Thursday, May 15, 2014

Football clubs deliver ultimatum, threaten boycott

GFF president Mr. Mustapha Kebbeh and VP Mr. Buba "Star" Janneh
To charge ten members of the Gambia Football Federation and one Ministry of Youth and Sports official as the National Sports Council (NSC) has done is a travesty of justice.

The members of the Executive have taken full responsibility for fielding over-age footballers during a Confederation of African Football (CAF) tournament.

The fielding of over-age players that has plagued Gambian as well as African football is as old as the introduction of internationally-sanction tournaments by football's governing bodies like FIFA and CAF.  The Gambia's two FIFA U-17 World Cup and two CAF U-17 Championship, all in 2005 and 2009 respectively were largely attributable to the fielding of overage players.  Cheating is glorified and has become a way of Gambian life under a regime that views football as a political activity, and if you can cheat and get away with it, do it.  But when you are caught, I will not only throw you under the bus, if you survive, I will throw you in jail.

Jammeh proceeded to inject his huge personal fortune in football as investment, to use it as a propaganda tool to keep the youth vote in his corner by awarding cash prices and plots of land to "football champions." He has helped aggravate the plague until the footballing authorities introduced new measures to make it difficult to cheat.  Now, he is lashing out at the Football federation for committing an infraction that he, Jammeh, has encouraged and condoned since he seized power in 1994.  There are two culprits here:  the GFF and Jammeh.

The 22 representatives of football clubs have risen to defend the GFF officials by pointing to a National Sports Council (NSC) created under the regime of Yaya Jammeh to control football by stacking the membership with his political cronies and a disproportionate number of government Ministries/Department. The clubs are demanding the release of the GFF 11.  The clubs are citing Part III Sec. 1 (a) as reason to allow the GFF to utilize provisions under its own constitution to take disciplinary action since the federation did not "cease to operate as a national sports association as provisioned in the NSC Act.  

Consequently, the clubs have issued an ultimatum that if the suspensions of the officials are not lifted unconditionally within seven days,  they will boycott all league matches and other activities organized by the Interim Committee.  The suspension and the appointment of an Interim Committee by the Minister of Sports is violation of the Statutes of the GFF and the NSC Act of 2000 according to representatives of the 22 football clubs.

The National Sports Council Act 2000 is considered by many as the genesis of Gambia's sporting problems. The law gives the semblance of a democratic control of the game by the various associations, as required by the respective international governing bodies.  When Part II, Sec.4 (a-g) of the Act provides that the Chairman of the NCS is appointed by the Minister and the Minister of Education is a member of the Council, and so are three nominated members by the same Minister, where is the balance.

The clubs that are supposed to run their respective sports are now taking instructions and command from the Minister, and by default, Yaya Jammeh.  No wonder, football, track and field and others sports are in a state of complete chaos because the Gambia is unfortunate to have a minister who is over his head with no managerial experience with a high degree of partisanship that has irreparably damaged Gambian sports just as Yaya Jammeh has damaged all of Gambia's institutions since seizing power illegally almost twenty years ago.  

The National Sports Council Act of 2000 a very bad law that must be repealed are the earliest opportunity. Sports should be administered by the stakeholders who are the clubs and other sporting associations and not politicians. to assure a majority.  Until then. we stand in support of the GFF, GNOC and similar national sporting federations in their fight to take politics out of Gambian sports.