Gambia: Ebrima Manneh Exclusive

As one of the country's brightest young coaching talents and football pundit, Interior FC Coach Ebrima Manneh sat down for an exclusive interview with Observer Sports on a wide range of issues.

Manneh led Interior to the finals of this year's Gambian FA Cup competition and will face Gamtel on the 22nd of July at the Independence Stadium in Bakau. Despite the interview not about that game with the Telecommunication Boys, Manneh spoke on important issues mostly on the administration of football in the country for the past four months.

We started the chat with the first ever coach of Samba Football Club who spoke on the plight of the Normalisation Committee of The Gambia Football Association since the Seedy Kinteh led Executive was barred from Office by the Minister of Youth and Sports what "the country not making any headway in football."

His words: "I cannot account for what they have done so far [the Normalisation Committee], however I can give you an educational guess. Our understanding was that they were tasked with a number of terms of reference among these is to regulates, in other words to re -structure the GFA League competitions. Well the jury is still out on that, when the infrastructure shifted every thing rumbles and that is exactly what has been the case for the Normalization Committee.

They are under resources both in term of human, financial and material resources.Sport bread expectations, football development in terms of making revenues, Gambian football is underfunded and they are fully aware of that, but yet still took the mantel to steerr the affairs of football in the country.

"Under the Seedy Kinteh led Executive, the GFA FA cup competition has eversince been competed by all football clubs throughout the country, only this time the normalization committee felt the need to exclude the provincial football clubs. They were also charged to put in place a constitutional framework towards the September 30th congress. So far they failed in there first huddle in convincing both the province and the FIFA representative.

We are looking forward to the recent review constitution when it is made available. In terms of national teams' participation, we failed miserably and it looks like as if not happen, we are quiet about it. With the ugliness running rampant, the tolerance of the fan is being tested our beautiful game is losing its shine" Manneh said.

Under the Normalisation Committee, the Gambia has performed woefully in continental and global competitions and there is a likehood that the country will not partticipate in any international tournament, the first time that that would happen in the 2003 U-17 championship in Swaziland. And speaking on the decision to set up a Normalisation Committee, Manneh said they are yet to make any positive impact.

"No, it has not yet. When we look through the lens of each other; s weakness, we make others strength irrelevant and others weakness more evident. Knowing the fact is not necessarily the same as understanding, and we often enjoys comfort in drawing to the fast conclusion of others.

My honest opinion, the decision to dissolve the then executive committee has become the biggest set back in Gambian football in the recent times, primarily because there was not enough consultations and sharing. We need to realize that we are not a law onto ourselves and the more we began to value principles, procedures and people, the greater will be our future.

"Our ability to communicate is arguably the most important skill we need in order to manage our disputes and indifferences. Often we make decision under time constraint and mostly without comprehensive information and therefore we end up drawing to wrong conclusions. The path to mediocrity is the quick fix syndrome, short cut approach; that has become an established habit now; it doesn't surprise me, only it is now a trade mark.

You don't need to be a genius to know that we will not make it to any continental football competitions this year. It is simple; we did not only lack the necessary resources, but also the habit of planning ahead. Preparation equips us to manage the velocity, uncertainty, complexity and diversity of change to personal and collective advantages" Manneh said.

"I shared this view that one man practicing sports is better than fifty men preaching sports. We need a linking power, we need people that has the passion for the game, we need to give the game back to the people, the game belong to the people."

The Constitutional Review Committee was recently told by a visiting FIFA deligation to scrap off the educational criteria attached to the positions of the President and Vive President and speaking further, the former Gambia U-17 coach said. "It is irrelevant. In governance every body is required to play by the rules to affect changes in the status qua.

All sport organizations has a number of key roles that must be carried out in order for them to be governedand function effectively, often this roles arereferred to or set outin the constitution and therefore cannot be altered without the approval of the members of the organization ( General assembly). The general assembly is the ultimate decision making body, empowered to arbitrates, debates and ratifies the major decision proposals, so I wouldn't worry about the voting delegates come the congress" he added.

He added that he doesnt share the notion that the regional clubs have been marginalised as claimed but is with the belief that that constitution will not passed at the congress. He however added that he is flabbergasted by the notion that, the provincial voting delegates comes from Jupiter and Mars to vote in the GFA congress.

"You see any time we think the problem is out there, that thought itself is the problem, we disempowered ourselves. My honest opinion, that statement was inflammatory and has no place in our sport. It is an oversight of political education. It is my experience that most people are not intentionally incompetent; neither are purposefully mean or manipulative. The fact that other people not like you aren't perfect shouldn't hold back your efforts to create a high trust environment.

We need to understand building competency as a process, it takes humility to ask for and receive it. Superiority is a spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love, contentment or even common sense and can lead to hate. If we cannot change the very fabric of our thought we will never be able to change reality and will never therefore make any progress. Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great passion."

Financial Plight of the GFA

The GFA is currently undergoing some financial constrains with reports that staffs hasn's receive their salaries for five months while a hotel has also impounded the Secretariats vehicles for non payments of dues accumulated during the 2005 U-17 championship hosted by Banjul when Omar Sey was at the helm of affairs.

Manneh added: "Lack of needs assessment survey, such as the assessment of risk facing our football one can argue about the financial climate, meaning how easily it would be to replace that source of funding. Lack of policy and strategic direction that tantamount to poor communication with the stakeholders, imagine what would have happen had they gone to the provinces; it would have been a waste of resources.

"Effectiveness of the normalization committee, since the committee provides strategic direction for the organization and the final arbitrator on what they can and cannot do, it is therefore important that they operate effectively. There policy and strategic plans should take them from where they are to where they want and need to be. It seems that vision is very much lacking. They were excited when newly nominated to serve in the committee over sighting the fact that football had moved on and would be difficult to keep with the current trend."

The congress for the election of a new and democratic Executive Committee is slated for September 30th and there are rumours that the likes of Willy Abraham of Real de Banjul, James Gomez, Ebou Faye, Hala Samba amongst others are interested to fill in the positions but Manneh was not very committed on that but was unequivocal with what has to be done.

"Early suspects momentarily please; well that is a difficult one. Sport leaders are a scare commodity in this country. We may not admit it but that is the truth. The normalization committee comes into office thinking everything was there; well they must be disappointed by now.

"To head any sporting association in this country is to part with your family socially, invest you finance into sport rather than your children education, place your title deeds at the mercy of financial institutions and etc etc. The Seedy Knteh lead executive committee provided that back bone in the Gambian football in the recent years and we shouldn't close our eyes to those great efforts.

"I have a feeling that we have young potential candidates who need to understudy how Gambian football is and need to be funded, that will take time and patient. To give those potential candidates a chance we will need a leader with great leadership experience to provide that philosophy.

Seedy Kinteh wasn't bad; he had people who filled positions and not fulfilling there position requirements that were part of his short comings, at some points he single handedly run and finance the GFA activities and commitments nationally and internationally. We shouldn't lost sight of him, he is the man for the GFA presidency, I don't think any of his contemporarily should come back to the GFA, they wouldn't add any value to the new image of Gambian football".

Formation of the football league clubs association

Manneh added that the formation of the Gambia football league clubs association will help in consultative agendas, information sharing, provides an improve football developmental agenda in consultation with the GFA. He said it will also create and work in partnership with football stakeholders in particular the GFA. Recognize their roles and responsibilities; provide voluntary sand relevant services in football development.

"We believe firmly that The Gambian League clubs should be treated differently from other commercial companies. The decisions of many owners and governing bodies to recognise football clubs as businesses can be shown to have caused many of the financial, regulatory and cash flow problems that have threatened the existence of so many clubs in recent years.

"We believe that any new arrangements in the regulation of football clubs should take into account the enormous social and economic impact of the clubs on their local communities. The importance of league clubs to their local communities and how the results of their actions can be felt far away from the football pitch.

We endorse the idea that clubs should recognise formally their social role and adopt it as one of their core purposes, investigate candidly if they are achieving this objective, and try to develop their relationships with fans, local authorities, residents and businesses on a continual basis.

"The lack of commercialism and mediocre spending on the game, places the social fabric and future of our football in grave danger. We need to create a future where clubs would be able to celebrate their links with wider society by promoting democracy, entrenching links with the local community and providing much-needed stability in the boardroom.

We believe that, due to the poor governance of a domestic game that is still riddled with lack of adequate funding and credibility problems, government intervention in football is very much justified. We subscribe to the fact that football should therefore be reshaped in the interest of the league clubs and the game's longevity with the aim of restoring responsibility to the game's finances."

Football needs Jammeh's continuous support

"Finally, I think we should go back to His Excellency the President to seek for his continues support, he has enormously provided consistent support to the youth development of this country in particular football. He has created opportunity for youths of this country to pursuit decent means of survival.

He has great love for this country and youth activities particularly football. There is a need to build a Sports Complex that accommodates football school(s) only then the path way to high performance and commercial athletes will then be forth coming" Manneh concluded the marathon interview.

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