Maldives Under-23 football squad crowned champions in inaugural Mahinda Rajapaksa tournament

The Maldives Under-23 football squad has won the first ever Mahinda Rajapaksa International Football Tournament after defeating Pakistan 2-1 during the final of the four-team regional competition held Sunday (December 9) in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives, who have been beaten only once in the tournament, triumphed in their final match after two second half goals within the space of three minutes by Waheed Rilwan and Abdullah Asadullah proved sufficient to secure victory against Pakistan, according to local media.  The match was held at Sri Lanka’s Jayathilake Stadium in Nawalapitya.

Although Pakistan’s Saeed Ahmed threatened a late upset after scoring from a rebounded penalty kick, the Maldives was able to hold on after its opponents squandered a number of chances to bring the score even, according to Pakistan-based publication The News International.

On its way to the finals, the Maldives squad won their first game 3-0 against hosts Sri Lanka, before beating co-finalists Pakistan 1-0 in their second match. Having already qualified for the final, a 1-0 defeat to Bangladesh ended the Maldives unbeaten run in the tournament – however the loss proved to be a temporary setback for the squad’s title aspirations.

Speaking to local sports website Maldives following their victory on Sunday, Maldives coach Istavan Urbanyi praised his young players as being “heroes” for their efforts during the competition.  Urbanyi also thanked an estimated 200 fans who were said to have travelled to Sri Lanka for the tournament’s final match.

“Its amazing. I really appreciate the support by the Maldivians who made the atmosphere like home for us,” he said.