Problems continue at last AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives

MALDIVES - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has warned the Maldives authorities not to investigate the running of the AFC Challenge Cup or risk their soccer team being banned from international competition.

The biennial AFC Challenge Cup, set up in 2006 for emerging footballing nations in Asia, is being hosted by Maldives this year and concludes on Friday. The governing body for Asian football issued the warning after local media reported that the Maldives Anti-Corruption Commission, which describes itself as an "an independent state institution", had seized documents from the offices of the Maldives FA (FAM).

"The jurisdiction to investigate any misconduct remains exclusively with the AFC and FIFA," the confederation said in a statement on Tuesday. "If any domestic investigative authority attempts to intervene in the affairs of AFC or in any tournament conducted by AFC in partnership with FAM as a member of AFC and FIFA is at risk of being penalised for such intervention, including suspension from international events and tournaments.

"AFC wishes to convey to the domestic investigative authorities that the Football Association of Maldives is audited by AFC on a regular basis, and remains in good standing."AFC also believes that conduct of FAM in the current tournament is transparent, and in accordance with the established rules of the AFC."

Haveeru Online reported that ticket sales for Tuesday's semi-final between the host nation and Philippines were suspended on Sunday after scuffles broke out among fans, some of whom had queued since the early hours of the morning. Angry fans then gathered outside the Maldives FA headquarters in the capital Male and demanded the resignation of the body's president Ilham Ahmed.

The ticketing fiasco is only the latest problem to beset the running of the tournament, which will be scrapped after this year's version. The Afghanistan team, who will face Palestine in the other semi-final on Tuesday, were involved in a road accident on Saturday after their final group game against Laos.

Unhappy coach Yousuf Kargar, who said the accident had meant three of his players were unavailable for the last four clash, also bemoaned the need to travel by boat to matches on the holiday island, which had caused seasickness in some players. "We have suggestions for the AFC that they do not again organise games in a country in which we can't go and play football," Karger was quoted as saying in Minivan News.

"This is for holidays, we come (here) for holidays." The winners of the tournament receive a spot in Group D at the 16-team Asian Cup in Australia next year along with holders Japan, Jordan and former winners Iraq.

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