By Lamin Cham
The Gambia Football Federation, GFF, yesterday issued a statement explaining what led to the chaos and embarrassment at the Stadium on Saturday after an international match was delayed for 90 minutes when the visitors Algeria refused to play until they are assured of security. This followed a tensed moment in the Stadium, which was over crowded from top to bottom. The public demanded answers from the GFF for the over crowding and last night Football House came with the following statement:
“Following the incident that led to the overcrowding of the Independence Stadium and fans forced to seek shelter under the pavilions in The Gambia’s 1-1 African Cup of Nations qualifier at home to Algeria on Saturday 8th September 2018, the President of the Gambia Football Federation (GFF), Mr. Lamin Kaba Bajo, on Tuesday evening chaired an emergency post-match meeting at Football House. The meeting that was attended by the Executive Committee Members, the Events Management, the Organising, the Protocol and Security Sub-Committees, was meant to diagnose the circumstances that led to the ugly incident, and to take necessary measures to avert a future occurrence.
In light of the above, the GFF wishes to state for record purposes that the capacity of the Stadium was 35,000 when it was formerly handed to The Gambia government in 1983. However, considering the fact that the population of the country has increased more than four-folds since, coupled with the ageing nature of the Stadium and the increment of the footballing population, the GFF Events Management Committee (EMC) was informed by the Stadium Management that the capacity of stadium is now reduced to 24,700 which resulted to the printing of 24,500 (Twenty-four Thousand Five Hundred. The GFF values the lives, property and safety of every Gambian, which is our number one priority and not to endanger their lives. Thus, the GFF wishes to state that at no point did it print or sell more than the aforesaid amount.
However, investigations have established, beyond reasonable doubt, the following:
1. Even though the printers assured us that the tickets are secured and cannot be copied, certain groups and individuals took advantage of the early release of the tickets and reproduced it for financial gains. The GFF was able to intercept some of these tickets for evidence.
2. When unauthorised people were seen selling tickets outside the Stadium, they were approached but their explanations were that they bought those tickets in bulk for family members who decided not to watch the games at the eleventh hour and they were forced to resell.
3. Many people came to the Stadium without tickets and when they couldn’t purchase one, they forced themselves in and in the process broke the Stadium gates, thus overpowering the security.
4. Some people who were trusted with the mandate to cut the tickets into two halves before fans would enter, actually collected the tickets without cutting them and went ahead to resell them for financial gains.
5. All those fans that were seen sitting on the floodlights throughout the course of the game, and most of those under the pavilions had no ticket with them and were aided by greedy people for financial gains.
6. As a result of this, we found some shortcomings on the side of the GFF security sub-committee in the execution of their duties.
Furthermore, when the GFF realised that if nothing was done to stop people from entering the pavilions, it could lead to catastrophic consequences and it was at that point that the decision was taken to de-crowd the numbers on the pavilions and asked them to stand under the pavilions to avert a possible stampede.
In light of the above, the GFF has already taken measures, some punitive, to correct the situation and to avert a future occurrence.
Football House wishes to reassure the public that today it is more committed than ever before to the development of the beautiful game and the lives of Gambians. Thus, we apologise for any inconvenience that might have arose from this ugly incident and re-assure you that no stone will be left unturned in order to avert a future occurrence. ”