Maldives have started solid preparation for upcoming South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship 2017 by reappointing Darren Stewart as the head coach for the national team today (March 7th).
“I am extremely delighted to be back because I enjoyed my coaching here in last year and I enjoyed the country,” Darren said after signing the contract with FAM this morning.
“As I said to Bassam I wouldn’t have agreed to come back if I didn’t think of qualifying because it’s pointless. It’s a strong group but with the right attitude from the boys and my self, I strongly believe that we can qualify for the Asian Cup and which could be magnificent for the Maldives football,” he continued.
Stewart replaces Rickie Herbert, whose contract was terminated due to poor results. The expectations for the 50-year-old manager are clear: winning SAFF Championship 2017 and qualifying for the final round of AFC Asian Cup 2019.
“We have set two targets. First we want to win SAFF Suzuki Cup and second, we want to qualify to the final round of AFC Asian Cup 2019,” said Bassam Adeel Jaleel, President of Maldives Football Association.
“We have formed national team management committee under the chairmanship of Ali Nashid. He is the right man for the post,” he added.
Stewart was previously appointed as the head coach of Maldives team on August of 2016 for the two matches against Laos in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.
Under his guidance, Maldives secured a place in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifying group stage for the first time after beating Laos by 5-1 on aggregate. Maldives also won a friendly game against Bangladesh under the helm of the Australian tactician.
Maldives are grouped with Palestine, Bhutan, and Oman in AFC Asian Cup qualification.