The year was 2008, and Maldives had won its first-ever SAFF Championship Cup. The country was filled with the sounds of joy and celebration, as friends, neighbours, families and even strangers filled the streets in red, green and white to celebrate the big win following an intense game that left everyone gripping to the edge of their seats until the very last minute.
While the Maldives won by beating India 1-0, those were the days of glory and the Maldives soon started pushing for the players to get better and play on larger scale games. The impact of football can be seen all around the Maldives, as almost every single island of the Maldives has at least one football pitch, and it is the most common sport that is played among young men and watched among the older generation as a form of community bonding and support.
Some may even say that the Government of the Maldives spends a bit too much of the state money on training and building people up for football matches instead of distributing the funding and supporting other sports in the country equally as the bias towards football has become extremely evident. And now this statement might have more credibility to it following the recent SAFF Championship games played in 2023 as the Maldives, for the first time in history, has been knocked out of the group stage.
With this being the first time the Maldives has performed so poorly in the games, many are looking to point fingers and find someone to blame, as it is expected for footballers to bring better results, especially after so much money is put into the game.
With this, the coach for the Maldives national team Francesco Moriero has stated that it is not his fault nor that of the Football Association of the Maldives (FAM). Though the coach has stated that it is neither party’s fault that the games went poorly, following criticism from football enthusiasts regarding the lack of practice by the Maldivian National team, the coach has also stated that practice has been hard due to the rainy season.
The Maldivian national team appears to have gone into the game completely unprepared as not even one single friendly match was played between the Maldives and another country, meaning the team had no practice or even tactic to beat the other countries in the games.
Although the games did not go too well for the national team, Moriero has stated that the Maldivian national team put up a fight and played a good game.