His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh has extended his generosity to the Gambia female U-17 football team that participated in the World Cup in Azerbaijan.
He handed over to them keys to a brand new 25-seater Mini-Coaster bus and D100, 000 to each of the 21 players and D50, 000 to each of the squad's technical team members. He also pledged a monthly allowance of D10, 000 to the coach and D5, 000 for each player and support staff of the team. He made the same offer to both the male team and the U-20 male team.
President Jammeh made the offers last Friday evening when the team called on him at State House in Banjul to thank him for his continuous support to the development of football in the country.
President Jammeh commended the female squad for their performance and expressed hope that they will in the future win a trophy. He said the team's qualification and participation in the World Cup was in itself a great victory for The Gambia and urged the Ministry of Youth and Sports to establish a strong national football association committed to the development of football in the country.
"Your participation alone is a victory for all Gambians. We have teams and countries where female football is not new and they have been playing and have professionals but they didn't qualify. So, to qualify for the World Cup alone is a victory, even if you did not play, that is a victory for us. In defeat, you learn lessons. It is from a tough battle you learn lessons. It was also a journey of experience, an adventurous journey but one thing is very clear, the day that Allah decides that we are going to win the cup we will win it by the grace of the Almighty Allah.
You have made us proud we will also make you proud and I for one would make you proud. It is inconceivable that knowing the fact that the majority of Gambians that strengthen the revolution encourage us since day one being women of this country. I will give you the support all the way and I would want to make sure you stay as a team. Maybe next time you may not be qualified to be called as a team but you will be the flag-bearer for the U-20 and the senior team. So I want to thank the Almighty Allah for granting me my vision, my ambition and my objective in football in this country," he said.
President Jammeh noted that there are countries that have been playing since the inception of the World Cup and yet they have never gone up to the quarter-finals till today. "And these are big footballing nations and for the Gambia's U-17 female Baby Scorpions to go and be part of only three African countries to qualify for the World Cup and the fact that they were in the group of best and played against the winner of the tournament giving them two goals definitely is a victory.
"Gambian football has come a long way considering the teams that have qualified to this tournament, among them Gambia is the newest to come to the football world, the smallest and the poorest compared to Ghana and Nigeria that have qualified for the tournament. Among these three African countries that qualified for the tournament only The Gambia was in the group of best. We should be proud of them, their coaches, support staff and the youths of this country both male and female," President Jammeh enthused.
While praying for the speedy recovery of Alhaji OB Conateh, chairman of the GFA Normalisation Committee, the Gambian leader also thanked the parents of the players, pointing out that if they were not patriotic, there is no way some of the players would have been in the team. "If they didn't love this country and have faith, there is no way you would have been in Azerbaijan most particularly when you had to pay your own fares to and from the training and your parents supported you all the way, that is unique," he added.
President Jammeh also hailed the supporters for their good conduct and support throughout their stay in Azerbaijan. "One thing that has been a marked difference I observe this time around is that the supporters were like you have won. Those are the type of supporters we want because we don't want supporters that will make noise and as soon as the first goal is scored against you, they keep quiet and that would discourage you. That is a psychological defeat. The fact that despite all they were supporting you [the players] I think that also contributed in energizing you to do your best. I want to thank you also because you have shown examples that even if you don't win give it your best.
There are so many things that the football fraternity should learn from the performance of this wonderful daughters of ours. With this team, I think without any prejudice they may be the first to win the World Cup but irrespective of which team goes me would always give you my prayers at all times. I said you may be the first to win, why, because it is Allah who decides but if you continue with this vigour, determination and patriotism you will win the cup one day inshalla," President Jammeh concluded.
Ministers Teneng Mba Jaiteh, Mass Axi Gai, Fatou Lamin Faye and Dr Njogu Bah all praised President Jammeh for revitalising football.
The minister of Youth and Sports, the vice chairman of the GFA Normalisation Committee and the chairman of Gambia for Gold all thanked President Jammeh for his support to the team during their camping in Azerbaijan.