By: Foday Manneh
For the longest time, we have been talking about the deplorable state of football in the Upper River Region. Unfortunately, however, nothing much seems to have happened.
According to stakeholders, including football coaches and players, the major problem hindering football development in URR is the authority’s neglect of the sector, with no conducive facilities for young talents to prosper.
“We have talented young players in URR who want to pursue their careers in football, but because there is no hope of progressing here, many of them decided to embark on the perilous backway journey. Recently, we lost an entire football team in the Mediterranean Sea.
“The truth is that we can’t blame them. The authorities have neglected us, especially the GFF, who only focus on the Greater Banjul Area. We can only develop if the people responsible decentralize their development and infrastructural projects,” Essa Drammeh, a football coach, said.
Skills and talent are abundant in the region, but the primary resource which derails the development of those talents is the lack of infrastructural support. Therefore, the Government and other authorities, such as the Gambia Football Federation, need to prioritize rural football as a driving tool for economic growth.
Daniel Gomez, a footballer, said: “The biggest problem for most of us right now is the frequent injuries. The grounds here are a source of ending football careers. Playing here always makes us injury-prone. We need a standard football pitch, if not pitches.”
In 2021, it was revealed the URR Football Association, under the jurisdiction of the GFF, intended to transform the Basse mini-stadium in 2017 into a FIFA goal project. However, the project, which would have been life-changing, seems to have now hit a stumbling block.
According to authorities, the project was halted due to a rough-and-tumble that erupted over agreeing to hand over the space (Basse mini-stadium) for the said project from the community to the GFF.
TAT was made to understand that despite a disagreement between the community and the FA, the stadium is the property of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which could have the final say over the facility.
In a similar development, the First Lady of the Republic of the Gambia, Fatoumata Bah Barrow, in 2020 had donated an artificial turf specifically for the youth of Basse. It has been over two years since the material was donated, but the joy of playing on pitch turfed has been seized in Basse.
In late 2021, Basse Multimedia-Gambia reported that the donated turf has caused some brawls between the regional authorities in URR, which resulted in the seizing of the material by the then Governor of the region, who kept the material under her possession.
Her successor (current Governor), according to that report, stated that the turf was kept on the basis that it would be handed over to the young people if a suitable ground was identified and prepared for its installation.
TAT made efforts to hear from both the URR-FA and the Governor regarding the proposed goal project and the donated turf, respectively, but all efforts were fruitless as they declined to speak on these matters.
As the most-awaited Gambia Football Federation election looms to elect a new football governing body for the country – whether Kaba or Kamaso – the young footballers in URR with their coaches and football enthusiasts are renewing their demand for a decent footballing environment to be provided for the growth of talent in the region.