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City of Banjul
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

GAA ON ‘GAMBIAN ATHLETES’ DEFECTION

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Top among the reported defectors is Nusrat Ceesay, the UK-born Gambian female hurdler who shunned Britain to represent The Gambia in outings including the All Africa Games in Maputo a few years ago.

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In comments made to the media, Nusrat expressed frustration that all her correspondences to the GAA concerning her career and participation for The Gambia has on many times been ignored.  “I feel this is too frustrating and despite all assurances I get from many others in Gambian sports, the GAA, which is most important in any athlete’s career, does not seem to be bothered. So I have decided to swift back to run for the United Kingdom,” she declared.

In another development, the coach of the college Gambian athlete Swaibou Sanneh – the 2012 Olympic sprint semi-finalist – is attending, has expressed disappointment with the GAA for not being supportive to the Gambian’s quest to attend the just-concluded African Championships in Morocco.

The coach had launched a fundraising campaign on the Internet for Swaibou’s participation in the Morroco Games but later abandoned it when according to him, the GAA told him “they cannot guarantee accommodation and other facilities for Swaibou in Morroco. We apologise for this and we shall return all monies raised for this purpose,” the coach had written to donors on the Internet.

Two others, Abdoulie Faye and Lamin Fadera have also reportedly opted to run for Senegal where they are currently based.

The Standard yesterday contacted the president of the GAA, Dodou Joof, to react to these developments. He began by explaining that Swaibou Sanneh’s coach was “far out of touch with realities” of the Gambia Athletics Association and has been making “unreasonable and impossible monetary demands” to fund the athlete’s preparation. 

“Just imagine the coach asking for some US$8,000 just to prepare Swaibou for the African Games excluding other expenses. How on earth do you think the GAA can have such a budget with just a yearly subvention of D10,000?  And even if we come by such a budget do you think it is wise to spend all that on one athlete?” Dodou Joof asked. 

Joof provided documentary evidence of the GAA’s financial support to Swaibou totaling over US$9,000 since 2012, and covering the period since he moved to his college in the USA.

He stressed that the GAA would not accept foreign entities to raise funds for its athletes without their consent or that of the National Sports Council.

On Nusrat Ceesay, Joof said he regretted that her mails were not replied but said that must be because the GAA secretary general Amira Jagne who takes care of correspondence has been ill for the last three months and has been taken to Lebanon for treatment. 

Joof said it has never been the GAA’s policy to ignore any athlete and they recognised the choice of Nusrat to run for The Gambia which opportunity she had at both the All Africa Games and the African Senior Championship where she did her best, but failing short of qualifying due to sickness on one  occasion. “But she too has to know our limitations as an association without sponsor or a strong financial muscle. Currently, we even find it difficult to attend meetings outside because of lack of funds. This is what is hampering our programmes,” he said.

On the two athletes who chose to run for Senegal, Joof said the two have never in fact been part of the Gambian teams as they have never qualified. “Our research have found that Abdoulie Faye has all along been with Senegalese nationality  papers where his parents come from while Fadera who has a Senegalese mother too has moved to Mbour. “They have just been training with us but were never a part of our teams at any point,” he said.

The GAA president further explained that even the national team coaches are volunteers who sacrifice time and energy to train our athletes.”  That’s why we strive where possible to include them on delegations to encourage them and of course their services as trainers are needed during competitions,” he concluded.

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