By Tabora Bojang
The executive director of the National Sports Council has told lawmakers that Gambia will continue to play its home matches outside until monies required for the renovation of the currently banned Independence Stadium is made available.
The Gambia’s only international stadium built in 1983 is deemed unfit after the Confederation of African Football said it does not meet its standard to host international matches.
This forced the country’s national team Scorpions, who reached the Afcons quarter finals in Cameroon, to play their home matches for the 2023 qualifiers on away soil, depriving fans of reunion with their heroes since their Afcon fairy-tale while incurring millions on the country playing outside.
Addressing members of the National Assembly youth, sports and tourism committee, who wanted answers on the efforts made so far by the ministry and its partners to ensure the stadium is renovated to lift the CAF ban, Marcel Mendy disclosed that since the ban was announced in February, a team from the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure was tasked for a study and recommended that over D100 million is required for the work.
He acknowledged that the ban has placed some revenue losses on the country, coupled with the struggles by Gambians to access matches outside.
“After the stadium was declared for suspension, some actions were taken by the Ministry [Youth and Sports] and meetings were held. The Ministry of Works and Infrastructure was invited and they came with their experts who did a survey and they came up with a report advising that over a D100 million was required for the renovation of the stadium in order to meet acceptable standards by FIFA and CAF. Since then, what is happening is the struggle to get the money for that and I think this meeting is timely because until we get those monies, not much will be done at the stadium and we will continue to play our home matches away,” Mendy warned.
Permanent Secretary, Saikou K Sanyang, assured the NAMs that arrangements are being made to ensure necessary funds are provided for the work.
The PS disclosed that his ministry is working on tender clearance formalities to allow companies to do the bidding for the renovation.
“We are in a very funny position. This money is needed right now and we are using a strategy to make sure by September, our matches are played on home soil and that all the necessary funds are provided and the bidding processes are done for work start so that come September and we will play here, instead of spending millions away,” PS Sanyang told deputies.