We have always been a force in regional football and there is nothing more embarrassing than talking about reaching a World Cup in four years time and then crashing out in a regional tournament without a win or a goal. Maldives were heading towards that direction when a coin toss gave us a second chance and as expected the players gave their maximum to save the country from the humiliation.
Everyone who closely follow or is involved in Maldivian football understand the capacity of our players. They might not have fancy resources or an organized league but when the ball is at their feet they know what they are capable of. At club level these players are not looked after properly on most occasions and are most often underpaid or have issues with delayed salaries. But they have sacrificed a lot to become the talent they are today.
Crashing out of a tournament might not be a big issue for an ageing foreign coach, who would simply find another job the next day. But for these players it’s a different story. They belong to this country and what they achieve for their country is something special. The semi final against Nepal was their biggest test.
For the first time in SAFF Championship history Nepal came up against Maldives as favourites, thanks to Maldives head coach Petar Segrt’s poor decision making and blunders since his appointment that resulted in poor displays during the group stage. However, Nepal was shocked with the way Maldives responded. They looked world class against Bangladesh but looked ordinary against a hungry Maldives side in the semi final. All credit goes to the players and no one else simply for their determined effort to make something out of the tournament.
It’s not certain whether the players were following Petar Segrt’s game plan but definitely they followed their heart to make their country proud.