By Sulayman Bah
Talks over finding a lasting remedy to what seems like Gambia’s never-ending football woes have yesterday, Sunday, 10 August, taken a positive turn with encouraging signs coming from contributions at the stakeholders’ football forum.
Held at the Independence Stadium Friendship Hostel and bringing under a single roof some of the people who matter in the sporting arena in the country, the occasion did not fall short of getting the right perspectives and opening the floodgate of concrete suggestions as to how to correct the wrongs and to chart the way forward for the game’s development.
Burying the hatchet stemming from the infighting, electing to office the right people with the requisite knowledge to manage the game, ensure proper competition, transparent with the management and resources, the need for infrastructure to overhaul the league, were some of the issues that topped the agenda of the gathering.
Particular attention was also given to school sports. There was a general consensus over the need to revive school sports competitions in order to groom young talents who may be recruited to the various cadets of international competitions to avoid repeat of another age-cheating saga – a thing which the delegates said is one of the reasons for Gambia football taking a dramatic nosedive.
On the aspect of revamping the domestic league, a suggestion was made for a ten-team premier league format with the popular community tourney – the SuperNawettan- to be graced as division one, by 2016. This idea however was received with derision but there were also calls for a proper review of the competition structures at the community level to ensure fair representation and the decentralization of football.
While a common ground was reached for affiliate GFF league clubs to turn professional and become transparent in their dealings regarding player transfers, among other team related issues, delegates bemoaned the lack of training facilities and poor infrastructure and the need for their renovation and provision.
There was approval from the participants to the suggestion for the teams to launch initiatives to help ameliorate their plight and avoid having to entirely depend on insufficient funds allocated by government.
The need to elect competent and transparent members to the GFF executive and to include veterans and referees in the federation’s management of football was highly considered by the consultative forum.
Throwing in his words on the sidelines of the forum, Youth and Sports Minister, Alieu K. Jammeh, described the response as positive, adding that “the objective of this stakeholders’ forum has been achieved”. He assured the government’s backing to address the woes that have long dogged Gambian football.
Gambia is under a normalization period. The situation came about after the world Football governing body, FIFA, dissolved the GFF which it said lacked stakeholders’ trust and confidence in the wake of a CAF two-year international suspension of Gambia for age-cheating.
The ex-GFF executive has always denied any wrongdoing insisting it was a player data entry error dating back to the GFA era.