What happened to the 12th player?
Would you go to a game if you don’t know the players? If you don’t understand the league format, or if you don’t see the league table? I wouldn’t for sure.
I believe that is one of the biggest reasons for the decline of supporters to the top tier. (Third division, Atoll tournaments, Futsal tournaments draws better crowds)
I remember a time when New Radiant played Victory, half the stadium would be full. For the final match it was almost impossible to get tickets. There was a time when people would queue up after the dawn (fathis) prayers for tickets.
Back then we had Victory, New Radiant, Valencia and Lagoons competing in the top four teams that play each other to determine who plays in the Semi-finals. To determine the top four a six team league would be played. It wasn’t simple then too. But the difference is the fans knew their teams and the system.
New Radiant supporters were proud of Kuda Moosa, Kaleem, Andharey etc. Victory fans had Maatey, Dhon Bileh, Seetey. Valencia had Kuda Heena, Kuda Haleem, Allo Amir, Iqbal. These Legends were replaced by others. Still the fans loved them all.
These days’ players move clubs after a season. For a small league this is sensible, but the clubs have a responsibility to market their players. To stay in touch with the fans. What use is twenty two men kicking the ball around when there are less than fifty people watching the game? Half of whom are the match and team officials.
While the Association is doing their part, all of us fans should try to contribute too. New Radiant has taken interesting step towards waking up supporters. Senior players having coffee with the fans was very interesting. New Radiant Chairman Ziyad’s plans to open a café where their fans hang out is very encouraging. Victory Sports Club’s newly elected chairman Nazeem asking the supporters’ to be ready is a very positive step too. However we are yet to see how these things develop.
Without a doubt New Radiant, Victory and Valencia are the biggest clubs in the country and these teams recruiting top players is encouraging. Maziya, Eagles and TC aren’t far behind. Not even the newcomers United Victory (promoted to the 2016 season) and Green Streets.
Top four teams from the Male’ League qualifying to the Premier league with the top four teams from the zones might make things interesting. Eydhafushi fans proved that earlier in 2016.
The Charity Shield kicks off on the 16th of February, few weeks from now. If the league becomes strong then the National team will definitely become better. The technical ability of the players have increased immensely, we are no longer a punching bag in the preliminary rounds of the FIFA World Cup. Imagine when we had huge crowds we were the weakest in the region. Now some of the bigger countries fear us. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan even Malaysia will not have an easy time playing against Maldives anymore. What if we can really turn out on local league games? What if we really become the 12th player? If we can, then I believe winning the SAFF games wouldn’t be our most prestigious achievement anymore (National Team’s biggest achievement to date)
It’s been a while since 2008 (when we won the SAFF) weren’t we all celebrating then? Let’s contribute this time. Let us turn out and be that 12th player for Club first and see what happens. The future depends on us, fans too!
(Photo: maldivesoccer.com)21 January 2017