Gamtel 2.0: A state club sold behind public scrutiny.

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Gamtel/Gamcel

By: Bubacarr Fallaboweh

After publishing our first article about Gamtel FC, more questions are being raised, and the former Gamtel management still needs to answer them. The persistent question is why the bidding was done out of public sight, who and who bid, how it was sold, and who sold it.

Momodou Beyai and Fish Joof join me to discuss the matter again. The questions were posed to former president Kebba Touray, who replied negatively.

Why couldn’t the government protect Gamtel? Budgets are always scrutinized, and those who wrote the budget should defend it; the budget needs to be approved easily. Why was the well dry? It is alarming how many kids will be unemployed. This institutional team social cooperative is giving back to the youths, protecting them from drug abuse, backway, and crime. Football is an easy way of keeping children off the street. If they (Gamtel, Ports, Armed Forces, Police FC, and Immigration FC) cannot help sports, who will? Use football as a business entity and create funds, let them revisit their investment and targets. Because the ways of doing things 10-15 years ago are completely different, they should change their structures, brainstorm, change their strategies, and find a solution rather than sell. It will weaken football; the muscles they have other teams don’t have. It’s a setback.

The takeover of PSV Wellingara by Papa Yusupha Njie, Chairman of the Unique Group of Companies, and Saul Frazer, the Proprietor of Global Properties, is the first private sector-led purchase of a football club in the Gambia. The new Baby Unique Global Football Club takeover was followed by Gambia Dutch Lions, formerly of Medical FC, TMT Women FC, formerly of Abuko Utd, and RS Tallinding, formerly of Tallinding United, with the latter agreeing with a partnership with RICHARD Saller. All these were preceded when a Senegalese football agent bought Gamtel for 2.2 million dalasis, a retort of our first article mentioning 1.5 million.

The worry the neutrals have when there is a new takeover is the owner’s long and short-term plans or strategies. Mr Saul Frazer says, “With sensible, measured, and sustainable investment, we can establish Unique Global FC as one of the best football clubs in the sub-region and develop good players for the international football market. We are looking at developing a standard training facility for our short-term needs, and our long-term goals are to build the first privately owned modern state-of-the-art multisport facility in the Gambia, creating a great platform to support our young people and provide employment opportunities beyond the football field.”

Football requires more investment, and Gambian teams will compete in the sub-region with the suitable investment. The duo of Saul Frazer and Pappa Njie will do this, especially with their connection and partners, with the latter doubling as the Chairman of Access Bank Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire’s Honorary Consul of The Gambia. Only Hawks, Brikama Utd, and Fortune have tried honoring their interclub matches in the last six years, hurting the coefficient of the Gambia in Africa ranking for clubs.

TMT and BST Galaxy’s emergence gives you the hope that they will honor it, but that’s in the long run. In 2021, Tenugueth FC became the first Senegalese team in 17 years to reach the CAF Champions League group stage, considering they were yet to celebrate ten years of existence in Senegal. Jaraaf, GenerationFoot, and CasaSports have all been knocking to unlock the gates of the competition but have yet to be successful.

Gambian clubs have given a pass whenever the opportunity arises. Here, Mr. Njie is assuring us of better days if the right structures are put in place by the clubs; we see a great future for the move to a professional league, allowing Gambian teams to have the financial capability to participate in the CAF club tournaments which we are currently not doing.

Speaking to the GFF Media, Lamin M. Jassey described the recent developments as a testament to the remarkable strides made in Gambian football under the leadership of Lamin Kaba Bajo.

“Our domestic league is getting more attractive, and people should expect further investment. There is a complete paradigm shift in the way that our domestic league and football, in general, are observed now. The domestic league is gaining more and more momentum now, and this is directly affecting our National Teams.”

A statement that renowned football agent Modou Lamin Beyai refused to agree to, stating, “What are the reasons or ideas saying our football is developing when none of our league players are transformed to transition to go play in the Gambia national team? We have an amateur league and will remain amateur for a long time. It’s still a developmental league. That’s why we continue losing players to Senegal and Mauritania.”

Beyai went on to lament his disappointment in the sale of Gamtel and his view on new investors in the Gambian league.

“It’s a good thing that people are coming to the Gambia or people in the Gambia are trying to transform Gambian league football in the sense that they are coming with a different investment strategy or ownership. The sale of Gamtel, PSV Wellingara, and Medical FC is good. It shows that people are interested in the local leagues. I am still determining what their ideas and strategies are, but some have long-term plans and goals, ambitions that they will be able to achieve in the possible short-term or not-too-distant future. I am worried. I observed that Gamtel FC is sold to a foreign owner and Medical FC to a foreign owner; in the long term, I am still determining their sustainability plan. I am not against foreign or Gambian owners coming to buy a club, particularly Gamtel, an institutional team. I worry that an institutional team or government team should only be sold with public scrutiny because taxpayers’ money was running the club, even some people claiming to be putting some money from their pockets, but it was all false. No matter how much money you put there, it was only what the government or taxpayers put. I expected, and I was expecting, that they would go through the normal bidding process, but they took another route. I am against the process used to get into the club. I hope what Faal did in Senegal and other African countries can be transformed here.”

We all know that PSV is a struggling club and its community-based team even though they received materials from PSV in Holland. It’s been sold to two business moguls, Saul Frazer and Yusupha Njie.

 

It remains to be seen what their strategy is, and I hope in the long term the strategies will be transformed to be a team competing in the league, titles, and competing in marketing players because they have the resources, I think, and hope they invest and get the best players.

I have mixed feelings regarding all these; on the one hand, it’s good that we have investors and foreign interests, but it’s not a testimony to me that our league is attractive. One thing for sure is that all those people getting clubs in the Gambia are all for one thing: to use the Gambia as a hub and then sell the players to Europe, Africa, or other parts of the world. It’s going to be a blessing for Gambian players. I am 100% certain that everyone will want to come in, bring in one or two people or scouts, and do some scouting; who knows, from there, some of the players will be given their chance to expose their talents and eventually sign professional clubs. It will be suitable for Gambian players. Beyai emphasized

Fish says the club’s demand is making teams turn to new investors.

 

“When a team starts at first, it’s not expensive, and everyone around is motivated, but when you go further, maintenance is usually the problem, it becomes expensive. Football is demanding, especially when you want to maintain yourself; you have to pay the players, transportation, and camping allowances. If you don’t have a tycoon or a company behind the team who will spend willingly without expecting anything in return in the next one or two years If one is investing and expecting to sell players in one or two years, and if that doesn’t happen, he will start to slow down, and that kills the interest. You end up not maintaining the good players; you go to training and find few players, but the rest don’t turn up because there is no fare because you don’t have a budget that will last for the whole season. Only a few teams put aside the budget from preseason to the last game of the season. After two months into the season, most of these teams start to struggle; preseason, they try to pump money to motivate the players to come to the team, but sustainability is a problem”.

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Baboucarr Fallaboweh
Baboucarr Fallaboweh Sports Editor (Buba Jallow Fallaboweh) is a Gambian football expert, football analyst & columnist. The Stockholm-based Journalist is a media officer, football Scout, PR, Influencer and Digital creator. I started my journalism career as a football analyst in 2012 with Vibes FM and went on to work with CityLimit, West Coast, Hot FM, Freedom Radio, Eye Africa and Afri Radio as a content producer and presenter. In 2013, I attended Football Daily on the BBC SPORTS where we discussed the different styles of Football played in Africa. I Went on to freelance for The Point Newspaper, Freedom Newspaper, Daily Observer and Standard Newspaper before being appointed as Sports Editor with the Alkamba Times in March 2022.  I have worked for Magazines like Glo Magazine and Foot54 covering Gambian football and African Football.   Between 2020 -2021 I worked as a scout for the Gambia Football Federation, scouting talents for the U17 &U20.  From 2017 to 2021, I served as Media officer for GFF First division teams Team Rhino and Marimoo and also as media Officer of Banjul FC, fourth Division tier in Sweden and Darboe’s FC (Female second division club in the Gambia). I served as a PR for Superstars Academy.   With Afrencon, I was a data analyst before I joined LightHouse as a head scout for the Gambia project. In organizational structures, I served as the ambassador of the John Bass Kidney Foundation and one of the founders of the foundation creating kidney awareness in the Gambia.   I also served two positions in the Gambian organization in Sweden, as Sports chairman and the secretary of the associations.   After 12 years of being a football journalist, I was named 3rd best sports column writer in Africa year 2021 by the reputable sports media organization AIPS. I finished in the top 35 in the world with my article titled Back way: Gambian footballers in deadly Voyage to Europe.   With over 500 articles and interviews, analysis, profiling, features and news, I was shortlisted for the Gambia Press Union National Journalist Award 2022. I submitted the article which was co-written alongside Momodou Bah From Living Through Despair to Being An Agent Of Hope, The Inspiring Story Of John Bass.   I have served as an advisers to Football academies, clubs, and players and others. I have hosted dozens of shows and was invited as a guest on both radio, TV and the online press. I also covered the Gambia's maiden AFCON debut in 2021 in Cameroon.  

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