The minister of Youth and Sports has disclosed that the normalisation process of Gambian football will be over when a congress is held to elect the new Executive of the Gambia Football Association (GFA) at the end of next month.
Minister Alieu Kebba Jammeh was speaking to Observer Sports in an exclusive interview at his Office at the Quadrangle in Banjul Monday, where he also discussed the way forward for Gambian sports in general and government's commitment to the development of sports in the country.
The Youth and Sports minister, who recently returned from the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, said before the elective congress, another congress will be held to adopt the constitution as requested by FIFA. He averred that as a government, they have built very firm and strong relationships between both FIFA and CAF for the development of football in this country and as such they will not entertain any distraction from anyone who will want to jeopardise those fruitful relations with the two bodies.
"Whoever [that] does not accept the reality as at now should simply excuse yourself and stand aside. Our motivation is mainly for the development of the country and sports and football in particular and that is what His Excellency the President wants. It was based on this that I travelled to South Africa for the Nations Cup and had meetings with the President of CAF, Mr Hayatou, to discuss on how to move as a country in the development of football and how CAF can help. They have committed to send here the Technical Director of CAF to re-structure our Technical Directorate of the FA and also to provide financial assistance to support our decentralisation effort," he said, while assuring that the national football league will be played across the country and not limited to the Greater Banjul Area.
Minister Jammeh revealed that as soon as the constitution is agreed, there will be a change of name from Association to the Gambia Football Federation wherein there will be regional football associations and there will be a need for support both financially and infrastructure wise. He said Hayatou has also given his firm commitment "to support all our endeavours of supporting the normalisation of football in The Gambia and in reciprocating the relationship and his support to us, I also took the liberty to inform him how much the president personally and his government cares about to uplift the standards of football in this country. In addition, I assured him of our continuous complementing his efforts at any level and on any desire that he has on the development of football in The Gambia".
The need to celebrate Omar Sey and Papa Gassama
The Youth and Sports minister also spoke about the need to celebrate the vice chairman of the Normalisation Committee, Omar Sey, and referee Bakary Papa Gassama whose performance at the Nations Cup was hailed by the continent and the international football family.
He said: "During my visit to South Africa, I was privileged to learn first hand how much respect and recognition was given to Papa Gassama and Omar Sey who are both Gambians because of their respective sterling contributions to the development of African football. Papa is a young successful referee who is representing both CAF and FIFA and Omar Sey is both a football technician and organiser of both continental and international football, so we are proud of them as Gambians."
Jammeh also said that he is highly appreciative of what the chairman of the Normalisation Committee, Alhaji Fisco Conateh, has done for football in this country. "What I also learned from South Africa is that the successes of other countries, are [due to the fact] the fact that the stakeholders have accepted to work together with the government of their countries and I have seen them with their sports ministers, NOC and FA presidents working together and lobbying for their countries," he added.
Satisfied with achievements
Minister Jammeh, who also spoke on the general development of sports in The Gambia, conceded that though a lot of work still needs to be done, he is generally satisfied with the process in the drive to re-structure Gambian sports and football in particular in terms of administration and in unifying stakeholders as one and bring hope back that sports can be a critical contribution to national development.
He continued: "It is from this fact that we have started seeing other sports beginning to have meaningful leagues like Basketball after eight years break. Volleyball is starting its league in March and football is already ongoing and the other sports, athletics, table tennis and the rest are really gearing up to remain very organised. At the Ministry we have put in a Committee headed by [veteran educationist] Alpha Khan to recommend and go to the grassroots and schools and the way we can penetrate the schools and the community grassroots to identify to play sports in the right calibre of age. Very soon those people will submit their report and let me give you the assurance of the continuous support of the president towards sports development in the form of financial, moral support and guidance. The Ministry's main objective is to prepare the men and women that can represent the country at all levels both nationally and internationally in the next five to ten years."
He added: "The Government has put in place elaborate plans to develop infrastructure and we are building contacts with both local and international partners to assist in this drive and all this will be expecting continuous unity, sincerity, honesty and commitment amongst the stakeholders."