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Saturday, September 26, 2020

A visit to Football House Part 2

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It contained a lot of valid points but one sentence remained strong in my memory:  “The job ahead of Kebbeh will require all the double masters he is said to have read at university.”

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I will not comment on whether Kebbeh had heeded my advice. Rather this piece is on the job ahead of Lamin Kaba Bajo and his executive.

There can hardly be a perfect timing for the presidency of Lamin Kaba Bajo. He moved to Football House yesterday morning to start running that hot seat with a clean slate and an immense feeling of great relief after Caf lifted the two-year suspension of The Gambia. 

But the task ahead of Bajo is herculean in equal measure if not more than whatever pleasant mind he might assume office with.  The upheavals in Gambian football in the past few years have left a bruised reputation in the international world and a deeply divided family. Addressing each of these two important matters require all the diplomatic and acrobatic skills Bajo may have learnt at the barracks and in capital cities around the world. In going about the first item, Bajo must first introduce a new football federation that is modern, in tune with international bench marks and ramrod straight in its dealings with the international world. The perpetual mediocrity, improvisation and care-free attitude that have bedeviled the running of the game and have caused Fifa to intervene twice must not be repeated. Bajo is most opportune in this endeavor because he represents a fresh name with a fresh batch of people who have not in any way played a part by action or association, in the mishaps that Fifa and Caf have accused the nation of. His very election, weighed in some respect can be viewed as a workable convenient tool in the drive to regain international recognition. The reason again is he is new and enjoys the good will of major stakeholders.

The list of things he needs to do in the local front too is long and complicated. Since part of the reasons advanced for the toppling of the Seedy Kinteh regime remains a matter of court proceedings, and therefore sub- judice to comment on here, it is no go area  for me now .But the reasons for Kebbeh’s ousting could have been avoided. But again for reasons of letting sleeping dogs lie I would not revisit that too.  However, for Bajo to succeed he needs to take lessons from both regimes preceding him, including even the two intervening Fifa normalisation commitees. What they have done or have not done, can fill a 100 meter deep well of wisdom for Bajo to learn from. 

His task requires courage, tactfulness and above all honesty. If he allows himself to be dragged by forces surrounding him to run a vendetta, his vow to reconcile the nation would fail flat.  In fact reconciling the stakeholders in Gambian football is easier said than done not least because of the complex package any new leader finds himself with. Because of the small nature of the football fraternity, almost everyone knows the other’s preference in football politics meaning that one inescapably find oneself sharing work with one who does no share your vision. This is natural and should not necessarily present a problem especially if all are guided by the national interest. But history has shown that previous regimes at Football House have not mustered the tolerance to accommodate people they might not share similar views.

Omar Sey of the first normalisation committee when sacking the senior management of team of the Seedy Kinteh regime put it rather bluntly. “The senior management team have aligned themselves to the thoughts and strategies of the past regime and in the light of the present normalisation of things and since one is only comfortable to work with people one trust , the men must go.” And go they did. A similar thing happened under the Kebbeh regime when they sacked the senior management appointed by the then NC and replaced it with their own choice of people though they claimed the jobs were advertised and the appointment process supervised by Fifa. Must Kaba Bajo follow suit? Can you now see the complexity of reconciliation? It requires the utmost sincerity of the leader to trust people across the board. Part of the reasons that make reconciliation difficult is the unwillingness on the part of some to accept changes and work in the interest of the bigger picture- the country.  

So, much of what will define his regime at Football House depends on Bajo’s own style and perhaps diligence. He can move to Football House today with a brief case filled with a mixture of soft and hard issues to tackle with equal strength.

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