SAFF Championship is just around the corner, our interest in local football is at an all-time low, and our national team is divided for many reasons. Yet, the superstitious fan can be hopeful of winning this year’s SAFF Championship. Similarities in the run-up to our only triumphant SAFF Championship in 2008 is remarkable to say the least. Let me point out what I have in mind.
1. In the same group as India
We have a habit of not reaching the final when we are not in the same group with India or meet
them in the semi final. Our records against India is dismal to say the least. We have beaten them only once. In 2008 we were drawn in the same group with India and we lost the group stage game but avoiding them in the semi-final before the memorable final show down in Colombo. We are in the same situation this year. Avoiding India in the first knockout game is a comfort. But this year not only we will avoid India in the semi-final but India will also be represented by an under 19 team in this year’s tournament to add to that.
2. A captain from Maafaru and New Radiant
In 2008, we were led by Assad Abdul Ganee from Maafaru Island of Noonu Atoll. This time around his younger brother Akram will wear the armband. Not only they are siblings from same island but also Akram will be wearing number 13, worn by his brother in 2008. Interestingly like his brother, Akram is also heading to SAFF Championship as a New Radiant player.
3. A divided team
In 2008, national team was under pressure from media to perform well in the competition and added further fuel to it when team official Nizar lost his passport in the airport that prevented him from travelling with the team. Later it was found out that young striker Ashad Ali was behind it and he was immediately suspended from the team. This time star striker Ashfaq, despite scoring 25 goals already in the season, is not with the team. Not because of disciplinary issues but coach Petar Segrt thinks 32 years is too old for a player to give any contribution. His unjustifiable reason has divided opinions within the team.
4. A Presidential election year
In 2008, the first multi-party presidential election in the history of Maldives was just around the corner. It’s the same this year with the incumbent president in both occasions belonging to the same family.
So, for the superstitious, this year’s SAFF Championship is one to be hopeful. Amid all the chaos and trouble the 2008 SAFF Championship galvanized triumph galvanized nation. The chaos hardly got the to experienced players of the golden generation. This year it is a relatively young squad with a relatively inexperienced support staff team which will again be tested to its limit if we are to repeat history.