Wednesday marked a landmark day for the Maldives as the FIFA World Cup Trophy finally landed in the archipelago for the first time in history.
The trophy arrived in the Maldives as part of the traditional Trophy Tour before this year's World Cup in Russia. First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim and the ambassador for the Maldivian lag of the trophy tour, Christian Karembeu, the retired international footballer was on the winning team of France in 1998, took part in a special ceremony held in the VIP Lounge of Velana International airport for the first unveiling of the trophy.
The ceremony went on with performances from local boduberu (traditional drum) group “1438”. Tourism minister Moosa Zameer, Football Association of Maldives (FAM)'s president Bassam Adeel Jaleel, Maldivian Olympics Committee's president Mohamed Shaweed and officials from the tour's sponsor, Coca Cola, took part in this event.
Wednesday's main event with President Abdulla Yameen was held that night in the National Stadium in capital Male, during which the trophy was unveiled to the public. Christian Karembeu presented the trophy to Yameen at the unveiling, making the incumbent president the first and only Maldivian to touch the FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Another event is to be held at FAM’s turf stadium on Thursday night, where ticket holders will be able to see the trophy up close and take photographs next to it.
The World Cup Trophy Tour is sponsored by the Coca Cola company, whose efforts have brought the most prestigious sports award to the Maldives for the first time. The trophy is transported in a special jet with a high security team. The Maldives is the third lag of the tour after the UK and Colombo, Sri Lanka. After a two day stop in the Maldives, the trophy will travel to Thailand’s Phuket, Pakistan’s Lahore, Palestine’s Ramallah, UAE’s Dubai, South Africa’s Johannesburg and Cape Town, Egypt’s Cairo, Italy’s Rome and Naples, France’s Paris and the US’ New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
The Trophy Tour began in 2006 as an initiative of Coca Cola. The current World Cup Trophy was commissioned after Brazil won the first Jules Rimet trophy outright in 1970. According to the new regulations of FIFA, champions cannot win the trophy outright and, instead, they will receive a gold-plated bronze replica. The names of the winning team are engraved onto a plate attached to the bottom of the original trophy.