The Gambia Football Federation (GFF), assumingly, in accordance with Article 5 (I) of the GFF Constituion (i.e. “Prepare and ensure the participation of the various National Teams in international competitions organised by FIFA, CAF and WAFU”), registered The Gambia National Football U20 Team in the preliminary qualification rounds of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) U20 Championship.
The African Youth Championship is scheduled to be hosted by Senegal in March 2015.
The Gambia was paired to play against Liberia in a two legged game (i.e. Home and Away), the winner of which tie will progress to the next round of qualifiers.
On 6th April 2014, the first game of the tie was played in Monrovia, Liberia where The Gambia won by a goal to nil. The second game was scheduled for the weekend of April 26th/27th 2014 to be played in Banjul, The Gambia.
Unfortunately, the second game was aborted as a result of Liberia Football Association’s (LFA’s) appeal to CAF for the GFF to be sanctioned for having played ineligible players in the first game of the tie.
The Gambia U20 delegation that travelled to Liberia for the first leg is as follows:
List of Players provided by GFF
1. Mr. Yusupha Bobb
2. Mr. Saihou Conteh
3. Mr. Bakary Daffeh
4. Mr. Bully Drammeh
5. Mr. Saloum Faal
6. Mr. Madi Fatty
7. Mr. Lamin Jallow
8. Mr. Alieu Jatta
9. Mr. Ebrima Kanteh
10. Mr. Mass Manga
11. Mr. Sampierre Mendy
12. Mr. Mr. Bakery Njie
13. Mr. Buba Sanneh
14. Mr. Bubacarr Sanyang
15. Mr. Ali Sowe
16. Mr. Musa Touray
17. Mr. Bubacarr Trawally
18. Mr. Ebrima Tunkara
List of Officials
1. Mr. Saihou Bah -Team Manager
2. Mr. Tapha Manneh -Head Coach
3. Mr. Abdoulie Bojang -Assistant Coach
4. Mr. Alagie Marong – Goal Keeper Coach
5. Mr. Amadou Jaiteh -Kits Manager
6. Mr. Ismaila Njie -Accountant
7. Mr. Kebba Touray -2nd Vice President, GFF
8. Mr. Kalifa Manneh -Team Doctor
9. Mr. Ebrima Secka -National Sports Council,
Head of Delegation
10. Mr. Wandifa Ceesay -Team Physio
ASSOCIATION’S (LFA) APPEAL
It was reported that moments after the first leg of the match played on 6th April 2014, the LFA sent an appeal against the GFF to CAF for the use of overage players who the LFA claimed to be ineligible for the CAF U20 championship. This argument according to reports was as result of a CAF circular of 2nd September 2013 that was sent to all member Associations/Federations which stated that only players born on 2nd January 1995 or after this date are eligible to play in this championship. The LFA appeal was made against the players mentioned below.
1. Sampierre Mendy
2. Buba Sanneh
3. Bubacarr Trawally
4. Saloum Fall
5. Ali Sowe
Important to note is that the circular gave information on three main topics, among others, viz:
1. Dateline for registration
2. The registration fee
3. Player legibility
It has now appeared that the GFF has scored positively on items 1 and 2, whilst scored negatively on item 3.
CAF RULING ON LFA APPEAL
According to the Organising Committee of the U-20 competition, Sampierre Mendy, Buba Sanneh, Bubacarr Trawally, Saloum Fall and Ali Sowe were all not eligible to participate in the competition.
The said Gambian players, as indicated in their passports, were all born in 1994 and are not qualified to participate in the competition “reserved for players born on or after 1 January 1995, as stated in a CAF circular dated 2 September 2013.
THE GFF REACTIONS TO LFA APPEAL
The GFF did not waste time to call a press conference to react to the CAF ruling to disqualify the Gambia. The spokesman of the GFF, the First Vice President , Buba Star Janneh, denied any wrong doing and claimed that when the team was registered for the championship in Senegal, their reference point was the CAF Rules and Regulations under Article 29. He denied receiving any circular on the 5th September 2013 as they took over office on the 7th September 2013 and the Normalisation Committee never mentioned or indicated it in the handing over notes.
The Second Vice President of the GFF, Mr. Kebba Touray, who travelled with the team to Monrovia, described Liberia’s protest “as looking for an excuse to deviate attention from what actually transpired in the game”. He also added that “we are very much aware of the rules of this competition. We know that in the competition proper, all the players have to be born in 1995 but during the qualifiers, a player is eligible to play as long as he is less than 20 years old. This is Under-20 tournament and not Under-19 so our players are eligible to play in the game”. He further added that “the Liberians are just trying to divert attention from what happened in the game because we totally outplayed them. They could quite easily have conceded five goals on the day, that was how good this team was and I am not saying this lightly because I am an executive member of the GFF”.
The Third Vice President, Basiru Bajo, also stated that the handing over notes from the Normalisation Committee never mentioned the circular to enable them to follow the directive by CAF for registering the Under-20.
As a result of the anger and total condemnation by the public, the GFF President, Mr. Mustapha Kebbeh, convened another press conference few days after the first one. At that convergence, he stated that he was saddened by what happened and take responsibility but fell short to apologise to the nation.
THE NATIONAL SPORTS COUNCIL (NSC) INVESTIGATIVE TASK FORCE
The NSC reacted to the disqualification of the Under-20 with consternation and described it as a National Embarrassment which could have been avoided. Drawing reference from Article 5(O) of the GFF constitution (i.e. “…prevent all methods or practices which might jeopardize the integrity of matches or competitions or give rise to abuse of Associations football”), the NSC, being the body responsible for all national sports associations/federations according to the NSC Act 2000, immediately constituted an investigative task force on Monday 21st April 2014 to, among others, investigate the circumstances surrounding the disqualification of The Gambia U 20 in this regard.
The members of the Task Force are:
1. Mr. Malang Jassy, DPS for Sports-MoYS
2. Mr. Lamin King Colley, Chairman, National Sports Council
3. Mr. Pa Suwareh Faye, Deputy Director of Planning, MoYS
4. Mr. Marchel Mendy, Deputy Executive Director, National Sports Council
5. Mr. Ebou Faye, General Manager, ISFH
Terms of Reference of the Task Force
1. Establish what went wrong and who was responsible for the unfortunate disqualification of The Gambia U-20 from the CAF U-20 championship 2015
2. Suggest corrective measures
3. Provide report within a week
PROCEEDINGS OF THE
INVESTIGATIVE TASK FORCE
The Task Force started sittings at the Independence Stadium, Bakau. It invited the following people for information gathering.
1. Mr. Malang Jassy, Deputy Permanent Secretary,
2. Mr. Kebba Touray, Second Vice President, GFF
3. Mr. Ismaila Njie, Accountant, GFF
4. Mr. Abass Bah, General Secretary, GFF
5. Mr. Ebou Secka, Programme Manager, NSC
6. Mr. Marchel Mendy, Deputy Executive
7. Mr. Ebrima Manneh, Technical Director, GFF
8. Mr. Abdul Aziz Titao Mendy, Executive
9. Mrs. Victoria Roberts, Private Secretary, GFF
10. Mr. Baboucarr Jobe, Administrative Secretary,
11. Mr. Peter Bonu Johnson, Senior National Team
12. Mr. Saihou Bah, Under-20 Team Manager.
At the time of writing this report, the following people failed to appear before the Task Force.
1. Mr. Peter Bonu Johnson, Senior National Team Coach
2. Mr. Saihou Bah, Under-20 Team Manager
Ebou Secka, Manager of National Associations of the NSC (Head of Delegation)- According to Mr. Secka, the Match Commissioner visited the team at its hotel on Saturday, 5th April 2014 and asked for the Team Manager and he was introduced to him. In their discussion (Ebou Secka, Kebba Touray, Saihou Bah, Ismaila Njie and Kalifa Manneh), he asked the Team Manager whether he knows the age bracket (players qualified) for the U-20 competition but he did not know and he told them that its only players born on or after 1st January 1995 who are eligible to play, then he left.
“After the Match Commissioner left, Mr. Secka said, he advised them to find out from the GFF office in the event they are not sure of the rules and age bracket. In fact, after the Technical Meeting, I told them once more to find out from the office but when I made a follow up later, I was told they didn’t find out from the office. Later in the day, DPS Jassy called me and I informed him of the situation”, said Secka.
Speaking to the Task Force, Abdul Aziz Titao Mendy, Executive Director of NSC recalled that the GFF had written to his office submitting a list of the delegation to Liberia for the match but that the dates of births of the players were omitted. According to him, he called the attention of the GFF Admin Secretary, Baboucarr Jobe, General Secretary Abass Bah and the Finance and Admin Manager, Kemo Ceesay and they promised to provide the information accordingly.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary, Mr. Malang Jassy stated that even before the team left for Liberia, the Head Coach of the National Senior Team, Mr. Peter Bonu Johnson called his attention to the fact that some ineligible players for the competition had been selected and that he had advised both the Technical Director, Mr. Ebrima Manneh and General Secretary, Mr. Abass Bah but they did not take heed of his advice. DPS Jassy further explained that upon getting this information, he called the Admin Secretary and requested for the rules for the said competition but have not received it until at the time of his meeting with the Task Force.
He also told the Task Force that when he was informed by Ebou Secka about the issue of age bracket, he called the Finance and Admin Manager of the GFF, Mr. Kemo Ceesay and requested him to ask the Admin Secretary to go to the office so as to ascertain the rules but was told that it was an odd time and that the Admin Secretary will not be able to go to the office.
Mr. Marchel Mendy, Deputy Executive Director of NSC who was the Ag General Secretary of the GFF at the time told the Task Force that he received a file containing correspondences from CAF on U17, U20 and Senior National Teams from the then Confidential Secretary, Ms. Victoria Roberts, in his office on 9th September, 2013. He revealed to the Task Force that on that same day, he minuted to the Admin Secretary as “Please file but remind me to discuss with the President” on all the three documents and handed the file to the Admin Secretary. “That was the last time I set my eyes on those documents”, Mendy concluded.
During the interview with the Task Force, Abass Bah, General Secretary of the GFF explained that he never saw the file before the saga and that he didn’t receive it as part of his handing over notes. “Nobody ever advised me with regard to the issue of age bracket for U20 championship”, said Mr. Bah.
Ms. Victoria Roberts, the Confidential Secretary at the time, informed the Task Force that she received the documents and took them to the Ag. General Secretary and that he never saw the file again. “It was until on Tuesday 15/22 April, 2014 when the General Secretary asked me to provide him the CAF file and I did. After some time, he got back to me and said he had been searching for correspondences from CAF on the engagement of U20 national team but to no avail. We then mounted a search for the said documents and eventually found the circulars from CAF on engagement of U17, U20 and Senior National Teams in the former office of the Admin Secretary and then I handed them over to the General Secretary.
Mr. Baboucarr Jobe, the Admin Secretary told the Task Force that she never saw the circulars and that he didn’t have any idea about them until after they were found in the office. He said he has no idea in which office the circulars were found. However, he confirmed that the circulars were indeed minuted to him.
Mr. Kebba Touray, the 2nd Vice President of GFF denied knowledge of the circular but he is aware that the regulations stated that players in this championship must be under the age of twenty. He further denied that the Match Commissioner told them that only players born on or after 1st January 1995 are eligible to play in the championship. Mr. Touray also noted that they were never advised by Mr. Ebou Secka on the matter.
“We wrote to CAF to inform them that we didn’t receive the said circular and they responded, giving us the date the circular was received at the GFF and the name of the staff who received it. It was then that we told the staff to search for it and eventually they found it. However, I don’t know in which office it was found”, he asserted.
The Technical Director, Mr. Ebrima Manneh stated that he was not aware of the circular when they were registering the Under-20. They only relied on the rules and regulations of the Under-20 which only stipulated that players should be Under 20. He said when he was informed of the Gambia’s disqualification as a result of the failure to follow the directive contained in the circular, he advised the secretariat to contact CAF for advice and when the circular was sent and who received it as he was out of the country.
The Accountant, Mr. Ismaila Njie, stated that when the Match Commissioner visited their hotel, he called the Team Manager, Team Doctor, Head of Delegation and 2nd Vice President but that he was not concentrating on the discussion because he lost his bag and was worried. Mr. Njie was economical with the truth throughout the interview and did not offer any substantive information.
FINDINGS OF THE TASK FORCE
1. It was found out that the GFF registered the Under-20 when they took over office;
2. It was found out that the CAF circular of 2nd September 2913 was received when the GFF already assumed office;
3. It was found out that the GFF assumed office on the 10th August 2013 and not 7th September as stated by the First Vice President, Buba Star Janneh;
4. It was found out that the handing over notes could not have included the registration of the Under-20 as the Normalisation Committee had already handed over on the 10th August 2014;
5. It was found out that the First Vice President and Third Vice President all lied to the nation and tried to shift the blame to the now defunct Normalisation Committee;
6. It was found that the Second Vice President and the Team Manager were advised 24 hours before the match by the Match Commissioner that the players qualified must be those born on the 1st January 1995 or after when he visited the Gambian camp.
CONCLUSIONS OF THE TASK FORCE
1. The GFF had been negligent in adhering to basic administrative procedures;
2. The GFF had deliberately failed to take heed of professional advice;
3. The GFF instead of apologizing for the administrative blunder tried to apportion blame to others;
4. It is evident that the GFF has proved to be very in efficient in handling national teams
THE TASK FORCE
The recommendations below are strictly based on our findings thus far supported by the desire of upholding Article 6.2 of the GFF constitution (i.e. “Every person and organisation involved in the game of football is obliged to observe the statutes, regulations and the principles of fair play as well as the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship”)
– The GFF Executive to honorably resign for failing and embarrassing the nation and losing public trust;
– In the event the Executive fails to resign honorably, the National Sports Council should advice Government on the way forward;
– In future the NSC and the GFF need to jointly and meticulously examine all technical matters to advise each other adequately;
– The Team Manager who failed to attend the interview and the Administrative Secretary of the GFF be relieved of their duties.