Maldives narrowly defeated by India in penalty shootout

The Maldives national team was narrowly beaten by India in the SAFF Cup Final following a nail-biting 3-1 penalty showdown.

The streets of Male were deserted as the match began, with locals cramming teashops and restaurants. Those left on the streets gathered around TVs on street corners brought out by residents, or went to the main action at Lonuziyaaraikolhu where a large screen had been set up under the stars.

Young Maldivians dressed in red to support their team
Young Maldivians dressed in red to support their team

India was kept on the defensive throughout the match and during extra time, holding the score at 0-0 despite numerous close calls and several injured players. Indian goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya weathered a brutal onslaught in the final minutes of the second half as the Maldivians ran rings around the bedraggled Indian defenders. But despite the perpetual pressure the team just couldn’t get the ball past Bhattacharya, who must have felt like he was playing a particularly vindictive game of Dodge Ball.

Tension mounted during the TVM broadcast’s pause for prayer in the first half of extra time, but nothing was scored during the break sparking a nervous sigh of relief from some in the crowd.

Crowds cram a shop trying to glimpse the game
Crowds cram a shop trying to glimpse the game

The audience was on their feet by the time of the penalty shoot-out, excited and nervous in equal measure. Jibon Singh’s opening goal was returned by Fazeel Ibrahim, but Thoriq missed in the second round while India’s Denzil Franco hit the back of the net. Both Nirmal Chettri and Mukhuthar missed in the third, but Subodh Kumar scored in the fourth and Ali Ashfag failed to make up the point, giving the match to India by the narrowest of possible margins.

Disheartened, the crowd gathered in Lonuziyaaraikolhu quickly melted away leaving nearby stallholders equally dispirited.

The few Indians in the crowd cautiously celebrated. “Do you still love my country?” one Maldivian teenager asked a group of spectating foreigners, worriedly, while a convoy of red-decked motorbikes set off to lap Boduthakurufaanu Magu, honking their horns somewhat half-heartedly.

Maldivian women and their children by the bright red sea wall
Maldivian women and their children by the bright red sea wall

It was a saddening picture compared to the uproarious celebrations that could have been triggered by a mere gust of wind during the Maldivians’ many attempts in the closing moments to creep the ball past the line. But in the end, India’s ironclad goal defence – and more than a little luck – saw them scrape through to their third SAFF victory in four years.


Serial paedophile sentenced to six years

Convicted paedophile Hussain Fazeel has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for 39 counts of child sexual abuse, the highest sentence for such a crime in the Maldives and a landmark decision for the country.

Fazeel was initially arrested in February for smuggling alcohol in Male, but when police searched his home they discovered a hard drive containing a large quantity of images and videos of Fazeel having sex with young boys, some as young as 10. In other videos, the boys were made to had sex with each other.

Inspector Ismail Athif of Maldives Police Service said at the time that many of the boys appeared to have aged in the material, suggesting the abuse had been occurring for some time.

He also noted that the material was of a sufficient resolution to be used for commercial purposes, and that it was possible Fazeel was part of a larger ring.
Assistant Public Prosecutor Mahmoud Saleem said that while Fazeel had committed the crimes before the recent Child Sexual Abuse (Special Provisions) Act was ratified this month, which carries penalties of up to 25 years, six years was the highest sentence recorded for the crime.

In particular, “the statements made by the victims carried great weight,” he said.
Police sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said Fazeel’s sentencing was only the beginning “and there will be more of the same”, adding that two other child sex offenders currently being investigated by police had been linked to some of the same boys abused by Fazeel.

“When we investigated Fazeel we found some boys involved in both cases,” Shiyam said.
As for the sentence given today, “I don’t know why it was only six years, it should have been more than that.”

Mohamed Shihab from Child Abuse Watch Maldives said while the sentence was not administered under the harsher laws only recent enacted, as a first step it promised “a very positive future.”

“We have not seen anything like this ever before; I’ve already called the prosecutor general to thank him for this very important first step,” Shihab said. “We can look at it very happily that justice has finally been done for the children.”