A top class turf football stadium is being constructed in Eydhafushi, Baa Atoll.
While the majority of Maldives’ most skilful football players hail from Eydhafushi which boasts a rich footballing history, the island did not have proper facilities for football to date. This is all set to change with the upcoming completion of the new football stadium.
While there were previous talks to construct the football stadium with the aid of Football Association of Maldives (FAM) and the government, the stadium is finally becoming a reality thanks to the pledge of famous businessman, Ahmed Nazeer. He vowed to develop the stadium in order to aid the campaign of Eydhafushi MP Ahmed Saleem in the previous parliamentary election.
However, this did not come into fruition as soon as was expected, since there were various entities in talks to develop the stadium at the time. Due to the prolonged delay, Ahmed Nazeer handed over the project to a contractor in order to hasten completion. Ever since, work is progressing at a rapid pace.
The construction of the football arena would be the highest expenditure of Eydhafushi devoted to sports, and it is regarded as a relief to its residents that a local is in charge of the construction.
The turf stadiums that were erected in the past two years in Maldives were funded by independent individuals and businesses.
However, the football stadium in Eydhafushi is the most ambitious project yet, with a length of 105 metres and width of 68 metres.
The arena is approved by FIFA, while the turf laid on the grounds is by Limonta Sports, one of the seven companies that meet FIFA standards.
Local media Mihaaru also reports that the stadium would incorporate the best lighting system available for football grounds.
There is a lot of island native participation in the construction of the football stadium, with locals almost always near the site to observe the development.
Since construction began, Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Ahmed Mahloof, was the first to visit the site. Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed and FAM's Deputy Technical Director Ihsan Abdul Ghani also recently visited the island to survey the ongoing work, and both had expressed their approval, praising that such a high quality stadium was funded by an independent source.
Moreover, Ghani highlighted that a Development Centre was established in Eydhafushi through the FAM Atoll Football programme. With the stadium being constructed on the island, there would be "no room left for complaints", he remarked.
Ghani further iterated that with such a large task being funded solely by an independent individual, they were obligated to find use for it. He assured that FAM has already begun efforts, in conjunction with the Eydhafushi Development Centre. He also remarked the ease of which the Development Centre’s activities would run with the new stadium in the future.
FAM had announced last year that it would develop grass football grounds in 18 islands with the aid of FIFA. The stadium would be the prizes awarded to islands that won the Minivan Championship tournament.
While Eydhafushi team was the winner of the 2016 Minivan Championship, the FAM stadium has not yet started construction.
FAM attributed the prolonged project to delays in the government's leasing of lands.
The national football team of Maldives, along with every team contesting in the first division, features players that hailed from Eydhafushi.
It is a dream of all locals of Eydhafushi, an island of football lovers, to see such a facility established to hone their skills.
Abdul Wahid Hussain, who partook in the 1991 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship held in Colombo, was the first local of Eydhafushi to play for the national team.
He told local media Mihaaru that Eydhafushi has always been a footballing island, and that all citizens had longed for such a stadium. He declared that it would take Eydhafushi football to new levels.
The renowned former defender also expressed that it was his wish to see players from Eydhafushi on the national team at all times and that, with the introduction of the stadium, many new players would be produced in the island.
Club Eydhafushi, the island's local sports club, has pledged to advance Eydhafushi sports, stating that Eydhafushi receiving a facility for football that is unlike all others in Maldives was a great pleasure. However, they noted that it was a big concern that there would be no budget for the planning and running of activities.
The club further assured that all financial aid they sought for the activities would be used to hone skills and create national players.
Former player for Eydhafushi and Vice President of Club Eydhafushi, Abdul Majeed, said that the club’s main target is to train all members at the national team level.