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.


Ashfaq appointed as Maldives’ first sports ambassador

The Maldives Olympic Committee has appointed national football team captain Ali Ashfaq as the country’s first sports ambassador.

“This is a great success, an honour. I will work with the government and sports associations to improve and promote the Maldives sports sector. I would like to thank senior members of the olympic committee for this great honour. I am very pleased,” he told local media.

As Maldives sports ambassador, Ashfaq will work to promote sports amongst children and younger generations and aid Maldives sports teams in seeking better recognition in the international arena, say reports.

The letter of appointment was presented to Ali Ashfaq at a special event at Traders Hotel, Malé.

Speaking to Sun Online, Ashfaq thanked the Maldives Olympic Committee and said he was looking forward to working with the different sports associations to improve the Maldives sports sector.


Maldives SAFF run halted in semis

The Maldives suffered a heartbreaking defeat against South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship holders India, losing one-nil to an 86th minute Arnab Mondal goal.

Manager Istvan Urbanyi expressed his extreme disappointment with the way his team were knocked out of the tournament.

“India just tried to kill us in the first 40 minutes… They wanted to hurt which is a provocation. Every single time after 2-3 seconds they just made a tackle. And in the end Sentey (Ali Fasir) got a yellow card for nothing,” quoted Urbanyi as saying.

The winning goal came after a late corner kick fell kindly to Mondal, who rifled a shot past Maldives keeper Imran Mohamed.

Chaotic scenes accompanied the final whistle, as both Ali Umar and Mohammad Rasheed were dismissed after remonstrating with the referee. Maldivian players were particularly incensed after a 73rd minute penalty appeal from captain Ali Ashfaq was dismissed by the referee, who instead booked the tournament’s top scorer for simulation.

“It’s a penalty, I don’t care about anything it’s a penalty. If you watched the game live it’s a penalty,” said Urbanyi.

“Ashfaq got the ball at the right time, he touched the ball at the right time and the goalkeeper just came and he wanted to stop him. So the contact doesn’t have to be a huge one, it doesn’t have to break Ashfaq legs, if it’s just there and he doesn’t let him go through the normal way it’s a foul. Which is called penalty.”

India will go on to face Afghanistan in the final tomorrow.


Maldives top SAFF group, draw India in semis

The Maldives secured top spot in their South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship group, playing out a nil-nil draw yesterday in Kathmandhu.

With both sides assured of a place in the semi-finals going into yesterday’s game, key players were rested, including the tournament’s top scorer Ali Ashfaq. His contribution to the Maldives impressive goalscoring thus far – 18 goals in two games, with 2 conceded – meant that his side topped the group at the final whistle.

The Maldives goalscoring prowess may come back to haunt them, however, as top ranked side India were unable to finish top of their own group, thereby setting up an encounter with their neighbours to the south in the next round.

India lost to hosts Nepal on Thursday (September 5), setting up their clash with the Maldives on Monday (September 9), with Nepal facing Afghanistan on Sunday.

The final will be played on Wednesday (September 11)


Maldives secure semi-final place with win over Bhutan

Goals continued to flow for the Maldives yesterday, putting 8 past Bhutan in their second group match in this year’s South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship.

Captain and all-time tournament leading scorer Ali Ashfaq scored another four goals after a double hat-trick against Sri Lanka on Monday (September 2). The 10-0 victory was also a record high scoring match in the SAFF championship.

Bhutan were able to reply with two goals, even leading the game at one point before the Maldives resumed their impressive goal-scoring form. In a repeat of Monday’s game, the opposition were reduced to ten men when goalkeeper In addition to Ashfaq’s four, Ali Fasir scored two and Mohamed Umair and Ali Umar bagged one each.

The Maldives now leads Group B, ahead of top ranked side Afghanistan, who have also won both of their group matches. The two side face off tomorrow (September 6), although both are now assured of a place in the semi-finals, scheduled for the start of next week.


Maldives scores 10 in record-breaking victory

The Maldives national football team yesterday began its South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) by putting 10 goals past two Sri Lankan goalkeepers in record breaking style.

The high scoring game represents the biggest win in the tournament’s twenty-year history, with six goals by the Maldives’ ‘man of steel’ Ali Ashfaq making him the competition’s highest goalscorer.

“I feel happy about the result. I was excited that lots of goals were scored,” coach Istvan Urbanyi told the press after the game.

Commenting on Ashfaq’s six goals, Urbanyi hailed an “extra ordinary performance” but maintained that the win was a team effort.

It was Assadhulla Abdulla who opened the scoring for the Maldives after just five minutes from an Ahmed Rasheed cross. Sri Lanka kept their opponents at bay before Ashfaq began to take over, proving too quick for keeper Mohamed Imran who upended the Maldives’ captain when through on goal in the 19th minute.

Imran’s subsequent red card prompted the flood gates to creak, with Ashfaq converting the spot kick before adding another prior to the break. They had finally broken 15 minutes into the second half by which time Ashfaq had added another three to his tally, with his apparent hypnotism of Imran’s replacement in the 51st minute the pick of the bunch.

Sri Lanka appeared in disarray by the time Hassan Adhuham made it six on 76 minutes. The Maldives went on to put another three past the Lankan Lions, with Ashfaq claiming his sixth in the 87th minute and making the his team the first to score 10 goals in a SAFF championship game.

After the match, Sri Lankan coach Claudio Roberto declined to discuss individual players, but accepted blame for his side’s humiliation.

“Everything went wrong I will take the full responsibility of the match,” he told the media.

Post-match congratulations soon appeared across social media, with perhaps the most notable praise coming from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who praised Ashfaq as “the best player in our region”.

Politicians from all parties took to Twitter to congratulate their side’s historic result. Both presidential and vice-presidential contenders for Saturday’s election took time away from campaigning to send their regards to Urbanyi’s team.

Maldives chief opponent in Group B, Afghanistan, had started their own campaign with a 3-0 win against Bhutan earlier in the afternoon.

The Maldives will take on Bhutan – the lowest ranked team in the tournament – tomorrow, before taking on Afghanistan on Friday.