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’ football champs invited to inaugural South Asia club tournament

The Maldives is expected to be among eight nations taking part in an inaugural club football tournament scheduled for later this year under the auspices of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

This season’s Maldivian champions will be invited along with their counterparts in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan to face off in a competition taking place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, between September 1 and September 15. These teams are expected to be joined by the top two sides from the national leagues of India and Bangladesh.

According to India-based newspaper, the Calcutta Telegraph, local governing body the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has claimed to have agreed to the scheduled dates for the tournament, yet added that the actual details of the competition are still to be decided.