Throughout this week Gambians would be travelling in droves to Thies, Senegal to watch the national team play in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers because the match cannot be played in the Gambia. An undesirable situation where both The Gambia national team and her supposed visitors South Sudan are all going to be strangers. Why? The Gambia’s only stadium, the Independence Stadium is far behind the standards required by Caf and Fifa to host a decent elite international match. The stadium does not have a standard dressing room, pitch, scoreboard, while its pavilions, toilets, commentary boxes among other essential facilities are eyesores.
A recent report said the repair work needed to put the complex back to shape is estimated to cost D100M. There are other reports that the stadium management has raised the issue with the government which is looking seriously into the matter with a view to providing the funds to carry out repair work.
While this is a welcome news (even though it will take longer than our next home matches in September) we wish to state that the focus of the Gambia government should now be on building a new stadium. The Independence Stadium is not just the deal now. It is too old and out of fashion especially so because it has never had any serious maintenance in its 40 years of existence. Also, the standard siting arrangement now required by Caf would mean that spectators can longer be packed together as sardines, meaning reasonable spacing between seats, which will drastically reduce the 20,000 capacity we think it has.
All these go to argue the need for a new stadium that would be modern, comprising good grounds and facilities for not just football but other sports, and strategically located for easy access to people from all parts of the country.
We therefore advise that government revise its plans to build a hospital on the prime land located on the Coastal Road and instead consider building a stadium there. The land, formerly the Radville Farm, is the best place for a new stadium. The land is vast and fanatically located especially in view of the fact that the Highway by it is currently being expanded to three lanes on both sides. This would make access easy from any point in the country. We hope that government and its advisers will consider this proposal to solve the acute lack of decent sport infrastructure in the country. Good luck to the Scorpions against South Sudan in Thies on Saturday!