By Bubacarr Fallaboweh
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura returned to her native roots for the laying of the foundation stone of the Demba Diop Stadium in March 2023.
It all began in 2020 when FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) signed a memorandum of understanding. Then, in September 2022, the FIFA Development Committee gave its approval to commence the renovation work.
Built-in 1963, the Stadium has remained closed since 2017 following a wall collapse during a league cup final between Oukam and Stade de Mbour, which left eight people dead.
With its sight set on an ambitious Football conquest, the West African nation is building 26 mini-stadiums, according to Senegal’s Ministry of Sports. And all that unfolds as the Gambia struggles with a single Football infrastructure.
“26 is a good number. We complain about the good infrastructure (mini Stadium); only Abdoulaye Wade stadium is good. Leopard Sedat Senghore is under maintenance. Big cities should have mini stadiums like Ziguinchor, St Louis, and Kalock. If it’s not politically motivated, it will help our football because small communities don’t have any infrastructure; they play on sandy pitches.” Journalist Ousman Cise told the Alkamba Times.
The Gambia Football Federation has already exhausted the Fifa 2.0 project covering every funding requested, but FIFA is withholding percentages because they still need to complete the tasks.
Almost every mini-stadium is incomplete from the Banjul mini stadium, Serekunda East, Serekunda West, Busumbala, Gunjur, Manjai, Goal project, Jarra Soma – nearly 12 projects worth 9 million dollars are line-up for implementation, and none of them is complete.
Project works started in 2018 and, to great dismay, are yet to be completed; Serekunda East also remains in the wings with no end to the tunnel.
Serekunda East president Modou Yusupha Cham told the Alkamba Times they are reviewing the project.
“We have taken over the refurbishment of the pitch for ourselves as we advance. In July, the federation brought in contractors and promised the work would be finished, but now we are told there is no money in the federation’s coffers. The sand is the problem; the contractor just poured gravel; therefore, in the future, I have advised the federation to bring in agricultural engineers and not civil engineers. We are working on some areas of the pitch which are very important.” He stressed
“We have told the KMR that their third division matches cannot be played in East Park. The civil work (perimeter fence, dressing rooms, public toilets) is perfect but looking overall, and the football parks are a challenge for the federation. I have advised them going forward; they have to separate the contractors. Serekunda East hasn’t signed any MOU with the federation. Lights are still not fixed.”
Badara Pullo challenged the Government of the Gambia through the Ministry of Youths and Sports and the Football Federation to copy the Senegalese and Mauritanian models regarding sports infrastructure.
“The state couldn’t access those funds for the Demba Diop stadium, so they transferred ownership to the FA and applied for them. Like the government builds schools for us, this is a developmental project under Youths and Sports. They see young people need this space to develop their talent, explore themselves and develop, so why not. The Gambia can do the same thing. They can get funding to build.” Badra emphasized
“There is nothing a sitting government can’t do; the issue is the political will; once it’s there, they can do whatever. Imagine creating spaces for young people across for several reasons, a) to develop their talent, b) to let them focus, and stay away from drugs & substance abuse. Senegal is doing this because they are trying to build youth talent,”
“Engage stakeholders, the ministry of finance, minister of Youths, and make it a proper stakeholders meeting. Bring every player onboard, develop and task people, and devise a concrete plan,” he added.
In November 2022, Serekunda West Football Committee, Africell, and KMC agreed to Transform the SK west park into the first Mini-stadium in KM. However, the project’s goals are yet to be realized as the Gambia moves to expand its sporting infrastructure.
With the urbanization and population of the City, the City was losing its recreational centers, and clubs usually train in schools that have to be only after 6 pm and on weekends. So then KMC, funded by the EU under Talib, came with the KETP project.
“KETO park includes a chain-link fence, a six-aside football field, toilet facilities, and a children’s playground. Africell has also committed to building a basketball court and outdoor gym in a second phase.”
AlkambaTimes engaged Kemo Bojang, a general council member and a sitting youth and sports committee member, on the mini-parks that Talib Bensouda is building across KMC.
“All eight would have pitches; the only one without a pitch is the one at traffic lights. Tallinding & Bakau is almost done; we plan on opening before the end of Ramadan.” Kemo added.
“It’s part of our KTEP project, where we planted 180k trees. We got funding for these projects almost two years ago. So the funding was there, and we wanted to ensure that regardless of us coming back or not, whoever becomes mayor can continue what we have started, the funds are diverted, and the people of KMC get what they deserve.” He concluded