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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Sports Commentary: The Gambia, the topnotch priorities

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Not much was happening in Gambian football as if we were banned from playing friendly matches. Things remained quiet until the run up to the Gambia Football Federation elections which saw Lamin Kaba Bajo voted into office. Both camps then promised to see CAF lift the ban on The Gambia. Indeed it happened just a week after the career diplomat was voted into office. It is good to put into context how important it is to have the ban lifted and as well project where we could be if the promises made in the blueprint (manifesto) remain mare promises.

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I am tempted to ask, whether we must give credit to Kaba Bajo and his team or is the credit for Hon Alhagie Sillah, Ba S Jabbi and the other members of the Normalisation Committee? Whatever it is, we are above the moon that the ban is lifted. The former youth and sports minister now GFF president promised a lot for the coming four years and posterity will judge him and his team. 

It is without doubt that in as much as the entire Gambian populace must put all hands at work, all eyes are also opened too. Gambians have learnt so much within the last three years so, I urge Kaba to be vigilant and never give the skeptics, doubters, critiqs the chance to say, Hurray! Hurray! I know this will happen. Here I will like to interject to say that to successfully move football from its spiral down effect, all must adopt the ‘You cannot do this or that attitude’, rather than wait till the entire country plunges into the deep ocean then say I know this will happen. The wollof saying; “Magi wahon nako mogen magi hamon nako,” which means an elder who says I warned him, is better than the one who says I know this will happen. So, we cannot afford to chose  the latter. 

They said to whom much is given, much is expected in return and there is no doubt that too much has been given to Lamin Kaba Bajo and team not because of tribe, religion, region, section but because of their personalities and what they promised the electorates who represent everyone in this country. In this world the highly paid persons are those who use their brains not those who use power and strength to work. Therefore, with the academic qualifications of the elected executives, expectations are that they can blend that with their experience in football administration to march the nation past an army of dangerous beast to reach our first African cup of nations. 

Now that the ban is lifted, all that is needed is to put in place a plan of how to engage the national team. It is going to be your choice to prioritize which national teams we prepare and for which competitions and for the coaches to prioritize which cohort of players to use in the various national teams. But it is my view that the crème’ de la crème’ of Gambian football is within the age range of 19-23 so, please put emphasis on this cohort of players. It is without doubt that we have a pool of good players both home and abroad and if put together and worked on for three years we can qualify to the African Cup of Nations. This though is just my thought. It is good to note that I am not rubbishing the Under 17s and the senior players plying their trade both home and abroad. For the senior players we might use those playing week in week out and not bench warmers because The Gambia need a future team that can qualify the nation to its first major continental tournament. We might consider U-17 if only we will get the right ages for this team because from henceforth, the whole world will be watching so, no room for mistakes. 

Looking into these elected persons into the Football House, Lamin Kaba Bajo, the president of the GFF is described as a grassroots football enthusiastic; sportsman; soldier; politician; cabinet minister and a diplomat. These accolades alone are enough for one to have the required experience and connection to transform Gambian football. In terms of academic qualifications, Kaba holds a master’s degree in diplomatic studies from the university of Leicester UK. Kaba is the general overseers of the federation so having bagged such academic qualifications and administrative experience at top level, what more can be asked of the former military man if not stamp his authority where necessary and not let an external force impact on his administration. 

As the general overseer of Gambian football he must expect external interference and people wanting favours from him just because they promoted his course in the run up to the election. This is where he will face the biggest challenge. If he stamp his authority by saying no to interference and people looking for favours, I see success coming his way cognizant of the composition of the team. In the run up to the election, when Kaba unveiled his manifesto and team, he categorically made it clear that, “We will prefer to drag a player from the touchline and claim he is injured that risk fielding in an overage player.” These words sink deep in my mind and I think we should make this our second national anthem because age cheating and falsification has damaged our football. I will delve into this in another write up. I am without doubt that, Kaba has all it takes to govern and govern well. Just a quick word for his followers here; put personal interest aside and help yourselves to transform football as you promised in your manifesto. 

Abdoulie Star Jallow, the first vice president of the GFF is a former Gambia national team captain. He is said to have been the founder of Gamtel FC. He is a professional accountant & auditor. Star as he is fondly called has a BA Honors in accounting & finance degree. Until his retirement, Jallow was director of audit for both Gamtel and Gamcel. Star is taking over from another financier in Buba Star Janneh. So it is a star taking over from another star and a finance man taking over from another. 

What is clear is that finance has always been Gambian football’s problem. The only money Gambia rely on is the FIFA Financial Assistance  Programme the FAP which is meant to develop the game but yet, many people will argue that the game is stagnant despite millions of  dollars that came into the country for the past years. How Star Jallow will administer the little funds coming into the federation will be key to the success of the Kaba Bajo team. What must not be encouraged is seeing the FIFA funds diverted for what it is not meant for. This will deter the football development the nation is yarning for. 

 

Ebou Faye is the second vice president. He has coached and administered some top level teams in The Gambia.  He played first division football for Wallidan, Roots, Hawks FC and Roda F C of Norway in the first division in 1991/92 season. He worked as a sports journalist for Radio 1 FM from 1994/96 and has a Diploma in Freelance Journalism. Ebou is currently the Team Manager of Banjul United and the General Manager of the Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel. Ebou graduated from the South Bank University in England with a Master’s Degree in Development Studies. He will be responsible for all technical matters of the GFF considering his technical background. 

With his diploma in journalism, he might even be the spokesperson of the GFF. This is the area The Gambia must not joke with. Ebou would be relied on for advice when technical matters arise. Team selection, prioritizing teams, selection of coaches and technicians as well other technical related appointments and employments that the GFF might be going into. Will he put Gambia first by considering good brains or will he advice they go for good allies with feeble brains. 

 

Martin Gomez – 3rd Vice President – School & Grassroots Football Administrator; Sportsman; Teacher & School Principal; Leader; Founder of Saints FC. He is one of the leading promoters of School & Grassroots Football in The Gambia. Martin is the President of the School Sports Association and Founder and President Saints FC, a 3rd Division Team in Banjul. Many people call him the new Father Gough of Gambian Football. Martin has been a teacher since 1982 and the current principal of Saint Augustine High school. He holds a Master’s Degree in Education and Policy Studies from the University of Bristol UK.

If academic qualification and work experience is anything to go by, Gambia has nothing to worry about because this batch of leaders are not sort of both but I must draw the line here that football administration is a different ball game. You need not play football or back all the academic qualifications to administer football very well. You need much more than that. 

The other executive members Alhagi Faye, retired international referee; Modou Jallow, secretary general North Bank Region Football Association; Mam Lisa Camara, West Coast Region and Sainabou Cham a member of the women football association gives your executive a composition that represents all bodies of football in this country. Again the key word is represent the Gambian people and not an interest group. Taking their experience in other aspects of the game, I am without doubts that they will head couple of committees that would be created sooner or later. 

I chose not to say much about the newest inclusion to the GFF executive as co-opted members, honorary members or adviser because since their appointment, concerns have been raised that the GFF constitution have been violated. What is clear is that to confer honorary membership, the GFF constitution has a complete article and it clearly stated that only the general assembly can confer honorary membership while the executive can just nominate. The entire constitution of the GFF has nothing such as co-opted members or advisers. I am convinced that the executive’s intention is to surround themselves with experience people but the constitution cannot be put aside. I am aware of the amount of time, energy and resources spent on this constitution which many people including even some of those drafted in to beef up the executive called as the best constitution for the development of football in this country so, why not respect it and go by its dictates. 

Your vision which is to “develop and promote a healthy football community in The Gambia, stabilize and improve the financial and administrative infrastructure of Gambian football and ensure better cooperation between the GFF and football stakeholders, the Gambia  Government, CAF and FIFA.” This is what you look forward to achieve within your four year mandate or if by extension the people vote you and your team for another term. It is easy to plan but hard to implement. But if you know how to do it go on and do it for that is the only way forward. 

Since you set out for this herculean task your mission was and it should remain “uniting, stabilizing and sustaining an upward trend in football development with focus on qualifying The Gambia to the African Cup of Nations and FIFA world cup.” I have no doubts that is you succeed in uniting, stabilizing and setting up an upward trend in football development, qualifying to the African cup of nations might be possible if the right structures are put in place and square peg are put in square holes. I cannot quit this section without stating that I am lost because your manifesto did not specify what category you want to qualify The Gambia to the CAN and FIFA. Laughing-out-loud (lol) if you mean the senior team I can’t wait to see the plans  to qualify The Gambia to that championship that we waited  for far too long always felling prey to  poor planning. As for the World cup ,my projection is maybe by 2022. Note it is not a profanity. I don’t just see the signs yet so if we plan wel,l 2022 can be possible. 

Your manifesto also promised to “build better relationship, trust and confidence with all stakeholders; football family, the government, CAF and FIFA, clubs and allied associations and the business community.” It is without doubt that if any of these partners lost trust and confidence in your executive, progress will be at snail pace. 

To conclude, be on the guard and abide by the regulations both home and international. 

 

Sang Mendy

Teaching Assistant, GPU School of Journalism 

Journalism student, UTG School of Journalism and Digital Media

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