Jammeh was speaking at State House as he received in audience The Gambia’s top referee, Bakary Papa Gassama who is due to officiate at the World Cup in Brazil next month. The president used the occasion to express his feelings on issues surrounding football.
He said: “Unfortunately, governments have little control over national football associations or federations despite the fact that it is government funds that run the national teams. So I think this should be discussed with Fifa and Caf, because this is unacceptable. National governments invest a lot of money on national teams and when the management decide to mess it up the governments cannot do anything without being suspended by Fifa. This is not fair. I think we will have to discuss with Fifa to really make so that there is a control mechanism.”
After putting those issues in their proper perspective the president turned to celebrate the single Gambian whose name will be mentioned at the Fifa world Cup, Papa Gassama. “You represent not just The Gambia but Africa. Do what is right and fear nobody. Be mindful that once you lose your dignity, you cannot buy it again with any money so make sure you represent The Gambia, remain honest and avoid falling to anything that would damage your dignity,” he told the referee.
He then wished Mr Gassama well and prayed for his success at the World Cup.
Also speaking at the occasion, presidential affairs minister, Momodou Sabally, said The Gambia government wants young people to realise their dreams through the many windows of opportunities created by the government in any field including football. He called on institutions and associations with oversight responsibilities to therefore live up to expectations.
Sabbally said it would make greater sense if the individual efforts of the likes of Gassama to reach the World Cup are matched by the country’s own march to reach it. “And we know and should not be ashamed of saying that the blame for this failure goes to the football administrators. As of this morning, I got a signal that they have learnt their lesson and I hope the lesson sticks to make sure that those opportunities created by government are not squandered by individuals because of selfish and parochial interests.
Other speakers included the Foreign and Finance ministers who both called on the referee to be a good ambassador of The Gambia.
By Lamin Cham