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 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.


Maldives to kick off SAFF championship

The Maldives national football team will kick off its South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) campaign against Sri Lanka tonight.

Despite the resignation of the Team Manager Ibrahim Amir after a dispute over player discipline during the team’s pre-tournament trip to Thailand, officials are confident that all adversities can become overcome.

“I believe it’s a loss to the team if we lose anyone close to the team,” said Assistant Secretary General of the Football Association of Maldives (FAM), Mohamed Nasir.

“However, the team is very determined to win despite the situation,” he added.

Amir left the team after disagreements with the FAM over the inclusion of two players in the squad. Nasir recommended the suspension of Ismail Easa and Hassan Adham after the pair returned late to the team hotel, but was overruled by the FAM who argued it was too late to replace the two important players.

Team captain and all-time leading goalscorer Ali Ashfaq told media today that he felt preparations for this tournament had been better than ever before.

“We came here to win the tournament and be with us as the 12th player. Insha Allah we will win the tournament this time, so be with us.” said Ashfaq.

SAFF record

The Maldives are the second most successful team in the tournament’s twenty year history, behind six time winners India. The Maldives’ sole victory came in 2008, after they defeated India team who are otherwise unbeaten in the competition since 2005.

The Maldives take on neighbours Sri Lanka – kick off 5:45 Maldivian time – in the second of Group B’s games. Afghanistan and Bhutan will play this afternoon.

The two sides last met in the semi-finals of the 2009 SAFF championship, with the Maldives claiming an emphatic 5-1 victory in Male’.

Group A’s games began on Saturday, with tournament hosts Nepal beating Bangladesh 2-0. This was followed by champions India beating neighbours Pakistan 1-0.

Coach Istvan Urbanyi – retained by the FAM for his third SAFF tournament – told media last week that the final group game against Afghanistan (September 6) would be crucial.

“No need to talk about options. The first two games we must win, and last game is probably a fight to which position who will qualify, but its better to focus on each game,” Urbanyi told the press.

Afghanistan are the highest FIFA-ranked team in the tournament, followed by India and then the Maldives.

“We have a good team, but nobody can say that they have the strongest team. Small details will make a difference. We are ready to fight. Our target is to take back the trophy to make fans happy,” said the Hungarian coach.


Maldives to face India in Nehru Cup tonight

The Maldives National Football team face hosts India in their second match in the 2012 Nehru Cup this evening after recording victory over Nepal on Thursday (August 25).

The Maldives squad beat the Nepalese 2-1 with goals from Abdulla Asadhulla and  Easa Ismail in the 7th and 77th minutes respectively. With practically the last kick off the game, Jumanu Rai grabbed a consolation goal for Nepal.

Meanwhile, India beat Syria on the opening day of the tournament by the same score, prompting their Dutch coach, Wim Koevermans, to predict a place in the final for his defending champions if their form continued.

In contrast, Maldives coach, Istvan Urbanyi, has told India Today of his concerns regarding his team’s fitness.

“Most of my players have just come after a month of observing Ramadan. Also, we had little practice before coming here,” said Urbanyi.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7:00PM (IST) – 6:30PM in Male’.

Maldives to compete in Nehru Cup football tournament next month

The Maldives is anticipated to be the only South Asian representative in an international football tournament to held next month in India, local media has reported.

The Football Association of Maldives (FAM) is reported to have accepted an invite to compete in the Nehru Cup football tournament that will be held in New Delhi from August 23 to September 2, according to newspaper Haveeru.

To accommodate participation in the tournament by local players, the FAM has said it will look to reschedule matches in the country’s domestic Dhiraagu Dhivehi league to allow Hungarian coach Istvan Urbanyi and the Maldives national team time to prepare.

Haveeru has reported that the tournament, which has last held back in 2009 and won by India, will see the Maldives compete against a number of international teams including Syria, Jordan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Thailand, Costa, Zambia and Malaysia.


István Urbányi takes charge of under 23’s

National team coach, István Urbányi has charge of the under 23 football team who are training for the SAFF games.

Urbányi has been home in Hungary for a short holiday, but has now returned to the Maldives.

Haveeru reports that Urbányi will confirm the names if the three senior players that are allowed in the squad after he consults his technical team.

According to the Sports ministry, the team is set to go to Malaysia and Thailand on the 18th for further training.