Pease allow me space in your widely read paper to comment on the recent appalling news covered by media outlets including your paper concerning the decision taken by the Confederation of African Football (Caf), disqualifying The Gambia from the on-going African U-20 youth championship qualifying rounds for using ineligible players. Needless to say, this has made many of the country’s football fans to lose hope in our game.
It is just astonishing and disappointing that such a mistake has been committed by personnel of the GFF entrusted to run the affairs of the game. I blame no one but the GFF officials who should have read and comprehended the rules and regulations of the competition before even selecting the players for the team. Probably they have read the rules, but understanding the rules must have been the problem.
I was indeed disgraced and embarrassed when I heard people say that The Gambia has never even qualified for the African Cup of Nations. We have never even won the regional competition zone II, not to talk about reaching the World Cup.
The year 2005 marked a turning point in the annals of our football history when the giant U-17 team won the African U-17 Youth Championship on home soil. They then took the country’s flag to higher heights, after gaining automatic qualification to the global competition in Peru in which they beat Brazil and Qatar in the group stages.
The same youngsters continued the triumphal journey in 2007 when they qualified for and represented the country at both the continental and Global U-20 competitions in Congo Brazzaville and Canada respectively. I called this epoch in our football history as “the Renaissance of Gambian football”.
However, things took a turn for the worse when our senior team surprisingly let down the country as they continued their abysmal performance in the qualifying rounds at the senior category. The whole nation was touched with disappointment when they failed to book their tickets in multiple continental senior competitions.
The country continues to register poor performances in all categories which without a surprise reflected on her Fifa ranking being 138 globally as released in the latest ranking.
The officials at the GFF could not explain anything more concrete and substantial than that they shall appeal to CAF. Even though article 41 requires the match commissioner and the referees to disallow all players that are ineligible for the competition at the pre-match stage, I still have reservations about the excuses given by our football officials, claiming that the players should have been disallowed to play prior to the game. That excuse, I believe, is feeble as it is their responsibility to select players that are eligible and leave out those that are not. Do we lack players? I question the GFF officials.
The GFF vice president, Buba Janneh in your yesterday publication said: “We are not in any way insinuating that we expect them to reverse the decision”. This demonstrates that our officials have failed in their duty and nothing else can be done except to accept the decision in good fate and make sure that such an error is not replicated in the future.