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.