By Lamin Cham
The Gambia national team players yesterday boycotted a planned presentation of their Afcon qualification bonus by President Barrow at State House.
The money, amounting to a little over 11 million dalasi was instead presented to the team manager, who turned up without the players.
News of the players planned boycott first surfaced through a letter on social media addressed to the Gambia Football Federation purportedly from the players.
In the letter, the players politely declined the invitation to State House and went on to explain their position on the matter in detail. The letter reads: “The Senior national team has been informed that His Excellency President Adama Barrow has requested to meet with the players. Information was also received that the president would be giving the team D11 million to be shared among the players and staff.The team would like to thank His Excellency for the invitation but would kindly decline the invitation to meet and the money offered. For the players, playing for The Gambia has never been primarily about money. Instead, it has always been about flying the Gambian flag higher and making the Gambian people proud. The players are always happy and determined to represent the nation whenever they are called upon without hesitation regardless of the difficulties that sometimes come with it. Football is a game of incentives. Having qualified to compete in next year’s African Cup of Nations for the first time in Gambian history, the team deserves to be given a bonus that would motivate the players and every child who dreams of playing for The Gambia someday. The team feels that the respect and motivation given to the players fall below what is supposed to be. For this reason, the players unanimously decided to decline the invitation. If the GFF accepts it would not be doing so on behalf of the players. We hope that going forward, the players will be given enough motivation as the preparations for the African cup continue.”
The Standard contacted at least three players of the team to authenticate the letter and all three said while they could not confirm the existence of the letter, its content is a true reflection of what they have discussed among themselves over the past few days about the proposed visit to State House. “Yes, it is true that there was talk that we should not attend it even though some people feel that is not right or respectful but unfortunately that is what most of us agreed,” a senior player told The Standard. Another senior player told The Standard that coach Tom Saintfiet and others have sent in messages appealing to the players to attend the meeting, warning that boycotting it would be seen to be disrespectful to the president. The Standard contacted several GFF officials but none would respond to our enquiries about the matter.
However, the Minister of Youth and Sports Bakary Badjie told The Standard that the presentation, which also included one to the volleyball team, and the Gambia Under-20 football team went ahead.
“The Scorpions did not come but the team manager received the check,” he said. The Minister added that the event was not so much an invitation from the president but it was his ministry, which accorded the honour to the president as the chief patron to perform the presentations at State House. The Standard further contacted another senior player whether they would now accept the money but he maintained that they have not asked anyone to receive anything on their behalf.
“We have made it clear in that letter that whatever one does there is not on our behalf,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, State House last night confirmed that President Barrow has made the following presentations; D500,000 to Volleyball, D2.5million to Under-20 football team and D11.1million to the Senior National team.
The statement did not mention the absence of the senior national team players.