Former sports physician Abdulla Rafiu has been appointed as the new Minister of Sports, Fitness and Recreation under the new government led by newly inaugurated President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu.
This marks the first time in years that a designated ministry for sports has been established in the Maldives. Previously, sports and youth-related activities fell under the mandate of a singular government body.
Rafiu who began his career in sports as the physician of VB Sports Club had been an active member of the Maldives Sports Council until his ministerial appointment on Friday, November 17.
This also marks the first political responsibility filled by Rafiu, who is also a member of the World Aquatic Federation's Medical Committee.
"I am confident about dedication and sincerity. Though I have never been in the political field, I know I can deliver the policies related to athletes and sports most efficiently," Rafiu, a Masters Degree holder in Medical Rehabilitation said.
Senior officials of some of the sports association pointed out that this is the first time a professional associated closely with sports has been appointed to fulfill the government's mandate in sports sector.
Rafiu led the medical team in the Maldivian contingent that took part in the 2015 and 2019 Indian Ocean Island Games (IOIG), as well as the IOIG held in 2023 at Madagascar. He was also the physician of the national football team when the team went on to secure the AFC Challenge Cup bronze medal in 2014 and the SAFF Championship title in 2008.
"I have not witnessed anyone besides Raappe [Rafiu], who has become a minister based on merits and experiences of working so closely with athletes and in the sports field," a General Secretary of a local sports association said.
Peter Saggert, who coached the Maldivian national team said Rafiu often took lead of managing the time besides his role as its physician.
"He [Rafiu] would take charge of all administrative responsibilities if and when the manager is absent. He would even take the kit manager's responsibilities, and he is an exemplary leader for the entire team," Saggert said.
Table Tennis Association's President Ali Rasheed said that Rafiu had a deep understanding of the sports field due to his experience in working closely with local athletes and sports teams.
"He worked with us in the Sports Council, and he is a dedicated person who knows and understands the associations very well. He has also been quite active as a senior official, participating in meetings related to the Olympic committee tasks. Our athletes have always given positive feedback about him," Ali said.
The newly appointed minister hinted at the possible establishment of a multi-sports high-performance center in the Maldives.