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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Gambia ‘la nyato-ta’ in football (What do we have, how can it be improved, who should do what? and so forth.) Part 2

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I am not a specialists in marketing and publicity but I am sure that Gambian football is not being branded, so it lacks the ability to penetrate the market to lure sponsors. 

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It is very easy to market something that is popular because it markets itself. Most people believe that even if the GFF develops the best marketing and publicity manual, sponsors will still not come until they know when they are involved they will go closer to the general public. Sponsors want visibility so where they are sure of being seen and or heard, that is where they go and invest. So first, we must devise a mechanism to lure spectators to grounds before we actually think of luring sponsors. Once sponsors come and see that there is no room to improve visibility, the tendency of them withdrawing from the deal is high. 

Therefore, we must go in for a model that will lure sponsors to our football. This brings me back to how the summer football jamboree nawettaan is highly followed in the country. Everyone is connected and involved; young and old, men and women, boys and girls. This goes to the Super Nawettaan too and if you follow these district football tournaments, they are highly attended. So why not take this model to create brands in our football? 

Take for example wrestling and the way it is gaining prominence in The Gambia. People turn out in their hundreds if not thousands to watch their wrestlers perform. This is so because most of the wrestlers attach themselves to the communities they belong to and when they have a bout, they mobilise their supporters. You will be amazed to see the type of crowd that watch wrestling in recent times.

In earlier years, promoters were crying about the lack of sponsors but this year, I have seen sponsors coming in thick and fast and soon all those companies that were only thinking football will put their resources in wrestling. 

Recently, I heard a wrestler requesting to be paid over D30,000 before he would sign a contract with a promoter. Isn’t that enough to tell you there is money in that sports. How much will they be asking in the next five years? I am contemplating moving my son from the football academy to the wrestling arena.

 

The media’s role 

The media plays a key role in the development of every community if it plays its role effectively without bias. Can football be an exception? No. Tune in to most radio programmes and 98% of what they report on is football related. So I can stick my neck out to say that we have more football journalists than sports journalists in The Gambia. Colleagues, please take no offence but most of us hardly report on volleyball, basketball, and athletics, talk less of reporting on rugby, cricket, golf or even martial arts. 

But I have seen some great commitment in most sports journalists when it comes to Super Nawettaan as opposed to the first and second division leagues. What is responsible for that? Again, this is just because at this point even journalists feel really connected to the extent you spot some bias in their reporting. If our sports journalists put half of the hype and euphoria they put in zonal football in league football, the outcome will be tremendous. So to me we need to rethink our role as sports journalists. 

Take for example, a newly born journalists association formed to report on wrestling. They are called Gambia Wrestling Journalists Association (GAWJA). In two years of their existence, they have taken wrestling in The Gambia to another level. I always say if radio stations dedicate special programmes to  football and talk Gambian football, very soon we will forget about the low turnout we keep crying about in our league matches. 

But yes, we dedicate two hours to wrestling and two hours to sports which is dominated by football talk but in those two hours we spend 80% discussing international football – Messi this, Ronaldo that, Barcelona this, Manchester that. I am not personally attacking anyone but if you take it as an attack, I am saying a million sorries then. I just think that we need to reinvest our power in what we own rather than promoting what is foreign. 

I know it takes time to access news locally while you can just sit in your comfortable chair, click a mouse and get whatever story but who ever told you that journalism was supposed to be an easy job? Well, make your mind between choosing yourself and a stranger.  

One thing my peers should not encourage on their radio shows and write-ups is this issue of Camp X does not like Camp Y when the persons saying it cannot justify what they claiming. If we do not encourage it maybe, this issue of camps having preconceived minds will go away. I have no doubt in my mind that with little more effort from journalists, we can bring about the change we want in our football. 

 

Role of the fans 

The fans play an important role in the development of football. They are the reason a lot of things happen. Sponsors will compete if fans go to our grounds to watch football. Teams will have more pressure to win matches because they know they will be booed if they fail to win. Players will put up more fight because they will want special mention by the media. 

Unfortunately in The Gambia, we don’t have fans for both clubs and national team but rather we have sympathisers who can go watch football when they like. True fans go to matches whether their teams win, draw or lose. Do we have those types of fans for our league clubs? No we don’t. Why don’t we? Because they don’t take ownership. Is this the same with the national team? Yes it is. But why? Because it starts from the leagues. You must first appreciate players in the league before you support them knowing you have been monitoring their progress. 

I have to mention that Gambian fans are more interested in knowing about Barcelona and Manchester or Real Madrid than even their very own national teams. It is shocking when you are on a show or listening to a radio show and someone calls or sends a text message asking you to tell them about some international stuff. I usually want to bite my nose off when I hear that. So you can see why my fellow journalists resort to satisfying the fans to the detriment of reporting our own. 

Hardly will you hear them say things like that when the Super Nawettaan is on. Again it comes back to how people relate to what they are part of. If that particular annual footie tournament can draw people away from international football, why not give it a try and see where it will take us. We need a higher league so why can’t it be our premier league and it will now be left with the players to make a choice between their zones and their league clubs. 

 

Administration (Camp X Vs Camp Y)

Football administration is the backbone of Gambian football. If we have poor administrators, the development of our football will be retard, maybe we will remain where we are. We need seasoned football administrators, who know the ropes and can get us proper staff to implement their ideologies. 

A weak administration will employ weak staff and a weak staff will deliver a weak result. Perhaps this was what we have always had in recent times. Many people will argue that there has not been any structure laid by the previous administration in terms of development and how to move football. I agree with those critics because I have not seen a blueprint that we can follow to develop our football. 

Now let me zoom on probably what many believe is hampering our football; the issue of camps. Camps are not bad especially when we are about to elect people into office. It should not be like when I am opposed to your ideologies, I am your enemy. In fact in some places your opponent is your strength but it seems this is the opposite here. We fear our opponents to an extent we make them our enemies. 

I have seen in many football elections that we are divided. Yes we should be divided because we want the best for the country’s football but if it turns out that the majority does not feel that you are what they want, what is wrong in giving your support to the one many want. 

That is what should be done for the betterment of our football. With such there are two things involved. Will the winner be humbled enough to take from his losing opponent and will the losing opponent be generous enough to give his plans and ideas for the winning candidate to take all the credit at the end?  This is what tangled us, selfishness and pride. 

What would have been nicer for opposing candidates to be consulting each other for ideas? But again with subordinates around pulling the strings, no one wants to give or take because it seems we look inwardly rather than outwardly. 

The saying united we stand, divided we fall should be in our minds all the time irrespective of our political lines. 

Relationship between football authorities and the Ministry of Youth and Sports through the National Sports Council in relation to 1, 2 and 3

The relationship between the Gambia Football Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports through the National Sports Council should be super strong, stronger than the bond between a husband and wife. Outsider should not spot any gap between them. Of recent many Gambians will query that the relationship between these two is not as strong as it should be. But again what are their bases for saying such? When it comes to the development of football these two cannot work in parallel. They must put heads together to attain the set objectives of all football enthusiasts. 

Take for example the infrastructural development. The two institutions if they work in unison can generate great revenue for the quick and rapid transformation of the already existing structures and put up new ones hence the two want football to be played across the country. 

The football federation cannot rely on Fifa to provide infrastructure. Without the ministry’s contribution by working with the ministries of local government and lands as well as finance to put up structures across the country, our dream of attaining excellence in football will be a far-fetched dream. 

Fifa has pledged to refurbish the Gold Project – the Centre of Excellence. But this is just putting up the structure back to its new life. It is now left in the hands of Gambians to keep the center running and this cannot be done without funds. Should I say this is when we need the ministry to come in? The ministry should allocate funds to house, feed and clothe players who will be lucky to make the number to be kept at the center. It is a difficult task I know but it money worth spending, knowing that investing in the youth is buying a bright future. 

So to invest in that Centre of Excellence, we will be able to control if not eradicate age cheating because if we respect the catch them young policy we will be soon show our backs against the issue of falsifying age. 

To conclude let me just take a flashback on events and to the August 19, 2013 when the GFF executive formally meet the minister of youth and sports at the Independence Stadium boardroom. Both parties promised to work in harmony. 

Finally, whatever it is let us consider the athlete that we all serve and represent. Whatever we do positive or negative, it hits back at them. So we must consider them in all our moves. Once we have them as a diamond that we treasure, we will always think twice before we do things. 

So for the ‘nyato-ta’ of Gambian football, we must all play our parts effectively.               End

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