By: Muhammed Lamin Drammeh
The Minister of Youth and Sports and the National People’s Party mayoral candidate for the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC), Bakary Badjie, has said he cannot be blamed for the banning of the Independence Stadium, calling it a 3-decade long problem which has not started in his tenure as a minister, but one which he is now trying to address with the ongoing renovation and remodelling.
However, he said his ministry is making progress in making sure the Gambia hosts international games in a few months’ time.
The NPP candidate for the top seat at KMC has faced a barrage of criticisms as the minister of youth and sports since the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced the banning of the stadium from hosting international matches due to not meeting the CAF requirements in February 2022.
Badjie noted that the banning has not started during his tenure but as far back as 2014, noting that he cannot be held accountable for something that has been there well before his appointment as the Minister of Youth and Sports.
“The history of the stadium is public knowledge. Anyone who lives in this country will know that you cannot hold me accountable for a 3-decade long problem. As a minister, I will take actions to address it, and we are doing that, but to say I am responsible for it, that is misinformation,” he told The Fatu Network.
The Gambia’s Independence Stadium was built in 1983 by the Chinese. However, since then, the Gambia has been depending on it for matches and different functions. Over the years, its lack of maintenance has warranted being deemed substandard as per the standards set up by CAF for international competitions.
The Gambia was first banned in 2019 before being given a temporary clearance to host international matches. However, in 2022, the stadium received its final banned due to its conditions, lacking the proper facilities to host international games.
According to Minister Badjie, his ministry is doing all it can to fix the stadium but queried that if the stadium’s problem had been solved or well refurbished over the years, it would not have been in this situation.
“What happened over the previous [years] at the Independence Stadium was not my action. I was not there. If other people had made efforts to resolve the issues, we wouldn’t be in this situation.
“But as a minister now, we have taken actions to work on it and that is ongoing. But a stadium in this current situation as how it is, it cannot be finished in five or three months,” he stated.
Badjie’s political opponents have been citing the banning of the stadium and the dilapidated conditions it has been in to measure his lack of competence to be the mayor of KMC.
He will be up against the United Democratic Party’s Talib Ahmed Bensouda who is the incumbent mayor, as well as Pa Modou Mbowe for the Kanifing Municipal Council mayorship tomorrow, May 20.