The Chinese Football Association has resealed that matches for Maldives’ group in the AFC Cup Joint Qualifiers, previously scheduled to be held in China, will now be conducted in Dubai.
The move comes following an decision by the government of China stating teams from Maldives, Philippines and Syria will not be able to enter China at this time.
During the Football Association of Maldives (FAM) congress held on Sunday, FAM President Bassam Adeel Jaleel stated that there was an opportunity to have the AFC Qualifiers played outside of China. He added that it would be best for the Maldives National Football Team if the matches could be played in Dubai.
With the Chinese government denying entry to teams from Maldives, Philippines and Syria to China for the AFC Qualifiers, the matches for Maldives’ group will now be held in Duba. The Maldives and Syrian national football teams have already travelled to Dubai, while the team from Philippines is currently in Qatar.
While centralized matches of the AFC Cup Qualifiers kicked off once more after an 18-month hiatus at the Suzhou Olympic Center Stadium in China, Guam lost zero goals to seven to the Chinese national football team during Sunday’s confrontation.
In a statement released on Monday, the Chinese Football Association had revealed that they could not host teams from the Maldives, Philippines and Syria for the AFC Cup Qualifiers in China, following discussions conducted with the Chinese government. As such, the remaining seven matches for Maldives’ group in the AFC Qualifiers will be held in Dubai.
However, National football legend Ali Ashfaq (Dhagandey) and promising young defender Ali Shamis (Thoppey) have tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. They have extracted themselves from the national team’s pre-qualifiers camp, and will be quarantining for a period of 10 days in Dubai, raising questions about their chances of joining the team for the qualifiers. There remains a slim chance for Ashfaq and Shamis to join the line-up at the qualifiers, so long as receive negative PCR tests following the end of the mandatory 10-day quarantine period.
Prior to kick-off at the AFC Qualifiers, Coach Martin Koopman stated that he was proud to coach the Maldives’ national football team, and stated that even faced with pressing challenges, there was a possibility the team could deliver surprising results. While in Male’, the national team had been forced to practice in the ballroom inside Hotel Jen by Shangri-La due to Covid-19 health and safety restriction’s across the Maldives’ capital. The team had the opportunity to partake in a 20-day training camp after arriving in Dubai.
Following Sunday’s seven-zero win over Guam, China has cemented their position as second place in the group with a three point lead. The next match for China is scheduled with the Maldives on Thursday, but it is likely that the date would be changed as the match scheduled is altered following the shift of games from China to Dubai.
Maldives has three matches left to play in the qualifiers against China, Syria and Philippines, with the match against Syria designated as a home match for Maldives on 7 June. Syria is currently ranked first in the group with 15 points from five matches played, and China follows in second from 10 points won through five matches. Maldives is currently fourth in the qualifiers group after having won six points from four matches played. Philippines follows in third with seven points from five matches, and is scheduled to play Maldives on 15 June. Guam trails in fifth behind Maldives in the table, with no points earned from five matches played.