By Lamin Cham
Twice hit by MRI failures and eliminated out of the Wafu Championship, The Gambia Under 17 team is due back home where fans are disappointed and confused about what exactly happened. The Gambia Football Federation, GFF, has spent the better part of the last two days explaining their side of the story. Football House said they were disappointed that a second MRI test results which showed that seven players were not qualified were not communicated to them early enough before their first match against Mali. Now team manager Sadibou Kamaso, whose team was knocked out of the Wafu championship in Dakar Senegal, has been explaining the circumstances that led to the Gambian team’s decision not to continue with the match at the Alasan Djigo Stadium because of poor visibility. The Gambia was trailing 2-0 at the time the match was abandoned and the officials have since given victory to Mali, effectively ending Gambia’s participation in the tourney that has the possibilities of getting the country to the African Under 17 championship in Tanzania. The match came on the heels of reports confirmed by the GFF that 7 Gambian players have failed the mandatory MRI test. This is the version of team manager Sadibu Kamaso.
“As Team Manager of The Gambia U17, I am compelled to set the records straight on issues touching and concerning the game played today at Alasane Djigo stadium in Pikine, Dakar. At our technical meeting yesterday, we were told the stadium was not up to standard for a game of this type of competition but they the LOC will endeavour to have those issues sorted before the game today. Little did we know that one of the problems was the low light issue. Prior to the commencement of the Gambia Vs Mali game, the lights weren’t on as opposed to the normal routine of having lights before the game starts. Mid way through the game, the lights were put on but they were not bright enough and the players complained a little after that. The goalkeeper as well as the captain drew the attention of the Referee but he wouldnt listen. As Team Manager, my attention was called and I walked up to the CAF official to draw her attention to this issue which I did.
The CAF official did admit the light was bad and she was going to engage the LOC and the Senegalese Football Federation on this issue. Fadiga and one Mr. Sowe from the Senegalese Football Federation came and pleaded with Willy and I to ask the boys to play because if the boys failed to play and the match is abandoned, they will be in trouble. Our response was, we cannot decide on this as it was up to the boys who were on the pitch to determine whether they can play or not. There was a lot of push and pull on this and we insisted that the lights must be improved for us to continue to play. This was when Mali was already 2 -0 up. Even some of the Senegalese spectators told us that the nawettan teams that were playing there stopped playing due to the poor light and the stadium was closed and renovations were made.
Despite the renovations the lights were still bad and the nawettan teams felt it was not good enough for them to play. We couldn’t understand why we were being forced to play when the light was bad. Having made consultations, i told the coach that we had made our at stance clear on this matter and it was up to the match commissioner and referee to decide if the game should continue but it would be very inconvenient and difficult for the game to continue under such conditions.
On a number of occasions Willy and I would try to go down to talk to the players and the organisers but we were always sent out of the field because according to them we shouldn’t be there even though we were there as Head of Delegation and Team Manager respectively. Upon my return to take my seat upstairs, I heard the referee blow the whistle and the Malian team jubilating which obviously meant the referee deemed it was ok to play under those conditions when our players couldn’t see. ”
Meanwhile a press statement from the GFF on the same matter quoted Mr Kamaso with this conclusion: “I personally believe we were hard done by; we believe The Gambia Football Federation should take this issue up with Caf. On several occasions, we were being constantly reminded by the likes of Mr. Sowe about how bad The Gambia stadium was and yet they played. Some even accused The Gambia of being fond of this as The Gambia had done something similar in St. Louis. I made it clear to everyone that it was absolutely wrong for organisers to accuse The Gambia when they haven’t fulfilled their obligations.”