Independence Stadium in Bakau, The country's only Stadium which has been referred to both by CAF and FIFA as unfit to host matches

By: Baboucarr Fallaboweh

The Ministry of Sports under the Barrow government still has a long way to go concerning the country’s Independence stadium.

The surface of the grass and the dressing room is in a bad state. Still, power outages, especially in the middle of matches or the end part of the matches, have dire financial and physical consequences.

The power outage has a ratio of happening in every two other games, especially the night matches. Therefore, it leads to many congested fixtures in the middle part of the season. For example, falcons versus Steve Biko scheduled for Friday 20th May 2022, was continued on Wednesday 29th June 2022 because the lights went out in the 86th minute.

CAF fined GFF $6000 in what was Gambia’s last home match against Angola through the match commissioner’s recommendations before the Gambia turned to Stade Lat Dior stadium. As a result, the Gambia won’t return to Thies unless it meets CAF requirements.

Ebou Faye, the stadium manager and member of the Gambia Football Federation competition committee, calls the “On and Off” a challenge and a problem.

“Sometimes we speak to Nawec, they do promise us, but 90minutes or 2 hours of electricity supply is not guaranteed, and the challenge lies there. Sometimes, when it’s off, we speak to them so that they put it on again. But sometimes, it’s the whole system that is down. The stadium has a standby generator, but the lights are old. So it’s a challenge and a problem we are trying to address.”

The lack of good football pitches across the country has led to the overload usage of the Bakau independent stadium. The stadium remains banned by CAF, meaning the Gambia will play their home matches in Morocco, starting with the Alagie Sarr CHAN Team, before Mali’s doubleheader. First Division and Second Divisions fixtures are jammed pack at the 38-year-old stadium with football enthusiasts sharing it with musicians and wrestlers.

The Federation, which promised the communities to hand over Banjul Mini Stadium, Serekunda West & East mini stadium, Manji, and Brikma Mini stadium, has failed the breadth and width of the population, leaving the country’s elite football with only one owned ground. The Late Omar Saho ground, renting Basori and independent stadium for Male football and using the Kitty Field for Women football. Kitty is being given for free, while the Real De Banjul complex is only available depending on Willy Abraham’s mood. Male First and Second Divisions fixtures have been called off, with clubs reaching the grounds only to be told that matches cannot be played here.

Fans are frustrated after making long trips to watch their clubs, keeping 50% of the rest who don’t trust NAWEC competency.

During the Playoff of Gunjur versus Rhino FC, the Power went off in the 78th minute and 29 minutes played Wallidan v Elite (FA Cup Quarter Finals)

“We are forced to train a day after Tobaski for only this abnormal match, but only shocked to play only 29 minutes.

Technically it doesn’t have any significant impact as we can train this morning but psychologically (mentally), it has a massive depression on player’s morals.”

Psychologically, it affects the players and the team, especially when one is leading. It interrupts the progress and intensity of the game. A circumstance of déjà vu. The stadium management standby Generator is not an option.

Despite the Wrestling association sometimes using the Serre Kunda West field mini stadium, where they pay a venue for D10,000, cash power 2000, and deposit D5000 for damages control. The association, in return, has given a revenue worth D100,000 to the mini stadium ranging from their bout to face with the wrestlers. Grand combat like the one named after Yusupha Saidy is estimated to be over 1 million dalasis; some wrestlers were paid D300,000, D150,000, D25,000, and D20, 000. The Federation is paying 25,000 just for the lightning at the stadium for two matches; the title showdown between Real v Hawks was almost canceled due to the uncertainty of Power.

Events like (Music show)at the Independence stadium cost between D150,000-D250,000, whereby you will pay 50% of the price just in case you flop. Last year, the Barrow government assigned the stadium management to cater for the participation of the Gambia African cup of nations.

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