Male', MALDIVES - Former Maldives national team coach Darren Stewart has said that he takes full responsibility for not qualifying the AFC Asian Cup.
In an exclusive interview given to Maldivesfootball.com, Darren said that the rumors about selecting the national squad if total rubbish.
"The squad is selected by me no body else. That is absolute rubbish. If they asked me to select 30 I select 30 players and if had to bring it down to 23, I select 23. Of course I consulted many times with Ali Nashid (Chairman of National teams committee) and we moved forward." Said the Australian tactician.
Darren was appointed as the Maldives coach on a short term but after winning the play off against Laos he was given a one year contract. Under his helm Maldives played 5 games in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifier and Maldives won against Bhutan and lost 4 games.
"Basically I've got two tasks to qualify to the Asian Cup and I was the one who actually said that it would be a tough task and to win the SAFF Championship. I knew qualifying to the Asian Cup would be a huge task which I said was even before I met with the players and after a couple of games I realized that there is no way that we gonna make it to the Asian Cup. And I actually said to Bassam I don't think that we can achieve that but we would give it a go." Said the former defender.
"And regarding the SAFF Championship I give him my word that if we didn't make it to the final I walk and if we didn't win it I'll leave."
When asked about the proposed plannings for the tasks he got, Darren replied that he didn't think about SAFF Championship due to the changes to the schedule.
"Well the SAFF Championship was not on agenda due the changes to the schedule of the tournament and never spoken with the players about that. But to get better results in the Asian Cup Qualifiers we proposed things to be done but till now nothing happened." Said the former Australian national team defender.
"We had a program and it didn't get followed and I said this in many times in my interviews that no matter what that reason is it's my responsibility not the players."
"After the first game we gave a plan for each game and it's in the minutes of the meetings. Don't get me wrong that we have spoken this many times Palestine and Oman are too good for us to get qualify but for the future to learn from this should be spoken about now."
Darren also reiterated that the things happened during the away games were a total disgrace.
"The public should know this that we had a training camp in Bangkok and the facility there was a total disgrace, there was no food when we arrive there. The rooms there was disgusting but the training fields there are very good."
"We went to Dubai to prepare the team to play against Bhutan and that was 48 degrees and it took 27 hours for us to travel there."
He also said that if we want to get better results we must have proper preparations for the matches.
"We had whole two weeks to prepare the team for Oman game and that was the reason why we had a good result there. For the first five days we work for the fitness as we don't have any friendly matches."
"Oman spent five weeks in Austria for our game and Palestine spent four weeks in Qatar and we had five days. If you get a descent preparation even without a game we will improve massively." added Darren.
"Bassam said to me and Ali Nashid that don't care about Palestine away game when we asked about getting a good time to prepare for the game."
Darren also said that he would't say anything about the players for the result against Palestine away game after all those things that they faced.
"We left to Palestine at 11 PM and we arrived at the hotel there after 34 hours later. We waited at Israel airport for 8 hours sitting like not comfortable and that day we arrived at 3:30 am at the hotel and on the same day we had the press conference at 2 pm and we had the official training at 4 pm for fourty five minutes and we had the match next day."
Former S league winner, Darren Stewart also said that if the Maldives FA needs to be succeed they must ask what went wrong in all these matches.
"Why wasn't the executive committee asked me why we were not qualified and what went wrong if they want to do something? I was here for nearly a year and the executive committee didn't asked me anything. National team committee requested that and if you checks the minutes of those meetings you can see it."
He also praised the players for their effort and commitment for the national team.
"These are the best bunch of boys I have ever met in my 20 years of coaching. They did everything possible for the Maldives flag and I am really proud for getting the chance to work with them."
"There is lot more to be done to go to the next level and I want Maldives football to progress. For example India, they got a plan for the future and it all depends on the national team."
"Bassam is very supportive to me and I want to thank Bassam, all the players, national team committee chairman Ali, Rafiu.
After the qualifier against Palestine, Football Association of Maldives has said that they will not extend the contract with Darren Stewart.
"I take full responsibility for not qualifying the AFC Asian Cup and I don't blame anyone for that."
Well, I don’t know actually what went wrong but we all knew that the result is not good and there must be something wrong within the team for that. It’s sad to hear the comments from coach if it’s true.
Football in this nation is going down because of politics.... The management of FAM doesn't care about football they all care about their benefits... 34 hours of travel and a match against Palestine?? they didn't knew it before?