Scales Sports project:World Under-20 championship: Gambia’s place and image in history!!
By Associate Editor Muhammed Jawara, New York.

World Under-20 championship: Gambia’s place and image in history  ….

In June 2007 The Gambia will participate in FIFA under-20 world football championship for the first time in our history. It’s been a long road for Gambian football, and given all what we know about Gambian and African football history, it’s our turn to make history. Besides the knowledge of our common passion for the game, we also know that we are not a football powerhouse by any means. We are no Senegal who have appeared in a senior World Cup before nor are we Ghana with a rich history of football trophies and achievements. Notwithstanding, like our two West African sister countries; our passion for football is unshakable and our desire for success is second to none.

That said, it’s our duty as Gambians to remind ourselves of the past in terms of Gambian and Africa history. Whether its Zimbabwean players, Ghanian football trialists, Nigerian footballers or what have you, the issue of African players missing in western countries is nothing new. In addition, fans and officials are often guilty of making headlines about “missing Africans” in international tournaments. Of course, we all know what that means beyond the word “missing”. And, if you are still wondering what it means, I would not waste time in wrangling. It means for one reason or the other, these players, officials or fans intentionally escape from the camps to be in hiding, with no desire to return to their countries. They have always wanted to be economic migrants. They have done everything in their capacities to leave for the western world but to no avail. When the opportunities arise, as in the events like football tournaments, they do not hesitate to grab them. We are not talking about fiction here. This issue is a fact about African football; involving players, officials, and fans. Its time we debate it.

For a person living in the west for right or wrong reasons, any stance against illegitimate ways of getting to the west can be deem by the people at the other end of the pole as hypocritical. However, the fact of the matter remains that, any negative story created by African teams in the western world have broad implications for Africans; individual and collective. For this reason, I am not ashamed to be part of this debate! The onus of the problem lies at the very heart of our football fraternity; the football officials. Living on some points of our corruption cycle, football officials often find these tournaments as the opportunity to make more money for themselves. They disseminate information through various means about the chance to get to Europe or the Americas, to fans whose sole purpose of being part of fan groups is to leave our shores for economic salvation. In the process, fans are not fans as we know in sport glossaries. Rather, these fans become clients of officials who often ask them to pay huge amounts of money to get their names in fan lists.

There are no rules set, or at least followed in selecting fans based of their true passions for the game. Instead, fans are selected on the grounds, such as whether they are related to officials, whether they have enough money to bribe officials for the opportunity to be part of fan groups; or they are merely friends who have nothing to do with football. These so-called fans are uncles, nephews, brothers, friends, clients and girl friends and boyfriends of football officials. Without any doubt, the majority of these fans have other motives other than supporting and singing for the footballers. It’s not wrong to migrate to the western world for economic reasons.

What is wrong however is the manner that some people chose to realize that goal. Using the high seas, walking the Arabian deserts, hiding in a potential suffocating area in an airplane or joining a football entourage for the sole purpose of what we call in the Gambia “to Dodge” are inexcusable. Although our country is characterized by economic hardship and huge unemployment rate that does not do any good for the youth, i am afraid that is not enough to put the image of our country, the future of our game and most importantly, the lives of our youth at risk.     In today’s world of media convergence, information is almost free for consumers. And selling information, especially bad information to this globalize world, is good business. The western media and of course our own media have nothing to lose in making headlines that can taint names of countries or individuals, with virtually no one to spare. Ask George Bush his views on that, and you will have only one unequivocal answer.

African football has come a long way and its time we make good use of what we have in football. We should cleanse our football souls and start a new direction where corruption and carefree attitude would have no place. We should care about our image not only for football reasons but also ethical ones. As for The Gambia, it is important to understand that as first timers, the world of football is watching us with curious eyes. What we say, do, and how we act would be seen through the lenses of the world media. If we choose to act the good people we are, we would be portrayed in that light by the media and the world. On the other hand, if we choose “to Dodge”, fight and cheat in any way, we would be portrayed in like manner by the media and the world. So it is a choice that the Gambian football fraternity has to make; but the consequences would be felt by every Gambian home and abroad. We hope the government is taking the right measures to ensure that the world comes to know The Gambia as the little country in Africa, with peaceful, intelligent and competitive people and not the country whose fans and players make names in Canada for all the wrong reasons. I hope we take our place in football history with gusto, re-enforcing our peaceful image in the big time. Good luck to The Gambia.

Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 (Archive on Tuesday, May 29, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI

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