The zonals, as the former is also called, feature over 300 players and a modest assessment has indicated that at the height of its programme, the zonal teams combined can pull close to a 100,000 fans making it the biggest football tourney in this country. The passion generated by it remains unrivalled. In contrast the national league is the least watched competition in the country dwarfing even the ordinary nawettans in the rural areas. However, one feature of the Super Nawettan makes unpleasant reading – it is a fertile ground for football hooliganism.
As another edition of the zonals begins on Sunday, the country is charged with intense preparations for what promises to be the best organised in many years.
The event attracted a whopping D250,000 sponsorship to fund preparations and cash prizes.
On the pitch, Brikama where the trophy once landed, the local radio station carry regular daily spots announcing the town’s matches in the fixtures while the zonal squad host friendlies against CasaSports.
Brufut, Sukuta and others chasing their first title have already played a couple of test matches while one time-champions, Lamin, staged massive sensitisation meetings with fans and the local authorities.
The first match of the tourney features champions Serekunda West and Banjul in a grand opening at the Serekunda West Park.
The Gambia Football Federation has said the Super Nawettan is a model in Gambian football and have pressed the organising committee to ensure an orderly and impressive tournament by drastically cutting all incidences of violence in this one.
Some of the measures the GFF wants to see in place is a three-year banishment from nawettan and five years from the Super Nawettan for offending zones guilty of inciting violence.
The federation has in turn directed that the Gambia’s best and elite international referees be conscripted to officiate the matches to improve the quality of refereeing.
A robust security committee has been put in place to protect the grounds and people from violence. According to Baboucar Ceesay of the GFF security unit, henceforth everyone coming to the grounds will be searched and stripped of any harmful property. In addition, the security committee has drawn up plans to empty all grounds of stones or rocks often used by trouble making rioters at matches.
A media and publicity committee is going round all media spreading the motto of this year’s tourney: A violence Free Super Nawettan. Yesterday, the chairman of the organisng committee, Ba Jabbi issued a statement urging the football fraternity to make the tournament a model and not a meeting for chaos:
Sise Sawaneh and Mamadi Camara contributed to this piece.]]>