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Sunday, October 24, 2021

A national embarrassment, indeed

The nation was bracing for similar moments of prideful and flag-flying celebrations, as witnessed in past competitions, when the U-20 national team defeated Liberia on their own home soil, in front of their cheerful fans. Unfortunately, the victory was never a victory. The twist of fate was due to an error on the part of Gambia’s football executives, who fielded over-aged players. Liberia expectedly appealed. Caf weighted in their favour. Gambia lost a battle it had won. Our authorities ought to have known better, shouldn’t they?  

 

The advancement of the aspirations of the people cannot be realised if the personnel in charge of the institutions are not up to the task. This does not mean that those in charge of football in the country are incompetent. However, in the wake of the expulsion of the U-20 from the qualifiers, the so-called movers and shakers of issues at the Gambia Football Federation have tough questions to answer. For the expulsion which was appropriately described by the National Sports Council as a national embarrassment could have been averted if those who have been paid to do the job had actually done it. 

 

The senior national football team of The Gambia has been struggling without success to make it to major regional and global championships. Youth football has however been a success. This situation should have engendered in the national football authorities a greater sense of purpose to not rob us of what has become our saving grace. 

 

The heralding of this new body of football officials bred hope for the development of football in the country. Before they assumed office, the football body was divided in a power struggle. Like their predecessors, they’d promised greater success. And it’s quite understandable that the executive is new in office. But that’s not an excuse for such an embarrassing mistake. In fact, they were given the job because they promised they could do the job, not to come and learn how to do it. The mission therefore, should and always be that of avoiding mistakes of the past. 

 

It’s quite appropriate that the sports council rose to the occasion and promised to make an inquiry into the saga. While we await the outcome and recommendations of that promised inquiry, we wish to emphasise that it’s no time for apportioning of blame. It’s about time that we took some moment to self evaluate and see what went wrong where. The expulsion should not be used as an excuse for settling of scores. It’s not that Gambia doesn’t have good footballers, we do have. It’s about effective coordination and due diligence that seems to hold the development of the country’s football back.

 

Besides, many football fans in and outside the country have always been complaining that the GFF rarely grooms the local talents into proper national teams. Of course that conclusion by the fans is a bit unrealistic, considering that U-17 squad of 2009, who won the U-17 African championship and then proceeded to the world cup in Peru comprised local-based players. 

 

However the fans’ queries are not entirely out of place. The process of grooming young talented footballers should start early on. That way, we will have U-17 players for U-17 competitions and U-20 players and U-20 competitions. 

 

Yes, we have lost so much. But we should gather the pieces and be strong and wise for the Gambians who count on us for something better. The expulsion is a bad start for the new executive. But we hope that they will learn a lesson from it and move to a higher level of serious commitment. Efficiency and due diligence always yield the best results. The GFF is called upon to uphold these virtues for the betterment of our aspirations as a nation.

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