By: Foday Manneh
Precisely four days before the opening game of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Gambian football fans and enthusiasts are enjoying the thrill of national representation in the global showpiece.
Qatar hosts the global showpiece without the Gambia on the list, but the country’s representation is being parodied elsewhere to make up for a lost opportunity.
Those jokes might have been different if the Gambia’s chances were not cut short by Angola during the trials for proper qualification to the world’s biggest footballing contest.
However, whether represented in jokes or the reality of football, the Gambia will still be portrayed in Qatar in some other game assignments.
This is the media and the refereeing aspect of it, with experienced broadcaster Malik Jones and highly-rated FIFA referee Bakary Papa Gassama already housed in Doha, Qatar, ahead of their respective duties when the event begins.
“To be placed in key institutions like the media and the referees is a significant development whenever The Gambia is mentioned during the World Cup.” Malik Jones told TAT.
The veteran Gambian broadcaster is in Qatar for his second international assignment during a World Cup, having worked with the BBC as a commentator during the 2010 edition in South Africa.
“I am working with Qatari Radio, not as a commentator, but working internally as a match analyzer and making a big input in the newsroom,” Jones said.
For Papa, it is a dream come true as the only African referee to officiate in three World Cup tournaments.
He told GRTS before his departure to the host country that his dedication and hard work made him achieve that mark.
“I am very, very happy and proud. I can say, Alhamdulilah.” Papa said.
Mr. Jones, who started enjoying life in Doha, described his stay in Qatar as welcoming and hospitable ahead of the tournament’s start.
There has been widespread protest across the globe against the World Cup in Qatar, with critics joining forces to condemn human rights abuses in the Arab Gulf country.
The experienced broadcaster, however, views things differently, saying the protests are hypocritical propaganda that weighs against Qatar while underscoring the tremendous job done by the country to host the World Cup.
“There are violations in the US where the rights of black people and other minorities are seized. In England, there is racism, particularly in football and elsewhere.”
“The world has got to stop the hypocrisy. They have to change their attitudes about what they believe in. Qatar is an Islamic state, and this has to be respected alongside their cultures.”
Jones also shared his prediction of the African nations participating in the tournament, naming the Teranga Lions of Senegal as favorites to advance to the round of 16.