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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Sadibou Kamaso, GFF presidential Aspirant

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With Alagie Manneh

Tell us briefly about your origins and educational background?

I was born and raised in Banjul. I attended Methodist Nursery and Primary schools. After my Common Entrance I went to the Gambia Middle School at the time. We were the first batch to have done the grading system. From there I went to Gambia Senior Secondary School and after I graduated, I worked in different areas. I started working with Student and News traveling Organisation and whiles I was working there, I was able to come up with ideas to start a student travel programme. Student and Youth Travel Organisation was into student travel, volunteer placements and the issuance of international students’ identity card. When the office decided to close down, I thought of bringing up new ideas and was able to establish Interexchange Gambia, which was into volunteer placement programmes. Whiles I was doing that a friend of mine approached me and I went to work for DBC for a couple of years and later went back to my student travel business. Later, I decided to go to the UK because I was the country manager for Mondo Challenge. Whiles I was in the UK, I enrolled in universities but couldn’t complete any programme as I was saving money. Notwithstanding, I still did my law diploma at the West African Insurance Institute. I also enrolled at Cavendish University in Uganda where I did my international relations and diplomatic studies with a BA. In 2008, I founded Creation Plus, and that was when I decided to come back home.  

When and how did you come into football?

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I have always had the admiration for football administration. When I was much younger, I wasn’t the best, but I was always a fast runner. I wasn’t the best player, but if I don’t play my colleagues don’t play. I was always the vocal one and eventually they made me captain. When I came back home in 2008, I was always associated with Sang Ndong, who is the technical director of GFF. He was the coach of Hawks at the time. I told him I need to play a part and he brought me in as assistant secretary general and by 2013 confirmed as the secretary general. They saw the work I was doing and felt I was up to the task. Since 2013 to date, that’s the role I have been serving at Hawks.

You were a founding member of Team-Kaba, the current GFF executive. Many people think that executive won because they were backed by former president Jammeh who did not like the Mustapha Kebbeh administration.

To say Team Kaba – that’s why even for our team, we decided not to name it after an individual. But maybe it will be important at this stage to give people a bit of story about what happened. When the Seedy Kinteh-led executive had their issue, there was a normalisation committee. Those who were in attendance were Sang Ndong, Willy Ebraham, Ebou Faye, Joe Kalamba, Malick Camara, Modou Sowe and myself. The group became bigger. We eventually started meeting at Oasis. This was the core group at the time. We had just gone past the adoption of the new constitution from the Gambia Football Association to Gambia Football Federation. I was part of this thing from the beginning and at this time we needed a candidate. We came up with Momodu Musa, former managing director of FIB to become our president. We thought we had the numbers, but we went to the elections and we lost. The information we got afterwards was that the group we were part of, the Momodou Musa group was an opposition group and that President Jammeh at the time didn’t want Momodou Musa to win. For us, it was incomprehensible that we had the numbers all the way to the eve, and we went to the election and lost. When that happened, Mustapha Kebbeh’s executive came into power. We all went back to our clubs. Then there was another normalisation when they had issues with Fifa. We had a meeting again. We were told the two groups needed to meet. It’s important these things are made clear, because some people think I just came into the spotlight now. I remember Ebou Faye declared his intention to become either president or vice president at the time… when we went to that election, I was nominated to be third vice president, but I pulled out. When this group was meeting again, we were told to form a merger to avoid the unnecessary fight that was happening. We had our list with Momodou Musa as president, myself as first VP, Ebou Faye and Martin. The list was sent but we were told that they only needed two people from that list. The current president of the GFF was supposed to be the mediator between the two groups. Each group was wondering who was going to be the head. We were told later that the government wanted us to bring in Kaba Bajo. For us at the time, our objective was just to develop football; it wasn’t about positions. To give you a brief history, that’s how Kaba Bajo came in, and we all gave him the support and campaigned and rallied behind him. When Kaba Bajo won the elections, they served for four years and in 2018, I joined the team as a co-opted member.

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Eventually, the Kaba administration came to be bedeviled with allegations of corruption for example failed infrastructure projects, non-payment of taxes, and kickbacks. You served in the executive. Were these true?

I keep saying this. Issues of alleged corruption and misappropriation of funds should be approached with a careful and balance approach, because when you allege, you must prove. I served in one of the standing committees of the GFF, from 2014 to 2018. Two years into my tenure as finance committee member, I resigned for reasons best known to me. I remember your editor Lamin Cham even called me for an interview when he heard the news and said you are a strong member of this group, how come you resign? This should be a headline news story. I said I do not intend to give any interviews on this. This is personal. In 2018, I was approached again to become the campaign manager. I have said this over and over again that for me, it wasn’t about positions. At the time I was being approached, there were so many issues about the $33000 toilet issue, the tax-evasion issue. When issues are out there, they should be backed by substantial evidence. I said the reasons why I had to come out, is because I feel the promises that we have made, haven’t been kept. You mentioned the issue of the parks, that is evident. It’s there for everybody to see… For me, I believed in the ideals, in what was presented to me that this was what we were going to do to make things happen. So, I believed. That is it. Like I said, issues of alleged corruption must be backed by substantial evidence so that people can actually look at that. But if you sit on information for too long, you encourage suspicion.

Despite your seeming brilliance, you have a personal scandal when you admitted to losing over 14000 euros while on a mission. Would you blame anybody who doubt your story?

Certainly not. I am a strong believer in Allah. Sometimes, certain predicaments have to happen so that you can learn from them. Even the prophets had predicaments that befell them. This had to befall me so I would know how to deal with certain issues, but anybody who knows me, anybody who has ever dealt with me from when I was a kid, would tell you I do not joke with my integrity. I have never been part of any group or association that has been accused of embezzlement of funds nor have I touched anybody’s money. And sometimes, when certain things happen to people you look at their track record and character. I used to make my personal resources available to the GFF, or we need to go to a CAF conference we do not have money, Sadibou could you loan us some money. I would come and draw my cheque and give it to them. All these things were behind the scenes. Nobody ever knew. If they had not raised this, I wouldn’t have raised it. They’ve never commended me in public to say oh we borrowed money from Sadibou. I’m not [a thief]. I travelled. There was nobody there. I went as advance party. A fix amount of money was given to me. I went on a trip to Angola. The amount was for the rooms and food. When I went there, I spoke to the general manager and asked for a discount. I have learned to be content and share the little that I have. When I was traveling, the federation told me there was no money. I travelled without an allowance. I did not need the federation’s money. I’m a printer. I could’ve forged receipts. If I wanted to steal, I would just come back with a receipt and said yes, they charged you and this is your receipt.

You were a founding member of Team Kaba, why did you decide to breakaway and oppose the very system that you were part of?

Failed promises. Simple as that. I was the campaign manager in 2018. Most of the people making noise right now were nowhere. They wouldn’t even go near the radios. I was the one going everywhere, talking to all media houses. We made promises. And I remember one of the stakeholders that I met and told him I was going to contest. He said to me I was just waiting to see what you going to tell me because you told us a lot of things that you failed to deliver. My reason here is, failed promises need to be corrected. This idea of me becoming a president did not even emanate from me. If we are to lead people and governing football, yet we cannot give them pitches. People are struggling to get their subventions, players are not looked after, the general stakeholders feel we are not accountable, there’s a substantial erosion of confidence. What are we going to tell the stakeholders again? What mandate are we going to ask them for? My loyalty here, people should understand, is not to an individual but to the Gambian population and for the good of the game and country. So, if things are not going right, I rather work away from football than stay there. I was a campaign manager and we made promises, so, if we are not fulfilling those promises, it is only befitting for us to come out and say we want to rectify those wrongs. It’s up to the stakeholders [to decide].

Con you summarise the Starting Eleven, your blueprint for the development of football in The Gambia?

The Restore Confidence Team has a vision and a mission. The mission is to stimulate interest and passion to increase stakeholder participation to bring football and its benefits to the doorstep of every Gambian. When you look at the way football is run here it is confined within a very small group, and you need to engage the community so they understand the inner intricacies, how these things are run. It is an established fact, there’s a substantial erosion of confidence. That is why we intend to transform the mind-set, and transform the Gambia Football Federation governance with key focus on organisational effectiveness, accountability and development. How do we intend to do that? Four key components; the remodelling and rebranding of the GFF institution. Sometimes you go to certain places and you identify as coming from the GFF, they do not even know you, they just prejudice and say it’s a corrupt institution. I have family members who tell me you people are stealing the people’s money. I have had people who have been telling me for a long time now to resign. But we need to remodel and rebrand the GFF institution, infrastructural development of international standard. We need to improve the relationship between the stakeholders and the GFF as an institution. The fourth part is the judicious generation and spending of GFF resources. The Starting 11, if you look at it, is in those four key components; remodelling and rebranding, infrastructural development of international standards, improvement of the GFF stakeholder relationship, judicious expenditure and income generation.

The election is only just three months from now. Who are the members of your shadow administration?

We are not just doing a campaign; we are also educating and sensitising people because some people do not understand. We feel we owe the general public that duty of care, we owe them that obligation to explain to them how football is governed. The people in my shadow government, when the time is right, people will know who they are. But we want to keep those things for now.

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