Gambia’s Under 20s shocked the Nation!!

Minister Omar Faye likely to be Fired!

Disgruntled supporters attacked coach Bonou Johnson’s home

Gambia’s under 20s have started packing their belongings for home, as they lost their match with Austria 2 goals to one. Shock and disbelief gripped football fans both at home and abroad. The team could not make it  for the Canada 2007 tournament, which was given much political support by the Jammeh leadership. As a form of motivation, the Gambian leader personally handed $5000 dollars to each of the squad members. But hopes of bringing  the cup home,  have been dashed away with the Gambia, prematurely sent packing at the beginning of the games. The Austrian team defeated the boys with two goals to one. Reaction across the country have been swift. The defeat has been attributed to poor sports leadership and lack of proper coordination. Most likely heads are going  to roll at the Department of  State For Youths and Sports.

The team’s poor performance never came as a surprise to sports followers here. The Minister who is expected to revamp the sports industry has been engulfed with an unfinished marital dispute. Minister Faye was accused of snatching the wife of one Omar Adams. Adams resorted to court to seek for justice. The said case is pending in the Gambian courts. Prior to attending the Canada games, Minister Faye was said to be not in speaking terms with the President.

Now that the Gambia has lost the much publicized game, observers here say the Minister is likely to be shown the exit door. The Gambian government spent millions of dollars to finance the said the games. Even though the President had earlier said he was going to take care of the visa fees, the cost of the players and supporters lodging was being footed by the state.

In an attempt to halt illegal immigration, the Canadian government applied strict rules to deny Gambian supporters, whose applications information were found to be insufficient for visa issuance.  The Visa officer was not convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that some of the supporters would return to the Gambia after the match, as in the past some Gambian match supporters absconded without returning to the country. Canada defended its  move to slam visa denial against the Gambia, even though the Jammeh government accuses the former British colony of “discrimination” and unfair treatment.

The Gambia is currently faced by an economic downturn, which is forcing many of its youths to leave the country,  in search for  greener pasture overseas. Most of the frustrated youths got trapped into the desert, while some died while trying to cross to the Canary Island. In a bid to curb illegal immigration, the Jammeh government reached a bilateral relationship with Spain to help stop youths trying to migrate into their country illegally.

News of the Under 20s defeat devastated the Gambian population. What was expected to be a victory for the Gambia, has shattered the hopes of sports fans here. Many people turned off their television screen in protest. They could not withstand the defeat. Many blame sports officials for the deafeat. They called for total reforms in the area of sports in the country.

Gambia’s Sports industry suffered dramatically under the leadership of Omar Faye. Many coaches have resigned in the past due to lack of political will on the side of the authorities that be to advance the cause of sports in the Gambia. These coaches complained about poor pay and lack of “free hand” to coordinate football in the country. In the end, the Sports Ministry had to scout for local coaches to mange football affairs in the country. Our home based coaches have been accused of being biased when it comes to selection of footballers. They also tend to neglect the plight of players and favor their immediate friends.

Meanwhile, reports from Canada say some of the Gambian supporters were being closely monitored to avoid any absconding. The visas issued to these supporters expired after the games. Sports officials told the Freedom Newspaper that they would do their best to ensure that the supporters return home. In a bid to lure the supporters to return home, the Gambian leader earlier promises them a handsome present upon their return.

If it turns out that Minister Omar Faye is fired, because of the Canada defeat, there is a likely hood that public confidence into the sports industry would be restored. The Minister has been widely criticized for not giving “serious” attention to the advancement of sports into the country. Minister Faye, we are told , was a former sportsman,  but in reality he lacks the necessary leadership qualities to head a demanding and challenging Department of State like that of the sports Ministry. His critics say Faye was taken to the wrong Department of State. His predecessor Samba Faal was said to have performed better than Faye. It was under Faal’s watch that most the talented under 20s were discovered. Faal also helped the boys to be signed by other international leagues.

The baby under 20s would not receive a warm welcome in Banjul. Across the country, everyone here is angry. The only thing the President can do to win the confidence of sports fans is to restructure the sports ministry. Already, the state is reading the writings on the wall. The house of coach Bonu Johnson  was attacked by angry youths after Gambia’s match with Mexico. Johnson’s wife was forced to leave the residence, as the angry supporters were poised to set the  house ablaze. These protesting supporters were never arrested by the police. With news that the Gambia has been knocked out from the Canada match, the reactions to follow  in the days to come would be unpredictable.

Gambia’s sports fans have now resorted to violence to vent their anger, which is alien to the country’s sports industry. The attack on the house of coach Bonou Johnson was a signal to the authorities that the country’s sports fans means business. Those entrusted with sports management have two options. One,  to either deliver or leave. What is most disturbing though is the new culture of violence, which could trigger national uprising.

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 (Archive on Tuesday, August 28, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI
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