Meet Club Eagles, Bengaluru FC’s opponents in the AFC Cup play-off tie

Image credit: Club Eagles@Instagram

2018-19 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) champions Bengaluru FC, under new head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, will battle for the final spot in Group D (South Region) of the AFC Cup when they take on Club Eagles in the Maldives on August 15. The play-off tie was previously scheduled for May 11 but was postponed on account of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in the Maldives. Club Eagles beat Bhutan’s Thimphu City FC 2-0 in the Preliminary Round 1 clash in April earlier this year to set up a Round 2 encounter with Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka. However, the Bangladeshi club had to forfeit their game as they couldn’t host it in time due to the Covid-19 situation in their country. Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, beat Nepal’s Tribhuvan Army FC 5-0 to set up the play-off tie. Founded in 1989, Club Eagles is based in Male, Maldives and plays its home matches at the National Football Stadium. Here, we look at the history of the Maldivian club, some of their key players as well as their head coach.

Nickname: The Eagles                                         

Home Stadium: National Football Stadium

Overview:

Club Eagles achieved promotion to the Dhivehi League for the first time in 2006 but were relegated back to the second division a season later. They returned to the first division in 2011 and have since finished in the top half of the table more often than not. During the 2019-20 season, Club Eagles finished behind champions Maziya Sports and Recreation – one of three confirmed teams in Group D beside 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) finalists ATK Mohun Bagan and Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings -- and qualified for the AFC Cup preliminary round. In the 2020-21 season, the Eagles, however, finished fourth on the points table.

Key Players:

Mohammad Taha (Goalkeeper)

Mohammad Taha is a Lebanese goalkeeper who is a crucial member of the Eagles team. The 23-year-old shot-stopper began his career at Safa Beirut SC in his home country before moving to Al Ahli in the same division. Taha joined Club Eagles in March 2021 and featured in their AFC Cup Preliminary Round 1 match against Thimphu City FC and helped them to a clean sheet.

Elsayed Mahmoud (Defender)

Club Eagles will bank on the experience of 30-year-old Elsayed Mahmoud to counter the threat of the Bengaluru FC attackers. The Egyptian defender played in his home country for the large part of his career. He first joined the Dhivehi Premier League as part of Club Green Streets before moving to Club Eagles in January earlier this year. He played in their qualification game against Thimphu City FC and did play an important role in the win.

Mohamed Naim (Attacking midfielder)

Mohamed Naim is one of the most reliable names in Club Eagles’ set-up. He was one of two goalscorers in the win against Thimphu City FC; Hassan Raif Ahmed was the other one. Naim joined the Maldivian club in 2017 from K. Guraidhoo and has since gone from strength to strength. He has also represented the Maldivian national team quite a few times.

Head coach: Mohamed Shaazly

Mohamed Shaazly has headed the Maldivian U-23 national team in the past. He took charge of TC Sports Club and helped them to a third-place finish last season before joining Club Eagles in January 2021. Shaazly is an ambitious coach and has made it clear on several occasions that Club Eagles are eyeing nothing less than a place in the group stage of the AFC Cup. Bengaluru FC, led by Sunil Chhetri, will have to be wary of them having lost to another Maldivian club, Maziya Sports and Recreation, in the AFC Cup play-off last year.

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