By: Bubacarr Fallaboweh
A state club sold for 1.5 million dalasis to Senegalese football mogul Youssou Faal. A successful team relegated to Gambia’s second division has been sold and changed to Serekunda FA, which is unknown to the general public.
TAT Sports can authoritatively confirm the figures and reasons why the club was sold. Players have confirmed this medium of receiving the two months’ salaries owed to them, and only four players have been maintained. The new owner told TAT Sports he will comment on the big project soon.
Gamtel won four FA Cup titles and two league trophies and went on to represent the Gambia in CAF inter-competition despite not reaching the group stage.
Under which circumstances was Gamtel sold? Because Gamtel, Armed Forces, and Gambia Ports Authority are State-owned and funded by the State. Once it is sold, you have lost ownership. Every Gambian owns Gamtel, and when you struggle, you invite partners because you do not sell shareholders ownership for 100%. What happens when Serekunda FA makes millions of fortune in the next three years while the government cannot benefit? You put in conditions that benefit the identity of the club. If you look at Germany, all clubs are traditional and don’t sell to foreign investors. They preserve the heritage of the team. If you look at AC Milan, a foreign investor bought 100% correct, bringing different systems and personnel.
Gamtel/Gamcel has been sponsoring this team since 1997 without any problems. They have reached this level without sponsorship; football can only go with sponsors.
Gamtel/Gamcel is facing many challenges. They need help in the market. The company needs more money than the Football team; it is not their co-activity. They are just trying to fulfill their social responsibility.
It reached a point where they needed help sustaining the team by paying their players salaries and giving them fares for training.
Subvention needs to be more forthcoming; they (GFF) only give D50,000. Sometimes, they schedule you to play in Basori, and you foot the bill home and away.
The payroll of Gamtel FC is D150,000 per month. Weekly fares go to D8000, camping allowances D5000-D6000. If you look at that and are playing week in and week out, it becomes expensive daily. At the time, Gamtel owed three months’ salaries, and players refused to go to training. It is an embarrassment to the board. In the end, the players were not committed.
Sometimes, you must get the required number of substitutes on the bench. It would be best to have good players; you don’t see them because they tell you you must pay them before they come. Gamtel has never experienced this situation; the Gamtel we know is one of the top football clubs in the Gambia, competing for the league and FA Cup. The football team bus had a problem for over a year; you must pay players because they have families.
They don’t have a choice but to sell the team because it has been relegated. They were on the verge of relegation three times and got relegated the third time. Football is not the priority of Gamtel right now because they are not performing in the business market, so they want to focus on providing good services to their customers.
Football is expensive; it’s an everyday operation. If sponsors tell you they cannot give money to the team and, in return, the team cannot maintain their boys, they will lose all the good players. Football is a business. Suppose you are selling a product you know is good and high in the market. In that case, you will not check who is a Gambian and non-Gambian; you will look for a suitable buyer, and the buyer is in partnership with the Gambia. The buyer has agreed to use Gamtel and Gamcel as advertisement brands to complement them in selling the team.
Manchester United is not owned by an Englishman but by the Glazers, and many other teams have foreign owners. You are doing business, and you want money because there are players you should pay them off and start a new life.
So many things are happening in our football; only some will talk about it or look into it. We should consider the status of our stadium in our football because we are going to the Cup of Nations. We cannot get a test match in our stadium. Moreover, is GFF subverting teams on time?
Football used to be a voo. You are passionate about the team, someone spending in the group, wanting nothing in return, and the players did have a sense of belonging; it’s our team, and we will play for pride. But now, the status quo has changed. Players’ mentality has changed, that football can change the status of their family, and club owners have also seen that football is demanding.
Before you could sit without preparing lunch, no camping, you meet at 2 pm and go to the field. Now you hire a car, players will camp, some teams do sleepovers, the demands are high, and few have the financial muscles to sustain that. Please take a look at the institutional teams; they are complaining. Gamtel sold its club, Ports Authority, to struggle.
However, the budget is significant, and managing football entails a lot. There are things that footballers want, and the board can provide them for them. The investment has reached where you will give the president, manager, and coach all the resources he wants. Even Wallidan and Real de Banjul will cut costs. What you need to prepare a player for the market takes a lot, and many teams need more time to be ready to dig their pockets.
We have seen teams like TMT and BST Galaxy; they are trying and have just spent one year in the division. You can see the changes they brought because of the investment they put forward. Paying players on time and getting incentives will encourage players to perform more. All clubs that don’t carry such incentives are struggling. Ultimately, you spend money year in and year out; if it’s not yielding dividends, you give up.
It’s difficult for GFF to help teams, as we all know, parastatals companies that are not investing in sports. The sponsorship is very poor. Even GFF has a package that covers their activities for the whole season, which is a problem and another struggle for them.
The government can play a better role in involving the stakeholders to be part of the beautiful game. The subvention is an excellent help to teams; it reduces the burden on them because what the team has in hand, plus a sponsorship of half a million, helps a lot. In teams like Marimoo, one person keeps on spending for the love of the game.
It’s an improvement for people to buy teams; if you look at the traditional teams, it comes with a sense of belonging, players coming from the area or a nawettan team being pushed to the division.
All those from that area consider the team traditional because of its history. It isn’t easy to sell that team. Those buying teams know the constraints in the team, so they prepare very well to take it to the next level; they have contacts of financial muscles that, when the takeover is complete, will improve the team. Steve is a typical example; when he was buying Dibba Oil, the Jarra-based team had potential, players, and everything. When Steve bought it, how many good players came, and how many players did he allow to expose themselves beyond the borders of the Gambia? Those are the differences. Buying teams is an investment; it’s not just for the love of the game; they are working to achieve a lot, giving back, but at the end of the day, it is all about business.
If we sell clubs, we must sell with prospects, especially teams with history. You have to give it to safe hands to improve the team and show you plans and proposals, but selling a club for one or two years goes backward.
In modern football, it is more than just giving the budget. If you look at successful clubs, they give out a budget and follow up the budget, the development of the team, the development of players and coaches, and you believe in the process.
The institutional clubs are not ambitious to go to the next level, and that’s where the struggle is. The most determined teams who motivate their players to the next level are the ones with positive results. Look at Fortune FC; when was it formed till they won the league? How many good players did they attract? A lot.
When Alieu Baye took over Wallidan, it was in the second division, and he brought them straight to the first division. He brought quality players, paid them, motivated them, and made them believe in what will prosper their careers in the future.
Teams must be ambitious to go to the next level. They committed themselves when Ports and Gamtel won the leagues from the MD down to the last man. All the matches, training grounds, and motivation were there.