Meet Maziya Sports & Recreation ahead of their AFC Cup matches against ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC
One of ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC’s opponents in the upcoming AFC Cup (Group D, South Zone) are Maldives’ top-flight champions Maziya Sports & Recreation. The club is based in Male, the capital of the country, and plays its home matches at the National Football Stadium. Founded in 1996, Maziya won promotion to the Maldivian first division for the first time in 2006 and have since gone from strength to strength. They are scheduled to take on 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) finalists ATK Mohun Bagan on August 21 and 2018-2019 Hero ISL champions Bengaluru FC on August 24. Ahead of these two important matches from an Indian point of view, here is the lowdown on Maziya in terms of their history, some key players and their head coach.
Nickname: The Green Boys
Home stadium: National Football Stadium
Maziya ply their trade in Maldivian football’s top league which is the Dhivehi Premier League. One of the strongest teams in the division in recent years, Maziya defended their title successfully in 2020-21. This was their third title in all. Among their other laurels, Maziya have also won the Maldives FA Cup twice and the Maldivian FA Charity Shield thrice. They have played in the AFC Cup on a number of occasions. In 2020, they beat Bengaluru FC in the playoff round and qualified for the group stage.
Cornelius Stewart (Winger)
One of Maziya’s most potent attacking threats, Cornelius Stewart is last season’s top-scorer with 11 goals. Hailing from St. Vincent & Grenadines, Stewart is in his second stint with the club, having played for them in 2018 previously. Prior to that, Stewart was with TC Sports Club, also based in Male. During his long career, Stewart has plied his trade in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago as well as Finland. The 31-year-old has three goals in four AFC Cup qualifying matches for Maziya and two of them came against Bengaluru FC last year. He also played one game in the tournament proper against Chennai City before the competition was cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mohamed Irufaan (Midfielder)
Mohamed Irufaan played for Maldivian team Club Valencia at the youth level before breaking into the first team. He joined Maziya in 2014 and has since won all major domestic laurels with the side. The 26-year-old has also played in the AFC Cup for Maziya, making four appearances in the group stage across 2016, 2017 and 2020 and scoring one goal.
Hamza Mohamed (Midfielder)
Hamza Mohamed began his career with rivals New Radiant and went on to win the Maldivian league thrice in 2014, 2015, and 2017. He added two more top-flight trophies to his cabinet with Maziya, winning the league in 2019-20 and 2020-21. Hamza has represented both New Radiant and Maziya in the AFC Cup. Last year, the 26-year-old, in Maziya colours, played four matches in the continental club competition’s qualification round.
Head Coach: Risto Vidakovic
Risto Vidakovic is the current head coach of the Maldivian Club. The 52-year-old was a centre-back by trade during his playing career, and turned out for Bosnian club FK Sarajevo and Serbian club Red Star Belgrade and later in Spain for Real Betis, Osasuna, and Poli Ejido. Vidakovic started his head coach career with Spain’s lower-tier teams Ecija Balompie, Cadiz and Real Betis B before joining Honduras’ CD Motagua. While in the Philippines with United City FC, Vidakovic led the side to the title for three consecutive seasons from 2016-17 to 2018-19. He took over the reins at Maziya in January 2021 and has secured a title in his first season itself.