By Yahya Sanneh, a Gambian Football Stakeholder
I’m writing to you first as a Gambian who does not only love football but has many decades of experience, as a Player, Administrator, mentor of many players, and founder of many clubs. Recently, I have observed a trend of misinformation from certain people whom I believe is out of personal ambition, envy, and other reasons known to themselves to try to distort the facts about football development in The Gambia since the Kaba Bajo led administration took over the administration of football in this country.
As a country and as real stakeholders in football (we who form and run clubs and associations) will not sit by and watch a few individuals to use social media and WhatsApp groups to peddle a false narrative and try to trivialize the colossal gains made in football development in The Gambia since the Kaba Bajo led administration took over.
Going forward, we the real stakeholders shall raise our voices and set the records straight for the consumption of all. Below, I wish to articulate in this first intervention some of the gains made in respect of our National Teams putting The Gambia firmly on the Global Map as a serious Football Nation:
Senior National Team (The Scorpions) Men
- First historic qualification to AFCON for Gambia (Cameroon 2022)
- Immediate reaching the Quarterfinal and finishing 6th in Africa
- Being competitive as a football nation with the best in Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia)
- First, ever group stage win qualifiers
- The 49 positions improvement on the FIFA ranking in the last 4 years
- The 35 young talented players who made their debut in the national team in the last 4 years (this is an unprecedented development for any country)
Senior National Team (Queen Scorpions)
- In 2017, the Gambia Women’s National (Queen Scorpions) played its first ever International match in a friendly against Guinea Bissau. This is a landmark achievement by the Kaba led Administration in Women’s Football
- In March 2020, for the first time, the Queen Scorpions were ranked by FIFA, ranking 113 globally and 17th in Africa.
- The Women’s Football Player pool has increased significantly and more players integrated into the various categories of the National Teams
- Under the Kaba led Administration, Women’s Football in The Gambia gained global recognition and we now see Gambian Women Footballers turning into professionals like Adama Tamba, Penda Bah etc. Also, professional players in Switzerland, France, and Sweden are invited to join the various national teams.
- Women and girls continued to be capacitated at all levels.
Gambia U20 (Men)
- U-20 Bronze medalist at AFCON U-20 Mauritania 2021, thus qualifying for the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia which was canceled as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic
- Twice WAFU U-20 Champions (Liberia 2018 and Senegal 2020)
- Many players of the U-20 contracted to major teams in big Europe
Ex-National Teams Players in The National Team Set-up & other Organs of the Secretariat
- Sang Ndong – Ex National Team Player, Captain, and Coach is now the Technical Director of the GFF
- Alagi Sarr – Ex-National Team Player is now the Assistant Head Coach of the National Team
- Lie Bojang – A former National Team midfielder is now the U-17 Head Coach
- Abdou Jammeh (T-Boy), a former Scorpions Captain is also the Assistant Head Coach of the National U-17 Team
- Modou Jagne – Ex-National Team striker is now the Competitions Manager of the GFF
- Alhaji Marong – Ex-National Team Goalkeeper is now the National Team goalkeeper trainer
- Foday Bah – U20 Women National Team, Head Coach
- Sheikh Adama Joof – Ex-National Player, Assistant Head Coach of the CHAN Team
- George Lobba – Ex-National Team Goalkeeper, U20 Goalkeeper Coach
- Alieu Jagne, Ex-National Team Player, Trainer for the CHAN Team
Never in the history of football in this country has so many Gambian players get opportunities abroad thanks to the good development, coach education, club support by GFF and results of the National Teams (more than 150 Gambian players abroad). The Gambia is a respected footballing nation now known on the map and clubs and academies benefit from it because agents, scouts and international clubs know that Gambian players are talented. The Gambia Football Federation is live streaming both our International and League Matches daily to bring our local league and national team matches to a global audience.
Gambian nationals are working with expatriate foreign head coaches and other professionals (team manager, Assistant coach and goalkeeper coach etc.) learning best practices. We have all seen how coach Mattar M’boge is a household name across Africa making all of us proud. Matarr was a coach who had been in the Gambia before but it was only when Kaba-led Administration took over in 2014 that they gave him the opportunity.
For the first time, we see real development in women’s football with the input of a world-known coach Monika Staab in the last years. Not only that we have three categories of National Teams competing, the women league and clubs are across the country and supported by the GFF.
I will be writing on other areas we have benefitted from this administration, factors that underpinned the real development of football not rhetoric in my subsequent articles.