By Lamin Cham
The Standard is privy to the findings of a police investigation into the disqualification of The Gambia from the 2014 Caf Under-20 championship, which subsequently developed into a global suspension from football.
The report was compiled by a panel of investigators assigned by the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to probe into the circumstances that led to the debacle, which outraged many Gambians and the government alike.
It all happened when the Gambian team fielded four over-aged players against Liberia in Monrovia after which the Liberians lodged a successful appeal to Caf and The Gambia was disqualified.
A further scrutiny of the matter by Caf discovered that one of the four players had in fact played in a previous Caf competition with a different age. That was considered by Caf and Fifa to be deliberate age cheating by The Gambia resulting into a global ban.
At the height of the crisis it was discovered that Caf had sent a clear directive to the GFF advising them on what age is eligible for the competition but the circular was received and filed instead of been acted on.
The reaction from Gambians and the government was one of outrage and anger. The National Sports Council NSC instituted a task force to investigate the matter but the GFF executive at the time led by Mustapha Kebbeh questioned the impartiality of that Task Force, instead preferring an independent police investigation.
Their wishes were granted rather dramatically when almost the entire GFF executive and officials of the NSC were arrested and detained for nearly a week at the police headquarters while the IGP was ordered to investigate the matter.
The findings of the police investigations were never made pubic, however all officials were released on bail and later the matter died down.
Meanwhile Fifa suspended the GFF executive ushering in a Normalization Committee headed by Alhagie Sillah which organised elections won by the present executive led by Lamin Kaba Bajo.
However, the Kebbeh- led executive at the time had accused former Sports Minister Alieu Jammeh of subverting the actual message of Fifa, which they said asked for the stakeholders to decide whether they still have confidence in the executive. They also accused the minister of colluding with people with influence in Caf to undermine them by falsely blaming the saga on them instead of standing together with them to establish the truth.
The Minister of course had at the time denied that any such thing happened and stressed that he had done everything humanly possible to persuade the GFF members to work out a solution to the mess by holding responsibility and take necessary remedial action but the GFF executive refused to corporate with him. He denied ever colluding with outside or inside forces to undermine the GFF adding he has no influence in Caf and Fifa.
The then GFF executive also alleged that they were exonerated by the police investigations but with the report never been made public that claim was reduced to mere speculations.
Police report findings
However last week The Standard laid hands on the report which concluded and recommended after thorough probing that failure to act on the Caf circular is the fundamental cause of the saga and it blames Marcel Mendy, who was at the time in the position of general secretary, for not acting on the circular or forwarding it to his superiors as he usually did. ”Instead Mr Mendy minuted it to his junior where it stayed until too late,” the report said.
It therefore recommended that Mr Mendy should be prosecuted for negligence and abuse of office.
Secondly, the report also recommended that Mr Ebou Secka of the National Sports Council, who led the delegation to Monrovia be charged with giving false information with regard to his claim that the match commissioner had met them and asked them about the possible ineligibility of the four players before the match and they responded in the negative which was not in line with what others present at the match said.
The police report also discredited the findings of the Task Force set up by the NSC, claiming it was inconsistent and carried misleading reports since it relied on only oral interview and no reference was quoted and therefore should not be recognised by the NSC.
The Standard also learnt that the report and its recommendations were sent to the office of the president who acknowledged receipt and agreed with the recommendation through a letter and that was the last anything was heard about it.
Last night The Standard contacted former sports minister Alieu Jammeh for his reaction to the report and the accusation of the former GFF executive, and he replied: ”I have no comment on this until when I know all the facts. Until then am sorry I cannot offer any comments”. A similar response came from Mr Ebou Secka of the National Sports Council.
However according to Marcel Mendy, the police report is not new and by procedure it was submitted to the President’s Office which then asked the Ministry of Justice for advice as to whether there is case to answer or not. “And they must have decided that there was no case. That is why we were reporting regularly initially but not anymore since. That is what I know about this,” he said.
A member of the affected former GFF executive on learning of the police findings fumed with anger. ”This is most unfair. We have been maligned and humiliated and even after a professional independent investigation has exonerated us, we are yet to have justice,” he said.