By Lamin Cham
The Gambia’s preparations for this week’s Africa Cup of Nations have been thrown into confusion with the national team players boycotting an official farewell training session at the stadium and reportedly threatened to stay home unless unpaid qualification fees in their pay structure are paid.
A sizeable crowd which bought tickets to watch the farewell training at the Independence Stadium left in anger and disappointment with some vandalising facilities after waiting for hours to see the boys who stayed back at the hotel.
A highly placed source at the Gambia Football Federation said the players are demanding about D40 million they claimed was owed to them for qualifying to the Afcon as per agreement with the football federation
“They are even threatening not to fly to the Afcon on Wednesday,” our source said.
Our source added that after their qualification in the maiden edition in 2021, the players received a sum as qualification bonus since there was never a qualification bonus structure at the time.
“However afterward, the players and the GFF signed a formal qualification bonus agreement which the GFF conveyed to the Ministry of Sports since it’s government that pays national team budgets. But since the team qualified for the 2023 Afcon last September, the qualification bonuses have not been paid. So, this is the money the players are asking for. They must have suspected that if they ignore it and leave for Afcon, it would never be paid,” a very close source to the team told The Standard.
According to our source, the ministry of sports yesterday tabled D13 million which was rejected by the players. As we went to press last night, frantic efforts were ongoing to get the boys to agree to some offer so that they can abandon their threats not to go to Afcon. The Standard tried Sports Minster Bakary Badjie and other officials but none could be reached on the phone.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Ministry of Sports expressed disappointment over the attitude of the players saying that player bonuses have been increased more than hundred percent in addition to hundreds of millions that government has spent on the national team alone over the last few years. Our source added that the timing of the players’ protest is unreasonable and insensitive and called on them to save the nation from unnecessary negative publicity.