Just like customers are key to run a business, supporters are key to maintain and develop a sport. Football, we proudly call our number one sport but there is no pride in watching the game gets underway locally.
National stadium is a place of extremely loud supporters in the late 80s to 90s but a national level football match played between well-known clubs is a show for an audience of less than 100 people with all gates open free for spectators.
In the past the top clubs represent certain area of Male’ and that created the competition within the society. But that was the time when clubs were run by supporters and their interest in the game. That was the time when players play for clubs with passion and dedication of representing their people. That was the time when supporters have a feeling of belonging to their clubs.
Clubs started a commercial approach to the game in early 2000s resulting clubs isolating from their supporters. Players keep on changing their club and supporters find it hard to find a club idol to follow and grow up watching.
It may not be fair to some to say nothing has been done to change this worrying trend but very few attempt to find a cure for this spreading ‘cancer’ of the game.
During the time of recent normalisation committee of Football Association of Maldives (FAM), the idea of bringing back the immensely successful idea of allocating each club to a certain ward in Male’ was tried and tested. But it failed remarkably as placing the ward name on the back of player jersey simply didn’t work the magic. Also the attempt to having events in club’s area of representation to allow more supporters to join and get the feeling of belonging backfired simply the idea does not belong to an era where the country is politically divided and 24 hour a day is too less for many people to earn a living.
During the short spell of Ahmed Thariq’s reign, he came close to hiring an international sports consultation firm to study the situation of Maldivian football and design a plan to develop and market the game and attract supporters to local games. But it all evaporated after five of his executive members resigned forcing the organization to have another election.
It is obvious that Maldives has talented youngsters in the coming, if we look at recently finished President’s Cup final it is clear the next generation of Maldivian footballers are skilful but the worrying truth is they are forced to showcase their talent in a stadium with no spectators.