By Awa Macalo
Since the emergence of the Covid-19, it has affected all sectors of people’s lives, business,institutions, even sport activities got stranded.
The Gambia female footballers have faced a lot of constraints before the pandemic began, and their woes compounded after the detection of the first case of the virus in The Gambia on March 17th, 2020.
The country went on state of public emergencies on several occasions and have led to the cancellation of the female football leagues, inter-female football competitions among communities in the Greater Banjul Areas, due to the surge of cases.
Even though the pandemic is now considered a global phenomenon, it also has positive side that most female football teams benefited from. It has brought the attention of FIFA, Gambia Football Federation (GFF), and other international federations to come to their rescue by lifting them up from the financial constraints caused by the virus.
Sainey Sissohore Mboge, The Gambia female football coordinator, explains that positively, “…you can see the disbursement of funds coming from FIFA to support women’s football, especially in this trying time of Covid. Materials and sports kits were also donated to them, though Covid is not a good thing, but it has lifted the female football to another level. Some female players also got the opportunity to go back to school.
We have resumed the leagues progressively, there are changes in the technical abilities of players and coaches are expanding in their knowledge because we have been providing capacity building training and during these sessions, thirty minutes are always dedicated to talking about Covid and its influence in our lives as footballers,” she explained.
Sainey said four projects were launched by the Gambia Football Federation through the FIFA support fund to help female football teams to be firm on their feet and go back to the pitch.
Marcel Mendy, the executive director of the National Sports Council, explained that sport is something that the government is ready to invest in to encourage the participation of both males and females. “Certainly we have plans for all athletes in the Gambia, the responsibility of the national sports council of the government is to support national sports associations, but also to support athletes. National teams belong to the government, so the government has a plan of doing what is required of it to ensure that the forthcoming qualifiers for the female national league are accomplished without hitches. We are waiting on a budget from the GFF, which will be reviewed and funds will be provided as per the request on the budget,” he said.
Even though Covid-19 has made changes in female football, Sainey however lamented that it has also weakened the potentials of some women football players, who were not able to train for months leading to heavy weight gains while field trainings also became challenging for others.
Penda Bah, women’s national team captain,also stressed that the virus traumatised most of them. “Covid-19 was not an easy thing on us as female players. During these difficult moments, some players quit, some got married and now carrying babies. There wasno information related sport activities shared to us in this country, everything was blocked. This was a mental torture, as a lady, even if we relax for few days, we begin to develop weight and experience some changes in our bodies. The virus really dragged us back and right now, we are starting fresh.”
Suna Njie, assistant coach of the women’s national team, said she was not able to trainher players during the state of public emergencies. “I don’t have facilities and equipment to train them virtually or individually. The league was nullified and there was no competition as well.
Economically, I was affected because at some point, I stopped going to work to protect my family and I need to take care of myself and close relatives,” she explained.
The Guardian has recently released a report on the impacts of COVID-19.
According to the report, professional women footballers through out the globe have been stocked during the pandemic. Over 47 countries, 69% has reported that communication from clubs and leagues has been poor, The Gambia is not an exception.
A survey was also conducted by Fifpro (the Fédération internatinale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels) to look into the impact of Covid-19 on female footballers. It was discovered that the global players’ union, found 52% of the 62 countries, between July and October had national federations that did not contact women national team players, while in 26% of countries women’s clubs were not included in the return to play protocols.
So far, The Gambia has recorded about 5990 positive cases of Covid, 5767 recovery cases, 178 deaths and 45 active cases since the virus found its way into the country in March 2020.