New Delhi, INDIA - Maldives will face India in the semifinals of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship on Friday afternoon at 1430hrs local time. From 1987, India and Maldives have met 10 times. Out of it, Maldives managed to over come the regional giants just twice and both those times, a player born from the island, Thoddoo scored the winning goal against India. Can Maldives repeat the same without a Thoddoo born player on the field?
The first time Maldives managed to beat the regional giants was in 2000 in Golden Jubilee Tournament, hosted by Maldives to celebrate 50 years of football in the Maldives. The only goal in the match was scored by Mohammed Nizam (Thoddoo Nizam) from a corner kick. Eight years later, Maldives again managed to beat the archrivals in 2008 in the fifth edition of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship, hosted by Maldives and Sri Lanka. The only goal in that match was scored by Mukhthaar Naseer (Twokilo), a Thoddoo born player in the 87th minute.
But the question now is which role could the island Thoddoo play in winning the big match against India on Friday afternoon? Twokilo was omitted from the squad due to injury and Ibrahim Shiyam (Kuda Thoddoo) was omitted from the 23 player squad. Both those players did not travel with the team.
The only comfort Maldivians have at the moment is that the facilitator for Maldives national team is born in Thoddoo. Ali Waheed (Balak), a die-hard football supporter is in the helm of the football team this time. Balak was in the Jamaaluddeen School team in 1995 when the team played in the Under 11 tournament. National team skipper, Ali Ashfaaq was the captain of the Jamaaluddeen team. Thoriq, a close friend of Ali Waheed was part of the team that was crowned the champions of the futsal tournament played in Malaysia.
When asked by maldivesoccer.com about how he feels to represent Maldives, he replied that if the coach allows him to play he would definitely score.
“If the coach plays me I would definitely score” and he laughed.
“It’s a great feeling to represent Thoddoo in the team. I have already asked the kit manager to reserve Two kilo’s jersey number 23 for me.”
Ali Waheed has the 2008’s match winning jersey of Mukhthaar Naseer unwashed in his cabinet.
But he said it does not matter who scores the goal against India.
“This is now a small family. The 28 men squad is united as one”
“So for us it doesn’t matter whether a player from Thoddoo or Addu or Eydhafushi or Mahibadhoo scores the goal. Any goal scored against any team, we consider it as a team goal and we believe we could go all the way. Insha Allah”
“No matter who scores, its from all of us. Therefore definitely Thoddo will be in it”
The parliamentary member for Thoddoo constituency would be in the helm of the Maldives National team when they face against India in the semi finals on Friday afternoon in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, to give the support and motivation to bring out the best of our team. He is the man to motivate the team and the man to facilitate the team’s success.
Every Maldivian hope is to reach the finals on the ongoing SAFF Championship with the help of the Thoddoo born manager. That’s our hope, that’s our dream.
*The matches in 2009 SAFF Championship are not included as those matches are not accredited by FIFA as national team matches.