By Lamin Fadera

Four years ago, the Gambia Football Federation announced that it has secured a funding of (1,627, 500 USD) seventy-six million, four hundred and ninety-two thousand, five hundred dalasis from FIFA in a global meeting in Russia at the 8th FIFA congress in Moscow in June 2018.

Many football lovers received the news with excitement and finally dreamed of having a proper standard field and a state-of-the-art football pavilion in the Gambia.

However since the GFF announced such a piece of gigantic news, years have passed without achieving the dream project and finally, those dreams have turned into a nightmare.

The GFF also said in a press release in June 2018 that they will build new grounds in Busumbala, Gunjur and the national technical training center in Yundum will have a football pitch and a swimming pool.

Imagine zones like Serekunda East, Serekunda West, Brikama, Manjai, Banjul, and Brikama couldn’t play their annual football Jamboree due to lack of proper football grounds, this was as a result of the Gambia Football Federation rehabilitation projects that started and was never completed in time.

These zones lost millions in revenue, more than ten thousand youths couldn’t play Naweetan over the last two seasons, talent growth retarded.

In the just-concluded Africa Cup of nations where the scorpions registered success by reaching the last eight in its debut campaign in Cameroon 2021, the catalog of some of the players in the Gambia national team once played Naweetan football in these zones.

With Tom Saintfeit and his boy’s remarkable performance in the AFCON, it will be unthinkable to believe that the Gambia is struggling to play proper football in the domestic league due to scarcity of grounds.

The FIFA Forward Program 2.0

The FIFA forward 2.0 is a grant given to the 2011 member associations for the development of football in their respective countries. Each member association received four million dollars (4,000,000) for 4 years.

The most prominent Forward program 2.0 amendments for 2019/2022 among them are the football field project. According to FIFA, it does approve 200,000 USD to member associations if they meet the criteria of the contract’s objectives concerning infrastructures such as pitches, technical centers, training grounds, stadiums, and headquarters which the Gambia is a beneficiary. 

These projects may include other development areas provided that the member association has at least one stadium/pitch allowing international matches to be played, suitable association headquarters, and a functioning technical center’’ according to the FIFA forward program 2.0.

How Much Money has the GFF Secure from FIFA

Bakery K. Jammeh Solomon Mudege, Lamin Kaba Bajo, and lamin Jassey in Russia 2018

According to the general secretary of the Gambia Football Federation in June 2018, The GFF has secured funding of over (1,627, 500 USD) seventy-six million, four hundred and ninety-two thousand, five hundred dalasis from the global football body at a meeting in Moscow.

The delegation that went to Russia was led by president Lamin Kaba Bajo, 1st Vice president Alhagie Bakary K. Jammeh, and General Secretary Lamin Jassey.

They had a meeting with FIFA and Mr. Solom Mudege the FIFA development officer for Africa and the Caribbean. After a successful meeting, the world governing body approved 1,627, 500 USD. 

This is the breakdown of the 1,627, 500 US dollars from FIFA

1. Improvement of football infrastructure in Banjul, Bakau, Serre Kunda West, Serekunda East, Manjai, Brikama, and the independent stadium football field valued ($235,000) Eleven Million and forty-five thousand dalasi

2. Constructions of new football fields in Kombo North, Kombo South, Serekunda Central, and natural grass pitch at the Football Hotel in Yundum. Floodlighting for Serekunda East, Serekunda West fields as well as Brikama and Bakau football field worth ($472,000), Twenty-two million, one hundred and eighty-four thousand dalasi

3. FIFA solidarity support for the procurement of football jerseys and equipment for various categories of national teams of The Gambia worth $170,000, Seven million, nine hundred and ninety thousand dalasi

4. The 2018 forward development support to GFF:

A. Organizational areas (support to league and clubs, $177,500); eight million three hundred and forty-two thousand five hundred dalasis.

B. capacity building, $38,750) one million eight hundred and twenty-one and twenty-one thousand two hundred and fifty dalasi

 C. improving football infrastructure (construction of new fields in URR-Wuli/Sandu, CRR-Kaur, LRR-Kiang, West Coast Region-Foni, NBR-Farafenni and swimming pool at Football Hotel, completion of Soma Mini-Stadium pavilion) worth $408,750, nineteen million, two hundred and eleven thousand, two hundred and fifty dalasi.

D. Procurement of two luxury buses for the reduction of transportation cost to GFF. Project value $125,000, five million eight hundred and seventy-five thousand dalasis.

EMAIL TO FIFA IN 2021

In October 2021, I contacted FIFA about the funds it has given to the Gambia Football Federation since 2016. 

According to FIFA, it has approved 11 projects to the GFF of which 9 projects have been completed in the Gambia and two are still ongoing.

 Among the projects FIFA said it has funded was the rehabilitation of the FIFA gold project (National Technical Training Center).

Since your questions refer to the project funding, all FIFA members associations are entitled to forwarding 1.0 project funding (USD 2.25 million) and Forward 2.0 project funding (USD 2 million). 11 projects from the GFF have been approved – of which 9 projects have been completed and 2 projects are ongoing. As shown on the Forward Impact Map, USD 2’586’936) has been committed to these GFF projects. Some of the projects that the GFF has embarked on include the upgrade of the GFF Football Hotel and capacity building/support to leagues and clubs in 2017/2018.

‘More recent projects include the upgrade of facilities and infrastructure used in the men’s and women’s leagues, the purchase of 2 national team buses, vehicles for the GFF secretariat, and support for the GFF Women’s National Team in the 2022 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers’’ said FIFA in an email to Lamin Fadera

According to FIFA an amount of USD 1,663,064 is still available for the GFF to use on further projects once the specific request has been received and approved by FIFA

Reactions of the Zones Presidents in August 2021

The president of the Brikama sports committee Victor Sambou blasted the Lamin Kaba Bajo administration as a failure. He said work has stopped at the Brikama Box bar mini-stadium a few months ago since the GFF embark on the project last at the time.

“Work has stopped here long since and when I contacted the contractor, he told me the GFF has not given him a dime, they are the one pre-financing the project that’s why they stop renovating the ground in Brikama” Sambou said in August 2021. 

Serekunda East president Modou Y. Cham also confirms that the contractor assigned for the work at the East Park express his disappointment with the GFF.

“I was really surprised when the contractor told me he was the one pre-financing the work, we as a zone called on the GFF for a meeting to know the reason the work stops at the East Park, but unfortunately they didn’t respond until a few weeks ago and we told them our frustrations, they promised that work will resume soon,” Cham said in 2021. 

Gibril Njie president of the Manjai Sports Committee told Afri Radio that if they knew that the Manjai Park was not going to be completed in the time they would have allowed the GFF to touch their ground for the rehabilitation.

‘if we knew this is what was going to happen we would have told them to allow us to play our Naweetan and when you are done rehabilitating our park you can come and do the work that you want to do’’.

Chebou Jeng former Public Relations officer of the Serekunda West, and Ndongo Camara 1sr Vice president of the Banjul Sports Committee all share similar sentiments in 2021.

What the contractors said 2021 September

The contractor who was responsible for the Serekunda East ground Mr. Abdoulie Bayo said, he simply stops the work because he invested over 1.4 million dalasis to revamp the ground. He paid the laborers and the material he bought at each ground but the GFF did not refund the money he spent. This is the reason he halted the work at the ground until further notice.

In 2022 work has now progressed at the Serekunda East mini-stadium since the resumption of the rehabilitation by the GFF.

The ground has been level and perimeter iron fens have been built by the GFF

The contractor assigned to renovate Serekunda West Banjul, and Manjia goes by the name Mr. Sambou, he told Afri Radio in August 2021 that he has spent over 4 million dalasis since he stated the 3 grounds but opted not to continue investing his recourses without knowing his fate.

“To be honest I cannot continue to spend my money without knowing when the GFF is going to pay the money I spent previously, know for us contractors since the deal has been a sign, we don’t wait for the money to be sent in our accounts all we do is to invest what we have with the hope that there will be no delay in the transaction so that we can finish the work in time. Normally for the GFF to send the money in our account should not take two weeks for the transaction to be completed but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way” Mr. Sambou said.

‘THE PROJECT IS A TOTAL FAILURE’’ EBOU FAYE

The second vice president and head of the competition department at the Gambia Football Federation Ebou Faye confirm to Afri Radio 0n the 22nd August 2021 that the football field project is a total failure on the side of the GFF.

‘We accept that this football field project is a failure on the side of the GFF and we must accept and take responsibility, this is a collective one and a bad judgment on our side’’ he said.

GFF STATEMENT11TH OCTOBER 2021

According to the Gambia Football Federation in its press release updating football followers about the field project they haven’t received any single money from FIFA,

GFF is yet to receive any money for Item No: 6 Refurbishment of existing grounds (Banjul, Brikama, Manjai, Serrekunda East and Serrekunda West) works estimated at USD1, 200,000. The works done so far, plus payments to the consultants, and the procurement of two new sets of Artificial Turfs for Brikama and Banjul were paid from the GFF Covid Fund and GFF Prefinancing from our operational support and short-term Bank Loans’’ the release said.

GFF 1ST VP BAKARY K JAMMEH INTERVIEW 2020 AFRI RADIO

Despite the GFF denial of receiving a single dime from the FIFA on the field project, however, the 1st vice president Alhagie Bakary K Jammeh confirmed to Afri Radio on Thursday 27th August 2020 that the GFF has received ten percent (10%) of the 1,627, 500 US dollars from FIFA simply because the world governing body was concern about the land tenure issues which has caused a setback to the process.

‘Regarding the infrastructure project, the GFF and FIFA have agreed on in Russia regarding the road map we want to take, very little progress has been made as far as the disbursement process concern; we have only received ten percent simply because of land tenure issues. We have a significant setback in an incident that I didn’t want it to happen. FIFA is concerned that the parks are not owned by the Gambia Football Federation, so investing in that they have to be sure that football will be played there 100%, we have seen recently some grounds owners have stopped some matches played in their parks’’ Mr. Jammeh told Afri Radio in 2020.

In 2022 some progress has been done at Serekunda East and Brikama, but Gunjur ,Manjai, Serekunda West,Busumbala are still wondering when shall their grounds be ready for use.

What is certain is that the dream of thousands of youths has turned to a nightmare after the GFF promised to rehabilitate and construct some of these major Naweetan centers in The Gambia.

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