A feature, By Omar Jatta
It has been a long journey, but finally the new GAA (Gambia Athletics Association) office building opposite the Independence Stadium in Bakau is near completion.The project, to be called Athletics House started with the allocation of a plot of land by the Ministry of Local Government and Lands in 2015, and has now cost millions of dalasis. But the two-storey building complex is near completion and despite its long and difficult journey, the GAA President Dodou Joof Capy is happy to pass the edifice down to the future generation as his legacy.
A former national athletics champion and a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Dodou Joof spoke to journalists Alieu Ceesay and Mbaye Camara about the building that once completed will serve as the headquarters of Gambian athletics, providing training and camping facilities for Gambian athletes.
According to Joof, this project has been a long-standing ambition of his since he took over as President of GAA in 2011.
After securing the land in 2016,Joof took advantage of a chance meeting with a Saudi prince at the Olympic Games in 2016 and asked for his support to fund his dream project. Before the end of the games the prince donated $3000 (Three Thousand Dollars), which went towards the fencing of the plot of land acquired through the ministry of sports.
The GAA chief then followed that up with the preparation of a sketch plan and the bill of quantities for the proposed complex, which includes an office, conference hall, and storage facilities among others.
An according to Joof, the project hit a jack-pot when he contacted the chairman of the British Olympic Committee, Lord Sebastian Coe (Lord Coe)who at the time just got elected as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF ). He told Coe about his plans to build a headquarters for the Gambian athletes and Lord Coe promised to do something about the matter.
Months later, through Lord Coe’s intervention, the IAAF donated Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15000) to start the project and subsequently gave more funds in batches of twenty thousand Dollars ($20000) over the past two years which helped bring the project to this far. Joof who is also the President of the Gambia Olympic Committee, GNOC, said he is not done yet as he would also like to build other facilities in the complex such as a hostel, restaurant, conference hall and a storage facility for their materials and equipment. ”This will cut the cost spent on accommodation during international athletics events and also the athletes can hold their training camps at the facility,” he said.
He continued: “This is what I want for my legacy and I want to finish it before I retire. But even when I retire, I will not get tired. I will never leave sports until my last day. Sports is part of my life”. Mr. Joof called on Gambians to stop bickering and peddling petty accusations over things they have no knowledge about, something he said is becoming a problem in the country, where people jump to conclusions and start accusing those in office of “embezzling” their money.
He pointed out that the GAA’s annual subvention is “only $15000 (Fifteen thousand Dollars)”, which he said, they divide in three parts including the cost for administration, national and international competitions, with allocations of five thousand Dollars $5000 for each sector. “Each year as a requirement, we must take part in at least one international competition which takes a huge chunk of this annual subvention as travel and accommodation costs,” he lamented.
Joof also seized the opportunity to call on the Gambia government and parastatals to support sports because it is as important as any other national issue.“The achievements of Gina Bass who is an African champion and currently enjoying a steady rise in World Athletics”, he said.Joof acknowledged a recent donation of D50000 (Fifty thousand Dalasis) from the Gambia Ports Authority and would like others to follow suit.
In 2016 Joof was also elected President of the Gambia National Olympic Committee and he is currently the Treasurer for CAA (Confederation of Africa Athletics),
In 2007 he was awarded the IAAF Veteran Gold pin in recognition of his service to sports and in 2010, he was awarded the National Honour O.R.G . in The Gambia
The veteran administrator also served and continues to work in various international athletics positions including at the CAA, where he is the Technical Delegate and Jury of Appeal, and Technical Director for West Africa Region II. Joof once served as Vice President of CAA West Africa II region. In his youthful age he also served as a coach for the Gambia Police Football Team.
Interview by Alieu Ceesay and Mbaye Camara