The last few weeks of the 2016 football season was thought-provoking to say the least.
First New Radiant Sports Club who had an indifferent season beat United Victory to Third Place in the FA Cup. Few days later Maziya Sports and Recreation Club who spent big for the season with the target of a season whitewash lost out in the semifinals of FA Cup to new comers’ TC Sports while Club. Then Club Valencia rose to the occasion to win FA Cup against TC Sports. Many agreed that it was TC Sports’ trophy to lose after the exciting displays throughout the season. FA Cup proved to be a tournament of surprises, twists and turns.
Most recently in the National Tournament, Maziya S&R again lost out in the semi’s to TC sports while Eagles managed to get the better of United Victory, ensuring that for the first time in recent history (possibly in the history of Maldivian football) two clubs that have never won the tournament faced-off in the finals. Eagles having been through few finals in recent years managed to get a hold of the occasion to win by a single goal to the lift the prestigious trophy of the National Tournament. Less of a surprise in comparison to FA Cup, nevertheless significant for the fact that two first timers played the finals.
Unlike recent seasons the silverware was equally shared among the clubs. As expected Maziya S&R won the league, while surprised a few to the FA Cup and Eagles secured the National Tournament in a gripping finish to the season.. So who are the big winners of the 2016 football season?
Maziya S&R had a peculiar season. There were patches of brilliance that was followed by fragmented displays and it can be argued that if not for the acquisition of the Man of Steel, Ali Ashfaq during the mid-season transfer break Maziya S&R could have well finished the season empty handed. Maziya S&R was smart and swift in the 2015 transfer break to ensure that the top footballing talents were on their payroll at the start of the season. As anticipated Maziya S&R and coach Ali Suzain publicly stated that their ambitions were big and were preparing in the aim of winning all the trophies. However coach Suzain failed to deliver his promise and Maziya’s season was ensued by the resignation of their head coach. In a many ways a poor season looking at host of talents at their disposal.
TC sports also spend big for the season. They acquired the services of high profile striker Ali Fasir (Sentey) and National team left back Ahmed Abdulla (Lily). Former national team play maker Shamweel Gasim (Bonda) also joined TC sports and played a crucial role for the side throughout the season. TC sports again had little to show for at the end of the season. They went close to winning all the three tournaments but failed at the last hurdle. Inexperience at the highest level proved to be the difference. Coach Nizam failed to deliver when it mattered and looked confused in their FA Cup final defeat to Club Valencia.
Club Valencia was another team who prepared well for the season. Their marque signing was the reliable National team center back Shafiu Ahmed (Shaafy) who was accompanied by Mohamed Sifan and Mohamed Arif. Valencia was built on a good spine and Coach Ahmed Asif (Kuda Heena) won his first major honors as a coach during the season. Football fans throughout Maldives would be hoping that the FA Cup win would catalyze and catapult Valencia back to the top again. Valencia has managed to secure continental football after a while putting a smile on the faces of their fans.
United Victory was the surprise team of the season. After securing promotion to the top division they exceeded expectations and gave a run for the money for all the top teams. UV were surprisingly organized and spirited and was backed by good foreign signings. Some young talents were display throughout the season but UV couldn’t have been prouder with their achievements in their first season.
New Radiant Sports Club for the first time in recent history had a season to forget despite of their third place finish in the FA Cup. Their season was marred by financial and disciplinary issues and as it has been the case in recent seasons NRSC changed their head coach on two occasion and there was little stability in the side although several youngsters got a run in the team. The lack of a top striker hurt NRSC badly in the long run.
After a bad start to the season Victory Sports Club managed to get salvage their season towards the end of the last round of Dhivehi league. At the end of the second round of the league it was almost inevitable that one of the most decorated football clubs in the history of Maldives was going to drop one division but the change in coach was met by a change of fortunes and Victory managed to secure their spot in the top division at the expense of Club Zeferol after the relegation play-offs.
BG Sports Club endured a tough and unlucky season. The club suffered one of their worst seasons to date in the top division and were unlucky to lose or draw some close games towards the end of the league. It can also be argued that of all the teams in the top division this year, BG perhaps had the weakest squad and that proved to be the difference in the end. Nonetheless BG Sports with their capable management can spring back to the top division sooner than later.
For me the real winners of the 2016 football season was Club Eagles. Eagles were smart during the transfer period and were clever to add some experience to the squad. Keeping faith in the young ones paid off in the end when Eagles were crowned the champions of the National Tournament, their first major honors in top division. Coach Ihusaan Abdul Ghani has certainly showed his capabilities as a head coach and has done so in style by winning with “kids”. They also certainly deserve applause for the manner in which they have won their first trophy. It was certainly not “bought but earned”. A lesson for the rest of the teams!