The Maldives has been included in the World Cup qualifying stage in the Asian zone for the 2018 World Cup finals to be held in Russia.
The country was included in qualifying as one of the top 34 Asian national teams, reported Vaguthu, with Afghanistan and Bangladesh the only other South Asian countries to appear in the qualifying round.
The Maldives is currently ranked 131st in the FIFA world rankings. The highest ever ranking attained by the country was in 2006 at 126, while lowest was 183, in 1997.
The qualifying matches – which are to be played as home and away fixtures – are due to start on June 11, while the group draw is to be decided in April.
The top team in each group will qualify for the third round in the World Cup qualifications, while also automatically qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup – the biggest footballing event in Asia.
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.
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.
The start of the AFC Challenge Cup and thatselfie dominated headlines and twitter feeds this week.
Talk of national unity and a belief that the tournament could be a springboard for the advancement of the nation’s football will continue as the Maldives rode their luck to make it into next week’s semi-finals.
Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s luck also appeared to hold out this week as police announced investigations into the justice’s alleged appearance in a sex-tape were being suspended.
The Maldivian Democratic Party declared that this, along with the judicial watchdog’s failure to make headway with its own investigation, to be evidence of a justice system unable to deliver justice.
With criticism also coming from President Abdulla Yameen regarding the Judicial Services Commission’s failure to conclude cases in a timely fashion, the JSC stated that all procedures were being followed.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continued to strengthen its grip on judicial administration with new regulations. The court was also said to have played a leading role in the decision to change the judge in the alcohol smuggling trial of governing coalition leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.
Despite only one hearing having been held regarding the two-year-old charges, Shiyam had expressed concern that the presiding judge’s demeanour had indicated a personal grudge against him. Judge Abdulla Mohamed has taken over the case.
The Family Court was said to have ejected two representatives of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) this week, though the court itself denied the claims. A regional report from Transparency International urged the government to further empower the commission in order to fight graft.
The ACC received a case last week accusing Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using state-owned companies to withdraw millions of dollars which has not been repaid – charges Adeeb has refuted.
With three minors convicted this week in relation to a fatal stabbing, the recent decision to facilitate the reintroduction of the death penalty again made international headlines. Former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, however, questioned the government’s sincerity in moving to end the sixty year moratorium.
Speaking at the country’s third Finance Forum this week, Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Azeema Adam called for the government to work in concert with society to cut expenditure before a panel of experts discussed how to attract foreign investment.
The details of the deputy mayor’s run-in with a fellow council member – since suspended – were caught on tape. Progressive Party of Maldives councillor Ahmed Mamnoon bragged to Shifa Mohamed that he was a ‘gunda’ – thug/gangster.
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 maldivesoccer.com.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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”.
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,” Maldivessoccer.com 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.
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)