The Tijan Jaiteh Foundation an NGO established by former Gambian international footballer Tijan Jaiteh has been in the news in the last few months for very good reasons.
Since his appointment as Gambia’s Goodwill Ambassador for Sports, Tijan has energetically turned his attention to ventures designed to help boost the efforts by government and other stakeholders towards sports development.
One of his latest interventions was the creation of a link between The Gambia Volleyball Federation and a powerful Italian sport club which culminated into the provision of a coach for The Gambia’s female volleyball team and volleyball development programme. The cooperation has already germinated into a full-blown sports relationship between The Gambia and Italy after the Italians visited and signed agreements with Gambian sports authorities.
Last week the former Gambian national team captain brokered a meeting between government and the national football team players following a misunderstanding that led to the players boycotting a presentation at State House. The break through meeting between senior players of the team and the vice president, attended by sports minister Bakary Badjie has laid the foundation for the resolution of the problem to ensure a smooth road to the Afcon 2022 finals in Cameroon in January.
And after the talks at state house, The Standard caught up with Tijan and asked him about his intervention in the matter and other activities of his foundation-cum-NGO.
Tell us about the Tijan Jaiteh Foundation?
It was inspired by the desire to develop Gambian sports. When I was appointed goodwill ambassador for sports, we started by studying the sports scene and assessing the needs of the various disciplines. We have started with a huge success with volleyball and hopefully others will follow. Our focus is to get developmental and capacity building possibilities for all Gambian sports.
Why did you intervene in the row between the Scorpions and the government?
Well first, I have recognised that as a sports ambassador I have a role to play in the development of sports whether through international interventions or local ones. That is why I set the Tijan Jaiteh Foundation and registered it as an NGO. Football is very dear to my heart as a former Scorpion myself so I feel there is need to bring back the players, the GFF and the government all in the same boat after the incident and I am glad that there is willingness on all sides now to march on with the preparations.
Who do you blame for the problem?
Well, it was a misunderstanding which is now being sorted out and that’s all.
What do you make of The Gambia’s qualification to Afcon?
Tijan. A very big achievement that I am excited about. This is what all of us have been fighting for since our Under-17 days up until we came to the national team. I salute the boys, the GFF and the government, which has given a lot of support to the process.
How do you assess the chances of The Gambia as newcomers to the Afcon?
Tijan: I think what is important is for the team to go there and treat every team as equals and give a good account of themselves. If you play well and make use of all opportunities,
you will surprise even yourself at tournaments. And again, there is no team that is not beatable in modern football. So there is nothing to lose as first timer. You may even surprise the world with little bit more effort and hard work.
Do you expect them to advance even past Senegal?
Tijan: That is not easy to say but let them go and do their best. Senegal is one of the favourites for the cup but The Gambia must not be scared of big names. We have already met and did well against big teams. All we need is to maintain that confidence whenever we play. Also, there are very good boys in the team now. I am happy that the coach has a good training camp in Turkey where he rotated the players to a very good effect. There is a lot of potential in the Gambian team.
Are you jealous of the current Scorpions for the achievement, having tried yourself and your generation and failed to reach the Afcon?
Tijan: No. Rather I am happy about it because the multiplying benefits, such as marketing of Gambian players will benefit all Gambians and football will be developed. There will be many more Tijan Jaiteh’s. Some will even surpass us in greatness. So I am the happiest Gambian about this qualification to Afcon.
Any last word?
Tijan: Let me call on all Gambians especially those in the sports fraternity to come together with one objective- to contribute all what we have to the development of the counrtry’s sports. I would continue to do my best and ready to collaborate with any thing that will develop this country.