Government to support Baibala tournament despite police objections

The Maldives Police Service has appealed for those participating in an upcoming ‘Baibala’ tournament, a traditional Maldivian sport, to conduct the activity peacefully in accordance with the law.

Baibala is played by two teams, one inside a circle and one outside. The group outside must run into the ring, tag an opponent and escape without being tagged in return. Any person tagged is disqualified from that round. It is traditionally played following Eid-Al-fithur, and requires speed and agility.

A group of 150 players last week petitioned the President outside his residence to hold the tournament. Police earlier have objected to the tournament because of its popularity with gangs and the potential for violence.

It is common for gangs to compete in teams under their gang name, and even print T-shirts with their gang logos for players and supporters.

A police media official told Minivan News that police objected to the Baibala tournament because in recent years disputes in the sport have triggered gang wars.

“We have two main concerns,” said the police media official. “The teams in it are mainly funded by money obtained through robbery and thieving, and because following the Baibala tournament, a series of gang wars usually commences.”

He said he would not comment on whether police would be providing security during the tournament.

The government has meanwhile requested concerned authorities give permission to the youths.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the government would assist in anyway way it could.

“It is a permanent responsibility of police to maintain peace and law and order, especially in places where something may happen,” Zuhair said. “The Municipality Council, the youth ministry and the police are now discussing how to maintain the security of the area during the tournament.’’

“Police are concerned because during a recent football match, a boy was stabbed to death,’’ he said. “However security will be maintained during the Baibala tournament.’’

It is played between two groups and is often attended by youths.