Arguably, the long-suffering Gambia football fans are the most unfairly treated group of loyal supporters one is likely to encounter anywhere in Africa. Despite decades of investment and passionate following putting up time & money as the Scorpions fan-base around the world – Gambians have been let down by the very people put in charge to run football affairs in the country. Without a doubt, football is the country’s favourite pass time, our national sport, yet riddled with failures on the international stage. To compound frustrations and anger of a fan-base hungry for success – we’ve tried to measure the sporting facilities Kabba Bajo is running his mouth all over of. Worryingly, our reviews found the facilities to be of poor-quality and poorly-financed projects with regards to all the millions spent.
Just the other day, Bajo was quoted by the Press saying ‘’… well government never put much into football, we had to depend on ourselves’’. Excuse me, but how do you think FIFA subventions amounting to millions of dalasi every single year came by? Plus the fact that GFF submit projects for funding on an entirely separate pot of cash from the World Football body. With extra resources from African Football bodies, explain to the Gambian people why the heck you expect more money from tax payers to fund your failures. Looking at the millions pouring in from FIFA, CAF and other bodies, how difficult can it be to build quality stadiums around the country, Football Academies of excellence in every Governorship, help rebuild school playgrounds as factories of talent? In recent weeks, it has come to notice that the level of mismanagement and waste undergone at this abysmal failure known as Gambia Football Federation may be impossible to quantify, or recover. But that should not stop the Ministry of Sports from conducting probe into the status of all the millions assigned to Gambian football over the years. A new chapter has dawned in the country’s history, and with it an era of scrutiny.
Watching his mannerisms and comments in recent weeks, it became obvious the man in charge of Gambian football is a bully, a manipulative conman willing to take covert operations against anyone dare criticise or challenged him on the poor direction and misplaced priorities of Football House. This manifestation showed itself when the Minister of Sports, Hon Gomez express concern at the obscene amount of money ascribed to repairs and the exorbitant fees of building projects not measuring to scratch. I say well done to the Sports Minister recognising the stakes therein and calling out failures for what it is. My message to GFF is to look at FIFA sponsored projects in Senegal, and Ivory Coast, and Ghana built to high standards on par with football academies in Europe. Gambian football fans and the aspiring youngsters coming through the ranks continue to be short-changed, quite frankly cheated by men in suits too busy enriching themselves through dodgy deals & false accounting. The Ministry of Sports must begin investigations in earnest scrutinising financial records over the many years. This Gambian thing of ‘’Mbokka Mbokka’’ quote-on-quote ‘’Maslaa’’ has got to stop if real progress if what we desire. Folks ‘’Maslaa Bi Deffa Doii’’. We got to stop dragging corruption and failures under the carpet and call it for what it is. Please, this ain’t about witch-hunt. My conscience is clear – the point being if we are to be successful in all that we do, and to be prosperous, and to establish trustworthy institutions for the challenges ahead – then let’s call a spade-a-spade.
I would have respected Kabba Bajo & perhaps argue for him to be given more time had he come out admit mistakes under his tenure: Had he admitted, for example, ‘’although we did a bit, we have failed the fans. But we have recognised those mistakes and are liaising with the line Ministry implementing new methods looking at successes in Senegal, Germany, and other countries in terms of modernisation of football in the country’’. I have always said that Gambians naturally are an understanding lot – but what angers me is when failures are defended with arrogance, disregarding public good, and an affront to the law. Despite overwhelming evidence, it is of great surprise the leadership refused to raise hands come clean to the public. The Gambia cannot properly move forward unless past mistakes & injustices are rectified before embarking on new steps.
I find it troubling that the management is using every excuse & trick in the book avoiding a press conference. My message to Football House is – putting up bricks and mortar with corrugated Iron on top declaring it cost twenty million won’t fly. Tabling Repairs that don’t match to scratch costing even more millions – where da heck do ya think we hail from, kanilai? To every governmental nexus – the days of business-as-usual is over. The Gambian people did not sacrifice lives and limb for a few at the top to live majorly. In an era of information technology, the young people are mobilised, empowered more than ever – judging your tenures through actions and deeds.
It is therefore no coincidence that failures have come to define Gambian football, looking at successes registered by Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The long suffering ‘Scorpions fans’ deserve better, Honourable Gomez knows it, the Diaspora knows it too, so does the fanbase, and I suspect the powers-that-be at GFF knew it too. President Barrow, on a recent interview with Eye Africa TV affirms his love for football and that government is looking at holistic approach to reform it, in fact all sports. If ever Minister Gomez needs an alibi to effect changes, there is your license – albeit THRU the due-process.
In terms of professionalization of sports from athletics, cricket, Tennis, Basketball, across the whole Olympic spectrum for an effective use of allocated money, those bodies must be summoned to Parliament to answer tough questions why they have failed so far. Gambia, we are in the big-time now, politics isn’t everything – Yes, we yearn for true democracy, desiring economic success, progress in agriculture and academic excellence with quality schools & colleges. Sporting success however leads to a feel-good factor. In England, for instance, when the National team achieves success the immigration topic or Brexit is related to the fringes of newspaper-headlines. National pride takes over the entire media landscape. And for a country as The Gambia, globally known as #DestinationTOURISM, big sports stars & sporting success will certainly help in terms of soft-power diplomacy attracting global media coverage, and even more tourists & investments into the country. The problem, and this is Africa-wide, the so-called leaders in charge of institutions and sports bodies are clueless as to how the international order relates in terms of government-NGO-Public Relations. The other problem is Gambian sports journalist showing themselves, failing the public by not putting the right questions to GFF. Watch this, as soon as the Ministry of Sports announce investigations into GFF failures, you shall see Kaba Bajo sprint out with accusations of government interference into how he runs Football. And writing to FIFA to protest as such. Well the public will be ready with an answer, and I have one too, which is – if you are so sure of innocence then why panic? With all the millions pouring in from FIFA, the fans deserve better – looking to a day when Gambian football shall get a fair deal as to quality football facilities up and down the country. In my opinion, Football-House need fresh ideas & to embark on a new direction of which the current leadership structure should play no part.
Gibril Saine, LONDON