I recently returned from a visit to Maldives with a group of young AFC Project Future Referees. They spent six days in the capital Male and refereed a number of matches, mostly in the Maldives Third Division. The matches were well organised and the referees benefitted greatly from the experience of refereeing in another football environment.

The woman referee in the group, Casey Riebelt of Australia, actually made history by becoming the first woman ever to referee a football match in Maldives – and a very good job she did as well.

Two of the referees also refereed the semi final and the final of the President’s Cup, the top knock out competition in Maldives.

The impression you get of Maldives from the tourist brochures is one of small islands, white beaches and palm trees and you are not disappointed. It is a lovely country and the people are very friendly.

But football is football – all over the world.

The semi final of the President’s Cup was played in the National Stadium in Male, between New Radiant Sports Club and VB Sports Club.

The referee was from Japan, the assistants were from Hong Kong and Uzbekistan and the fourth official was from Australia. They did a good job and although the match was very competitive there was nothing too controversial. Eventually VB Sports Club outplayed their opponents to go 4-0 ahead with just six minutes remaining.

Then it started.

The supporters of New Radiant Sports Club reacted to a foul on their goalkeeper and started to throw lumps of concrete terracing at the assistant referee. He was struck on the back and on the leg and had to be replaced by the fourth official who received the same treatment.

What we later learned was that the supporters of the two teams supported different political parties and this was the cause of the violence.

After a forty minute delay the remaining six minutes were completed with both assistants running the same line – away from the concrete throwing fans.

Special situations need special solutions!

When you hear of football violence, Maldives is one of the last countries you would imagine it happening – but it did.

Who says football and politics don’t mix?

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