Football on the Maldives
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.
The Goal Project
The synthetic turf pitch laid in Male in summer 2002 had an immediate psychological effect on the island's football. Overnight, there was no need to play on parched, worn-out fields any more because there was a manicured, level artificial turf pitch ready for use. Administrative matters were quickly settled thanks to the national association's initiative and Government support and the pitch was laid in barely four months. The pitch was originally intended as a training ground for the national team. But the urge to play in Male is so great that now boys and girls from local schools are chasing the ball at the same time as their idols. Older generations in the capital use the ground as their daily meeting point and marvel at how the turf manages to retain its emerald hue. After some initial scepticism, the Maldives' top players are now thrilled with the new investment. Remarks like «It's easier to play on this turf than in the national stadium»or «The ball rolls as if it were a grass surface» suggest that the future of football in countries such as the Maldives can only mean artificial turf. As part of the second stage in the Goal project, new association headquarters are being built adjacent to the artificial turf pitch and will be inaugurated in summer 2004. The Government donated this piece of land too and the costs are being shared with the FIFA Financial Assistance Programme.
Use of FAP funds
Financing of Goal project
National association headquarters, training centre and artificial turf pitch in Male
4 July 2001
Opened on 18 November 2004
Goal USD 400,000 FAP USD 402,000 Government Land Total cost USD 802,000