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Saturday, October 16, 2021

GOV’T: U-20 EXPULSION, A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT

‘The National Sports Council condemns the decision of the Gambia Football Federation GFF for using over age players which has caused a national embarrassment to the country which could have been avoided. This clearly shows the incompetence of the GFF as they were advised on a circular dated 2 September 2013 that only players born on January 1995  or after this date are eligible to play in this championship. In addition, the GFF was given expert advice 24 hours before the Gambia v Liberia game on April 6th 2014 that they needed to go strictly by the dictates of the Caf circular of September 2013.

Therefore, the GFF will be expected to take full responsibility of their own wrong judgment and act professionally in such circumstances. It is expected that the owners of football will do the appropriate thing in the interest of the country. The Gambia is definitely bigger than personal sentiments. In view of this, the National Sports Council has formed a task force to investigate the matter and take appropriate action accordingly.”

The Gambia was disqualified from the Caf Under-20 Championship after Liberia’s appeal against the country’s usage of over-aged players was upheld by the continental body.

A statement published by Caf’s website and reproduced by the international media quoted the African football governing body as saying that The Gambia used five 1994-born players in Bubacar Trawalley, Buba Sanneh, Sampere Mendy, Ali Sowe and Saloum Faal, while the regulations stated that only players born in 1995 and after could be used in the competition. The ruling now means that Liberia progresses to meet Ivory Coast which won her tie following the withdrawal of Guinea Bissau. 

Until this announcement, and throughout the entire saga the GFF had put up a robust defence, stressing that they acted within the regulations and that Liberia was making unnecessary noise. The GFF even demanded an apology from Liberia.

Following the announcement of the decision from Caf, the GFF summoned its media chief to prepare for a press conference which had not started as we went to press.

Reactions from Gambians to the news from Caf have been mixed, characterised by both anger and sympathy.  The strongest criticisms came from Gambians using the social media Facebook with the majority calling for the GFF to resign as a mark of respect and remorse for their action that brought great negative attention to the country. A writer by the name LJM said: “In events like this in the civilised world, the head of the federation should honorably resign to show integrity and maintain respect for the office. This is a monumental blunder; a school boy error not the least expected from intellectuals like the types at the GFF.”

However, another analyst said: ”It is a clear case of a genuine mistake and misjudgment on the part of a people whose error in the early stages of their regime must not blind the people from the very lofty objectives they set out to develop Gambian football. To err is human. I believe the nation must understand and forgive the GFF to move ahead.”

Meanwhile according to Caf regulations, any country found guilty of fielding unqualified players faces a sanction of a two-year ban from all youth competitions. A close observer of Caf activities said The Gambia will be referred to the Caf disciplinary committee who will determine the sanctions befitting the case.

Meanwhile, the GFF first vice president and spokesman Buba Janneh yesterday explained that the said circular on the championship arrived in The Gambia on the 5th September, before the normalisation committee handed over the current GFF executive and the circular was not included in the handing-over notes. When asked how the GFF came to know about the registration fees and deadline for registration if they had not seen the circular, Janneh said a follow-up circular in November  notified them about the registration and other matters. He said without seeing the initial circular, the GFF were denied the vital foreknowledge about the regulations on the players’ eligibility. He said that left them with the regulations of Fifa and Caf which stated that the championship is an Under-20 tournament and that all the players fielded by the GFF were not yet twenty years of age.

Janneh also added that the GFF members are imbued with a great love and desire to work for the development of the country. “I personally have worked in Gambian football and played international and I still have the same love the country’s development,” he rapped.

 Asked if the GFF should not just eat the humble pie and apologise to the nation, Janneh said: “The facts of the case should first be known by the public who deserve to be told the entire story.” 

On where to apportion blame, Janneh said the public should first digest the sequence of events leading to the unfortunate event. “As a Gambian who love his country’s football, I am saddened like all Gambians about this matter,” he concluded.

 

By Lamin Cham

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