By: Baboucarr Camara, Director of Communications GFF
A headline on the famous Gambian online portal, The Alkamba Times, reads: What is holding Government, GFF to renovate the ban Independence Stadium (sic). The story was authored by Buba Jallow. As the GFF’s Communications Directors, it is important that I put rejoinders when and where there is a factual misrepresentation or a lack of understanding about some topics.
By the time the qualifiers resume in March 2023, it’d have been exactly two years since Gambian supporters watched their national heroes at home. This isn’t a desirable situation for any Gambian. Playing our home matches away from home do not only deprive fans the opportunity to cheer their players, it also makes us, as a Federation, and where concerned, the government, lose a lot of revenue and at the same time incur extra expenditure.
For the umpteenth time, let me state, in no uncertain times, that the issue of the national Stadium is beyond the GFF. Whenever the GFF has an activity at the Stadium, we pay for the services. However, the good thing is that the government, who are the owners of the Stadium, has committed itself to upgrading the facility to a standard allowed to host international matches and the Minister has already announced that we should be able to play our matches at home in March next year.
I wouldn’t want to delve into the matter of football stakeholders voting overwhelmingly for continuity, the voices of the members of the GFF had never been louder. But during the political process, there were people who genuinely meant well for Gambian football but for their lack of knowledge and understanding of the GFF as an organisation and its processes, they joined the bandwagon because it was convenient for them. The GFF is been portrayed by Buba’s ilk as a purportedly corrupt institution but to date, no single individual has come out with even a slightest of evidence of financial mismanagement at the Federation. Not many institutions are audited thrice a year, but the GFF is one of those that undergo two FIFA audits in a year (which is conducted by international auditors) to add on to our statutory audit.
If other countries can afford to engage all categories of their national teams during FIFA windows, the GFF, for financial problems, cannot. I’m not in any way downplaying the importance of test matches but missing September and participating in the November window wouldn’t hurt us that badly to fall into the preliminaries again. A situation where we’ll be relegated to the preliminaries anytime soon is highly unlikely due to the remarkable strides made in the last few years.
Mauritania it is true has made very serious and fast achievements in terms of infrastructural development. I see many people making comparisons between us and them of recent. However, before making comparisons, it’s better to contextualise things first. We have to have a firm understanding of their situation and ours. Infrastructure is a major problem in all sports in The Gambia, including football, that is why the GFF convinced FIFA to use part of our development support on infrastructure for the years 2016 -2021. In Mauritania, the government gives annual subvention to the national federation. The government also subvents each of the national league clubs. And because they are not burdened by paying staff salaries, supporting clubs and organising league competitions, they use their entire FIFA allocations to improve on the facilities of their mini stadiums. How I wish the GFF had such luxury at its disposal. But unfortunately, unlike Mauritania, FIFA support represents 99% of GFF’s annual income.
Like all Member Associations, FIFA gives Operational and Development Support to Football House and since 2016 to date, they’ve approved US$9Million for The Gambia over the past six-year period (Average USD$1.5 Per annum).
Because our league couldn’t secure any sponsorship to date, the entire operational cost associated to the running of all our four national leagues (1st and 2nd Division Male and Female) is provided by the GFF. No club, since 2014, has paid a registration fee and we still give the clubs annual operational support which is different from the transportation costs of each match day for every club scheduled in Soma, Basori during the entire league. We also subvent the teams that participate in CAF club competition with D500,000:00, each stage, as well as providing full board accommodation at the Football Hotel during their participations in the competitions.
The GFF also subvent and support all 7 Regional Football Associations and their respective 3rd Division League Programs (Male & Female) and the entire costs of school football competitions nationwide as well as support to all our allied members.
From 2014 to date, the GFF spent huge amounts of both our operational and developments funds on our various National Teams leading to qualification for AFCON for the 1sttime in our history. The U-20 was crowned WAFU Champions and African U-20 Bronze medallist and has qualified for back-to-back AFCON for the first time in history for any Gambia national team. In addition to sponsoring the Senior National Team until recently taken over by the Government, we fully fund all other categories of the National Teams Male (U-23, CHAN, U-20 and U-17), Female (Senior, U-20 and U-17). The average cost of any age category national team including allowances, air ticket and accommodation is seven million dalasi. Organising the league alone costs a minimum 15 million every season. But despite all these commitments, for more than three months, the GFF has completed and delivered the Banjul, Brikama and Serrekunda East mini stadiums and they continue to host football competitions. Has anyone ever bothered to ask where all these monies come from?
If Mauritania is on a better footing than The Gambia in terms of youth football, the evidence suggests otherwise. Because during the last three years alone, The Gambia has won two WAFU U-20 Cup of Nations titles, qualified twice to the AFCON and the cancelled 2021 FIFA World Cup. Apart from hosting the 2021 edition, Mauritania hasn’t qualified for any major continental competition in that category.
Finally, you wrote as follows: “The caption that followed the images from Morocco, fully sponsored by the Federation, wasn’t necessary. However, not all free is comfortable. The Federation only pays air tickets, match allowances, and bonuses, but the Moroccan FA has catered for the rest.” One of the major functions of a journalist is to inform. However, if a journalist isn’t informed, then it becomes dangerous. the existing MoU between the GFF and its Moroccan counterparts only apply to training camps. All the competitive matches played by us in Morocco is fully sponsored locally. We paid for the flight tickets, allowances, full-board accommodation and referees’ indemnities. In this regard, I’d advise you to always clarify from the GFF whenever you’ve information regarding us. Ours doors are always opened.