When the Maldives
qualified for the final of the South Asian Football Federation Championship in Bangladesh (only to lose 5-3 to the hosts in the penalty shoot-out), the 280,000 inhabitants on the island were beside themselves with joy. Sixteen years after joining FIFA and six years after a 17-0 thrashing at the hands of Iran, the national team was given a rousing welcome of the kind reserved only for state visits when it landed back at the airport. Steady youth development work has formed a generation of evenly balanced, technically talented players. In the past few years, they have been working on every aspect of football development. Some of their activities include restructuring the association, appointing a national coach and technical manager, organising a referee coaching programme and a long-term training programme for coaches and courses as part of the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Solidarity.