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VEEP: SPORTS IS IMPORTANT TO GOV’T’S DEV’T PROGRAMME

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The vice president, Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy has disclosed that sports continues to be important to government’s youth development programme because it enhances education by promoting better cognitive functioning, better health through physical fitness and disease prevention.

Addressing the eleventh edition of the National Youth Conference and Festival, Nayconf, currently on at Soma, VP Njie-Saidy said over the last decade The Gambia registered steady progress particularly in the discipline of football with the junior teams. “The Gambia U-17 national teams have been remarkable, qualifying for the World Under-17 women’s championship held in Azerbaijan in 2012 while the boys in 2005 and 2009  won the African Under 17 championships,” she said, adding  that  the U-20 team won bronze in the Orange Youth African Championship held in Congo thus qualifying for the World Cup held in Canada in 2007.

The vice president said The Gambia U-19 team competed in an invitational competition in Italy featuring England, Italy, China, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia and Umbria and were crowned champions.

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Those achievements aside, the vice president went on, sports also encourage gender balance through empowerment of girls and women as well as ensure an all inclusive development through special initiatives for persons with disabilities.  “It is a tool with high potentials to strengthen social ties and networks, to promote the ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice,” she said.

She advised sports participants and enthusiasts to take sports seriously as it nurtures self-esteem, positive peer relationship and teaches other essential life-long skills, which has the potentials to alleviate the negative effects of poverty as well as provide unique opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures.

In the same vein, VP Njie-Saidy also revealed that government is currently reviewing some policy documents such as the National Sports Council Act 2000 which will allow more transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the quest to develop sports for excellence and national glory.

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“In the past twenty years, government has spent huge sums of money in sports. It is very clear that the expenditure in this area far surpasses the gains. As such, sports administrators and stakeholders will have to ensure transparency and accountability of the governance structures in order to achieve excellence. Therefore there is an urgent need to work together as a country to reactivate grass roots sports and school sports which will serve as nurseries for identification and development of young talents,” she stressed.

She further affirmed her government’s support in other sporting disciplines such as volleyball, handball, athletics, basketball, boxing, judo and cricket asserting that The Gambia has been making its presence felt in inter-African and international competitions in the recent past by making significant efforts to consolidate the gains registered through various measures including more effective management in sports organisations.

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