The Maldives faces suspension from international football after the national football association was forced at the eleventh hour to cancel its long-awaited election scheduled for last night.
The Football Association of Maldives (FAM) said in a statement that the poll was called off “because the relevant governmental authorities failed to provide the necessary approvals” to hold an extraordinary congress to elect its executive committee.
The home ministry had said the election would be “illegal” as the FAM’s new charter was not registered.
But the FAM said copies of the new charter were submitted to the ministry in September. Senior officials from the home ministry and sports ministry were also present at the extraordinary congress where the charter was passed and had not raised any objections, it added.
The FAM said the registrar of associations at the home ministry, Yousuf Abdul Gafoor, refused yesterday to meet with visiting officials from both FIFA, world football’s governing body, and its regional arm, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The attorney general had also reportedly advised that the congress could not be held before the registrar approves the new charter.
The FAM said the registrar must bear responsibility for “the tarnished reputation of Maldivian football and the Maldives” if FIFA and AFC takes action.
The AFC had warned that the Maldives could be suspended from “all football activity” if the congress was delayed due to government interference.
Last week, FIFA suspended Kuwait’s football association over government interference. Kuwaiti teams and clubs were banned from international competitions and its association was barred from receiving development assistance.
A media official from FAM told The Maldives Independent yesterday that further delays to the election “will certainly guarantee FAM’s suspension from FIFA and AFC.”
Sources also told The Maldives Independent that the home ministry had asked Kurumba Resort not to allow the FAM congress to be held at its convention hall.
Following the cancellation last night, representatives from six first division clubs as well as clubs from the second and third divisions held a press conference and expressed concern over the possible ramifications for Maldivian football.
All the clubs declared support for Mohamed Shaweed, the sole candidate for FAM’s presidency, and the head of an interim committee formed to oversee drafting of the new charter.
The government initially moved to halt the polls earlier this week citing a complaint lodged with the anti-corruption watchdog against Shaweed.
The Anti-Corruption Commission, however, cleared Shaweed, a prominent businessman, of allegations of bribery and vote buying.
The FAM’s election has been delayed for more than a year due to infighting in its executive committee over the association’s constitution.
FIFA intervened in December last year and appointed Shaweed the head of a five-member “normalisation committee” to oversee drafting of a new charter.
The term of the normalisation committee is due to expire on October 31. The FAM said yesterday that it plans to file a detailed report to FIFA on the current situation.
The officials from AFC and FIFA who arrived this week to observe the election will also file a report, after which the governing body’s relevant committees will decide on a course of action.