Launched by local media Mihaaru, under the corporate social responsibility associated with the Mihaaru Awards event,' 'Champions Talk' aims to relay the success stories of sports legends in the country to the younger generations that grew up devoid of the opportunity to witness the enthusiasm surrounding the Maldivian sports sphere, during its golden yesteryears.
The programme, inaugurated at the seminar room of Kaafu Atoll Education Centre in Thulusdhoo, is set to commence in various schools across the country in the coming months.
"While we recognize the best players in Mihaaru Awards, we also want to invest in creating similarly talented future sportspeople", said Editor of Mihaaru News, Moosa Latheef.
As such, Mihaaru believes that providing a platform for champion's stories to reach the younger generation is an important step towards encouraging youngsters and paving the way to achieve great things in the field of sports, as well as in life.
The first 'Champion's Talk' featured Mauroof Ahmed (Maattey), who rose to stardom at a precarious time, when popular belief attributed the pursuit of sports as a path reserved for the less academically-inclined youth.
Addressing Thulusdhoo Education Centre's students, Mauroof, a widely respected success story in the history of Maldivian football, narrated his journey from when his time playing football as a student using makeshift gear, and making the most of every slim chance that came his way, until he became one the most renowned goalkeepers in local sports history.
Mauroof's professional career took off in 1981, playing for the renowned Victory Sports Club.
"Victory's then-coach Abujee (Abdul Jaleel) would say that the most important part [of sports] is discipline. He instilled in his players the value of competing with themselves", said Mauroof.
Recalling his early training days, Mauroof said, "if New Radiant begins practice at six in the morning, Victory will go at five thirty. That's why New [Radiant] started going at five thirty. Then Victory started going even earlier. On some days we performed the Fajr prayer on Henveiru football pitch".
Mauroof reasoned that it was this sort of practice that eventually led to club players competing amongst themselves to be the first to arrive at practice as well.
Such discipline and rigorous practice sessions ultimately resulted in Victory's grand triumph over New Radiant in the Presidency Cup for three consecutive years, claiming permanent ownership of the trophy in 1985, despite New Radiant counting renowned players such as Moosa Manik (Kuda Moosa) on their team.
The final match played by the rival teams in 1985 ended in a draw. A second match was played to break the tie, also resulting in a draw, and leading to a highly-anticipated penalty shoot-out.
Mauroof proceeded to shoot the penalty meant for Victory's captain Juliet Abdulla Rasheed (Jooley), surprising coach Abdul Jaleel as well. A goalkeeper facing a penalty shot intended for the team captain was a challenge Mauroof took upon himself, amidst the heightened suspense, knowing that if he failed to score not only would the team lose the cup, but he would incur the rage of numerous loyal club fans.
Mauroof not only succeeded in scoring the penalty but returned to his goalie post and halted the penalty kicked off by Kuda Moosa from New Radiant, leading Victory Sports Club to a historic victory.
Moreover, he described it as a special milestone, owing to the fact that New Radiant's goalkeeper at the time was Sayyid Ali, an old mentor that had taught Mauroof many skills.
Despite being the best keeper in Victory Sports Club, Mauroof didn't make the cut during the selection for the national squad to play at the SAFF Games held in 1985. The Russian coach chose a total of four keepers and excluded Mauroof during practices, but Mauroof's spirit did not waver. He continued to practise solo on the sidelines every day until he was presented with an opportunity to join practices when two goalkeepers were disqualified from participation due to injuries.
"My father always used to say that you only get one opportunity. Win or lose, you must make use of that single chance", Mauroof said.
Mauroof went on to display his skills on the football pitch, securing a position on the squad. Then, aiming to become the best goalkeeper in the SAFF Games of 1985, he went on to secure said title. He was also bestowed 'Best Goalkeeper' when the Maldives scored its first major international win, bringing home the silver in the 1991's SAFF Games. He maintained the position of best goalie until his retirement.
After a noteworthy career as one of the best keepers the country had witnessed, he made his comeback to the football scene as a coach in 1996 and won the Cup Winners' Cup for Club Valencia. He then went on to coach Victory Club in 1997, but failed to win the cup during the first three years.
"At the time, Victory counted their success in trophies won. I struggled for the first three years. Supporters even put up banners (against me), but I thought I wouldn't give up. Then from 2000 onwards, we started winning trophies again", Mauroof said.
After attaining the National Cup in 2000, beating New Radiant with a score of 1-0 with Ismail Anil's goal, Victory saw a series of successes, finally permanently owning the cup in 2002 after three consecutive victories.
According to Mauroof, his biggest achievement is being successful as a coach following his success as a player.
Today, Mauroof, who is neither a coach nor a player, believes he can encourage the community by conveying his past experiences in the field. His stories can inspire a new generation of motivated footballers.
Through the 'Champion's Talk' sessions, Mihaaru Sports Awards hopes to inspire youngsters to pursue their dreams in sports.
Mihaaru also hosted a 'Sports Stars Fiesta' in Thulusdhoo, where children interacted with various local sports personalities.
The activities were held with the assistance of Kaafu Atoll Education Centre, Thulusdhoo Island Council, Thulusdhoo Zuvaanunge Roohu Association and Multi Youth Association of Thulusdhoo.
Mihaaru Awards offers titles to Football, Volleyball, Swimming, Athletics, Badminton and Table Tennis. Three best football players, most promising footballer, and the highest scorer in football are chosen, as well as three best volleyball players in both the male and female categories, in addition to the most promising volleyball player.
Moreover, individual awards are given to three male and female players in addition to the most promising player in swimming, athletics, badminton and table-tennis.
This is the first time in Maldives that an award has been introduced catering to individual sports.
In addition to these awards, a Lifetime Achievement 'Mohamed Zahir Naseer' award is given in honour of the late Zahir Naseer, widely hailed as the father of Maldivian sports.
Mihaaru Awards is sponsored by telecom giant Ooredoo Maldives and Allied Insurance, the leading insurance company in Maldives. While Think Associates acts as the advertising partner, VTV, the largest independent TV channel, is the media partner. Associate Sponsors include Rainbow Enterprises, BHM Traders, Veligaa Hardware and Sonee Sports, Total Fitness Group and Printlab.