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FAM left in a state of uncertainty pending FIFA decisions

While Maldives' football faces significant challenges, FIFA's delay in reaching a decision following the end of FAM's last elected EXCO's term last Monday has yet to be resolved. FIFA has not yet announced their decisions regarding FAM.

Aishath Shuba Solih
07 July 2024, MVT 14:02
[File] Commissioner of Sports, Mohamed Tholal at the Olympic Committee congress. -- Photo: Ismail Thoriq / MOC
Aishath Shuba Solih
07 July 2024, MVT 14:02

It is unlikely that a more challenging situation in the review of football may arise for Member Associations of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) than what is currently observed in the Maldives. The Football Association of Maldives (FAM) has no valid leaders and lacks management committees, and its operations are conducted in a derelict building.

During a time when the country's football has drastically declined, FIFA has yet to address the situation in the Maldives, despite the term of the last elected Executive Committee (EXCO) of FAM ending last Monday. The end of the management comes at a time when trust in the association's administration has diminished, with substantial doubts caused by several oversights. The EXCO concluded their term without executing any of their mandated responsibilities. This issue came to FIFA's attention, leading to revelations and further scrutiny. FIFA also halted two attempts to proceed with an FAM election, one scheduled for January and another for April.

Moreover, FIFA has also blocked access to development funds for the country. FIFA's Independent Ethics Committee provisionally suspended the President of FAM at the time, Bassam Adeel Jaleel, from participating in all football-related activities at both national and international levels for nine months due to charges of money laundering and fraud. Bassam may be unable to engage in any form of football activities in the near future.

Mohamed Jaushan Shareef, who was appointed as the acting Secretary General of FAM last November, stated that FIFA has conferred the management of FAM to him under the condition that only directives from FIFA are to be followed. Jaushan revealed that he is unable to carry out any work within the association beyond what is instructed by FIFA.

[File] Acting Secretary General of FAM Mohammed Jaushan Sharif. -- Photo: Fayaz Moosa / Mihaaru News

However, no official documentation from FIFA conferring Jaushan with the management has been revealed or sent to FAM so far.

Jaushan also corroborates that no such documents were delivered by FIFA; however, he assures that they communicated with him personally. Regardless, doubts remain whether FIFA would inform a Member Association of such a significant decision through WhatsApp messages or calls.

Mihaaru News reached out to FIFA to inquire why FAM's management remains unassigned to a committee despite the end of its EXCO term and to clarify whether Acting Secretary General Jaushan was given the status by the authority. However, the response from FIFA did not confirm this decision.

"FIFA is closely monitoring the matters related to FAM together with AFC. Once further updates are received, they will be sent in a timely manner, the email sent by FIFA to Mihaaru News read.

Former General Secretary of FAM, Shah Ismail, who also served as the CEO of the FAM, stated that FIFA is one of the most organized international agencies in the world, alongside the United Nations (UN). He added that FIFA's directives are typically accompanied by organized documentation.

During the meeting held between Maldives Olympic Committee and the FIFA delegation who visited Maldives in April. -- Photo: Ismail Thoriq / MOC

Shared responsibility of government sports associations

Presently, the the country only has statements by FAM to hold on to due to FIFA remaining silent on a decision. However, government agencies also play a role in assuming responsibility for allowing the country's football scene to descend into such a derailed state.

The country's law stipulates that the government is the parent body of FAM. Shah asserted that sports associations operating under the government are conferred with a heavy responsibility in this matter.

Commissioner of Sports, Mohamed Tholal had earlier said that the the government will not intervene in matters concerning FAM and assured that they will all offer all necessary cooperation and support for the decisions reached by FIFA.

"We are not further involved in matters related to FAM as FIFA and AFC are investigating the issues, and they have assured us that they will inform us of their decision very soon," said Tholal, who had met the delegation from FIFA that visited Maldives in April to assess the state of the country's football scene.

Minister of Sports, Fitness and Recreation, Abdulla Rafiu shaking hands with the players competing in the final match of the U19 Youth Championships. -- Photo: Fayaz Moosa / Mihaaru News

"We have assured the FIFA and AFC delegation that visited the Maldives that we will provide all necessary cooperation and support for the decisions they reach."

Shah said that the Sports Commissioner and the National Sports Council must play a proactive role on this matter.

He said that Sports Commissioner Tholal and the Minister of Sports, Fitness, and Recreation, Abdulla Rafiu, stepping aside and spectating as any sports association falls into a situation where they are unable to go forward with their work due to a lack of a managing body is unacceptable.

"I sent a message to a senior official currently in charge of managing sports affairs. I mentioned in the message that the official cannot stay back and watch while in that position. I received a response from the official saying the message will be attended to in the evening. This evening still hasn't come," Shah said.

Minister of Sports, Fitness and Recreation, Abdulla Rafiu (L) and Commissioner of Sports, Mohamed Tholal (R).

Shah added that both the Sports Commissioner and Ministry of Sports must play an active role in addressing the country's declining football scene, similar to their dynamic approach in addressing matters of the Volleyball Association of Maldives (VAM).

He added that FIFA had accepted and approved the proactive approach adopted by sports associations of other countries in response to delayed decision making by FIFA.

A strong example of this is the situation faced by the Spain Football Federation (RFEF) who are now taking part in the Euro Football Championships 2024. FIFA had reached swift decisions following prompt actions undertaken by sports associations under the Spanish government.

The Committee assigned to temporarily assume all managerial works of the RFEF was appointed by the Spanish government itself due to FIFA's delay in issuing an order. The former Spain and Real Madrid head coach, Vicente del Bosque who coached the Spanish national team which triumphed the World Cup was appointed head of the government-created committee to supervise the RFEF through the unanimous decision of the country's sports associations.

[File[ Former General Secretary of FAM, Shah Ismail (R) with a foreign official.

Shah asserted that the Sports Commissioner and Sports Council can also take on such proactive approaches if determined efforts are exerted.

"Understanding what's happening in these matters is crucial. This will enable Maldives to play a role similar to that. FIFA will also appreciate these efforts," said Shah.

He stated that FIFA must communicate with the Sports Council in compliance with established policies. Shah further highlighted that FIFA must understand the significant contribution of the State budget to the country's football progress. He added that the authority should be informed that the Sports Council will take matters into their own hands if there are further delays in decisions.

"The Spanish government had also proceeded this way," he said.

"The National Sports Council must inform FIFA that they expect mutual respect in decision-making, just as they respect FIFA's decisions. They should emphasize that FAM also operates with funding from the State budget and cannot afford to remain inactive due to delays in FIFA's decisions. The Council should respectfully notify FIFA that they will take proactive measures if necessary," Shah added.

Administrative stakeholders of football watching the final match of the U19 Youth Championships. -- Photo: Ministry of Sports

He said that Maldives also has the right to sit at their administrative table and deliberate measures similar to how they visited Maldives and sat with administrative stakeholders of the country's football fraternity.

Shah emphasized that those holding sports positions must bring this issue to FIFA's attention, ensuring they understand their responsibility to act according to the commitments they have made.

"FIFA needs to be notified that it's a dereliction of duty for administrative stakeholders to allow any sports association under their supervision to become paralyzed without a functioning committee. These matters should be addressed well before the end of FAM's term, with proactive steps taken to ensure readiness and competence."

Shah emphasized that if the country's administration learns to proactively navigate these matters and act accordingly, there would be no need for suspensions imposed by FIFA.

However, the current situation in Maldives reflects the opposite of the dedicated approach needed to overcome the challenges. Each moment football, beloved by all locals, is disrupted and the association managing the sport is left in uncertain waters, it poses a setback to the entire country, impacting not only financially but also in other aspects.