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Maldives Bets Big on Mini Basketball to Reinvigorate Grassroots Participation Post-COVID

MALÉ (Maldives) – Putting the pandemic-fuelled disruptions firmly behind it, Maldives is betting big on Mini Basketball as a means to return to normalcy.

Bringing basketball to 5-12 year olds

In September this year, Maldives Basketball Association (MBA) organized its first ever ‘Mini Basketball Festival’ for children in the age group of 5-12years.

A small island country with a population of around 500,000, Maldives is hoping that grassroots basketball activities such as these will boost its player numbers that declined post COVID.

“The whole festival was designed in a way to avoid competition at the young age, instead we requested all the schools, coaches, and parents to let them enjoy the game. We avoided recording scores. This was as per [FIBA’s] guideline for Mini Basketball,”Mr Ahmed Adam, MBA President told FIBA Foundation in this exclusive conversation.

The development of ‘Mini Basketball’ is part of FIBA’s Strategic Priorities to empower National Federations.

1376 kids take part

Credit: Maldives Basketball Association

The Mini Basketball Festival 2022 witnessed the participation of 12 Schools, 96 Teams and a total of 255 games played from 7am to 8pm.

“We initially planned to accommodate around 600 kids. However, participation exceeded our expectations. This was due to outstanding support received from the academies and schools,” Mr Adam said, highlighting that the actual number of participants was a whopping 1376.

The inclusive nature of the Festival saw current Maldives Senior and Junior (U18) National Team players in charge of officiating games, MBA’s Table Officials escorting teams to and from the courts, and parents themselves overseeing all refreshments.

More than a game

Being a tiny country, Maldives faces myriad funding and human resource challenges. But beyond wins and losses, basketball presents a unique opportunity to impart life skills.

“Throughout the years, basketball has produced lots of talented athletes in the Maldives, same as any other sport does. However, basketball has managed to mold upstanding citizens and people in great and powerful positions in the government and private [sectors] alike,” Mr Adam emphasizes.

In perfect alignment with FIBA Foundation’s Basketball For Good motto, Mr Adam points out:

“Most of the players we have seen throughout the years and now are academically gifted who can pursue other careers after they retire or divert their playing career for their jobs. This maybe a result of the coaches in the Maldives instilling in them not only basketball skills, but essential life skills that will ease their transition into the world, which includes teamwork, empathy, and competitiveness.”


The goal, as Mr Adam puts it, is to reinvigorate basketball participation within the youngest age groups:

“Post-COVID we have seen a decline in numbers at the grassroots level. So, our idea was to involve kids from age 5-10 so that in the end of the festival 80% of the kids will join an academy which will help boost our declining numbers. By the end of October 2022, [the] number of kids trained by academies have reached 1800 kids. Previously, this number was below 900.”

 Emphasising Mental Health

While the Mini Basketball Festival aims to boost participation at the base of the pyramid, MBA has also been conscious of the need to ensure that at the higher competitive levels, players don’t wilt under the pressure from their parents and peers.

To this end, MBA conducted a “Building Resilience” Session for its U18 Women’s team helmed by five instructors from Maldives’ Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment. 90% of MBA’s finances are met through budget allocations from the Sports Ministry, and the goal is to expand such sessions to all Maldivian National Basketball teams in the future.

Besides its ‘Mini Basketball’ and ‘Building Resilience’ initiatives, Maldives has also activated the Ball’In Schools program initiated by FIBA Regional Office – Asia. As the name suggests, ‘Ball’In Schools’ is a basketball development project that empowers local ambassadors trained by FIBA experts to promote basketball in schools.

Clearly, Maldives – despite its diminutive stature – isn’t afraid of punching beyond its weight.


The FIBA Foundation is the social and legacy arm of FIBA that addresses the role of sports and particularly basketball in society, preserving and promoting basketball’s values and its cultural heritage.

The FIBA Foundation believes that basketball has the power to empower, educate and inspire youth and facilitates this by implementing Basketball For Good projects around the world.