from the eight competing teams staying in Bandos and Herathera resorts.

The biggest football tournament to have previously taken place in the country was the 2008 South Asian Football Federation championship – held jointly with Sri Lanka – which the Maldives won, beating regional heavyweights India in the final.

The National Stadium in Malé will host Group A’s games, featuring tonight’s teams as well as Palestine, and Kyrgyzstan – who played this afternoon, Palestine taking a one-nil victory.

Photo by: Ali Arif

The renovated – and renamed – Addu Football Stadium in Hithadhoo will host Turkmenistan, Laos, the Philippines, and Afghanistan in Group B, with the first game tomorrow at 4pm.

As AFC Cup fever grips the country, President Abdulla Yameen has already pledged MVR1 million to the national team should they reach the semi-finals.

Nasir, however, argued that a far more precious reward was on offer should the Maldives win the biennial tournament, with automatic qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup for team left holding the trophy on May 30.

“I think this is one the best things the FA has done to take us to the next level, as we are one step closer to the biggest tournament in Asia and we are pretty optimistic that we have a good chance to qualify,” said Nasir.

Part of the Asian Football Confederation’s ‘Vision Asia’ programme, the AFC Challenge Cup was introduced in 2006 with the aim of providing competition experience to the continent’s smaller footballing nations.

The four previous tournaments were won by Tajikstan, then India, before North Korea won both the 2010 and 2012 editions. The Maldives appeared in the latter tournament, going out at the group stage after defeats to both Turkmenistan and Palestine.

While Afghanistan go into the tournament as the highest ranked team, local media has this afternoon reported that many locals will be throwing their support behind Palestine.

The Maldives Palestine Brotherhood Association told Sun Online today that, while wanting the Maldives to win,  it would be supporting Group A rivals today in a show of support for the Palestinian people.

With high demand leading to the black market trading of tickets, police have today warned action will be taken against touts operating in the vicinity of the stadiums during the tournament.

The police also advised everyone to refrain from racist or defamatory remarks towards players or officials during the cup.

“If such a matter is brought to the attention of the police, we will take necessary action against it. Spectators attending to watch the match are also advised to conduct acts of support within the spirits of the sport,” read a police statement today.

Minister of Tourism Mohamed Maleeh Jamal echoed the police’s comments while unveiling the competition’s offici

al mascots – twodolphins whose tour of the city this afternoon was accompanied by the AFC Cup song,

President Yameen has previously expressed his hope that the tournament will unite those in the country divided by politics, asking all citizens to proudly wear the national team jersey.

“I hope all Maldives is in red colours this evening,” said Nasir. Tonight’s game kicks off at 9pm.


Government offers MVR1 million reward if national team reaches AFC Cup semi-finals

President Abdulla Yameen has offered a MVR1 million (US$64,850) reward to the national football team if they make it to the semi-finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup – scheduled to begin in the Maldives next week.

Speaking at a special function held last night for senior government officials to meet the team, Yameen expressed his desire “to make sports into something which transcends politics.”

“And for Maldivians the king or queen of sports is football,” he said.

The President’s Office has confirmed this amount will be paid by the government but did not comment on how it would be acquired or whether it be taken from the national budget.

“This cannot be valued in material terms, the joy it would bring to our hearts cannot be measured,” he said, noting that the team would receive even more rewards from the people of the Maldives.

Yameen’s generosity followed Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim’s offer on Monday of  MVR500,000 reward for the team “even if they don’t win the tournament”.

“Please don’t disappoint us, take us forward. God willing, we will win these matches. With the grace of God, and his will, the Maldivian national team will persevere all the upcoming challenges without any change in their ambitions.”

The AFC Challenge Cup matches will be played at the National Stadium in Malé City and Hithadhoo Zone Stadium in Addu City.

President Yameen notes that hosting the AFC challenge cup in the Maldives was a difficult task, but his government decided to do everything it could for youth and to unite the nation.

Shedding light on the benefits of hosting the tournament, he said it would put the Maldives on the tourism charts and playing matches outside of Malé at the Addu City stadium would bring economic development to the region.

Having upgraded the stadium to AFC standards would provide more opportunities for Maldivian teams to play more regional and international matches, with the resulting of improving Maldivian football.

Sports manifesto

Noting that his government gave a special importance to football and sports in general Yameen said that progress was being made in implementing the youth and sports-related programs in his manifesto

“We are going through very tough times [financially], even so we included those funds by the grace of god and we will deliver it. We included MVR300 million [in the budget] for youth and sports activities.”

The work of establishing sporting complexes on all islands with over 2000 people had already begun with futsal and turf stadiums being given particular focus.

Assuring the youth that all football resources required for the next ten years will be established within his five year term, the president also announced development of the ‘Kulhivaru Ekuveni’ sports complex in Malé as a “Sporting City”.

He said the National Stadium in Malé would be upgraded,  while a brand new sporting complex was planned to be established in Hulhumalé with a modern football stadium and integrated services.

In an effort to display the youth’s “individual unique talent” to the world, the president said a football match would be organised with the national football team of Japan, and a cricket match with the Sri Lankan national team, remarking that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had done the same before him.

“It is not a simple task to include MVR300 million in the budget every year. We are experiencing [financial] difficulties in many areas right now. However, even with that, we wanted to make sports into something which is beyond politics – for the Maldivian youth, to forget the past, for friendly relations and unity among us.

He appealed to the people of Maldives to support the national team disregarding any differences in political ideologies,  requesting all citizens to “make the national team jersey popular at stadiums and streets”.