The agreement between Football Association of Maldives (FAM) and national team's head coach Darren Stewart of Australia, was officially renewed on Tuesday.
The contract was renewed for a period of one year and six months. FAM's president Bassam Adeel Jaleel signed on their behalf.
Speaking at the news conference held at FAM House on Tuesday, FAM president Bassam Adeel Jaleel said they renewed the agreement because the team had shown great improvement under Darren’s leadership, in a short period of time.
A special committee was also established by FAM to overlook matters this year. The committee includes, the team’s previous temporary coach Ali Nashid (Ogaru Ayya) as Committee Chairperson, a foreign Technical Director, senior team Head Coach Darren Stewart, Physician Dr. Abdullah Rafiu, former manager Mohamed Haanim and national women’s team's head coach Rio Naoko Kawamoto from Japan.
Speaking at the conference, Chairperson Ali Nashid (Ogaru Ayya) said 2017 was an important year for the team, with two tournaments looming in the near future, namely; SAFF Championship and Asian Cup Qualifying. The team will begin training soon, and we are planning to organize a friendly match a foreign team, though this is not finalized, he said.
FAM assured the team of their support in all areas and said coach Stewart is hopeful of being qualified as group runner-ups for the Asian Cup Qualifying, because the team is grouped with Oman, Palestine and Bhutan, which considered relatively easy teams.
Coach Steward had previously coached the national team against Laos in the play-offs for Asian Cup Qualifying. Maldives won the first match with Laos 4-0 and the second match ended in a draw. Stewart also guided the team against Bangladesh in 2016, winning the friendly match 5-0.
Maldives qualified for AFC Asian Cup with the win against Laos and will face Palestine initially in the group stage on March 28. The match will be held in Male’.
Group D matches:
• Maldives vs Palestine (March 28, 2017 – Male’)
• Bhutan vs Maldives (June 13, 2017 – Thimphu)
• Oman vs Maldives (September 5, 2017 – Muscat)
• Maldives vs Oman (October 10, 2017 – Male’)
• Palestine vs Maldives (November 14, 2017 – al-Ram)
• Maldives vs Bhutan (March 27, 2018 – Male’)
The Asian Cup final tournament will be contested by 24 countries, divided into 6 groups. The best two teams from each group will qualify for the AFC Asian Cup held in United Arab Emirates in 2019.