total of seven Gambian U-17 players have been disqualified from taking part in
the WAFU A African U-17 qualifiers barely six hours before The Gambia play Mali
in their opening game of the competition in Senegal yesterday.
The decision left the team handicapped and nearly incapacitated as it means only one player is eligible to sit on the country’s reserve bench for the tournament.
The country’s football governing body; Gambia Football Federation (GFF) said due to the timing and the conflicting answers, sometimes even inadequate from both the CAF medical representative and the WAFU General Secretary, has left them with a bitter taste in the mouth and they are suspecting foul play.
The GGF therefore expressed its disappointment and consternation in the manner in which seven (7) of our National U-17 Players were disqualified from taking parting in the WAFU A African U-17 qualifiers.
Following the circular from CAF that the MRI test on U-17 players who will be part of the qualifiers for the AFCON 2019 in Tanzania must pass an MRI test, 30 players were identified by the coaching staff headed by Abdoulie Bojang to do the MRI test in order to have a final 20-man squad for the tournament. Based on this information, an invoice was sought from IMODSEN in Dakar to conduct the MRI tests on the 30 selected players.
On the 11th August, 2018, the aforesaid number of players accompanied by Head Coach Abdoulie Bojang, Sadibou Kamaso - Team Manager, Pa Matarr Ndow - Physio and Kalfa Manneh - Medic for the GFF respectively, travelled to Dakar to have the MRI tests done. The MRI tests were conducted on all the 30 players after which the results were sent to The Gambia Football Federation and received on the 19th August 2018 with the following results:
1. Stage 6 - 6 Players
2. Stage 5 - 17 players
3. Stage 4 - 6
4. Stage 3 - 1.
Upon receipt of these results, the General Secretary of The Gambia Football Federation was asked to email CAF and confirm which stages qualify for the tournament in order to avoid any inconveniences. This email was sent to the General Secretary of CAF on the 20th August 2018 who replied that he would forward the same email to the appropriate department to reply to that effect and a reply was sent from Sheriff Ahmed Abou El Enein, Senior Manager - Contract with Africa & Sports Medicine/ Technical and Development Division of CAF stating that players who fall within the stages 1 to 5 category are eligible to play in the tournament, whereas stages 6 are qualified.
Based on the information from Sheriff Ahmed Abou El Enein, all the players who fell in the categories of stage 6 were automatically dropped from the squad and the final 20-man squad was selected from those that had stages 3 to 5 in their MRI test results hence the final 19-man squad that travelled to Dakar. The results of our initial tests paid for by the GFF and conducted from IMODSEN are in our possession for verification.
On the 24th August 2018, an email was sent by the WAFU General Secretary to the GFF President with an attached timetable for the schedules of MRI tests for each participating team. Coincidentally, the same centre IMODSEN, where The Gambia U-17 had conducted its tests, was chosen by CAF again for The Gambian team. The date chosen was the 4th September 2018 at 9am.
The Gambian team arrived in Dakar on the 3rd September 2018 and got booked at Novotel as scheduled. We were greeted by one Mr. Gaye who said he was the guide assigned to us but had little information as to what our itinerary was.
On Tuesday the 4th September 2018, The Gambian team reported to IMDOSEN at 8.30am for the CAF MRI tests. Sherif Ahmed Abou El Enein came in a little after 9am and was assisted by one Dr. Secka and the tests commenced right after. We were told that the results should be available within the next couple of days. Upon arrival at the hotel, we hadn’t seen any WAFU or Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) official to assist us with issues of concern until Wednesday the 5th September 2018 when we were scheduled to train on Tuesday the 4th September between the hours of 8.00am and 9.00am at Dakar Sacre Coeur and also scheduled to do our MRI tests on the same day at 9.00am.
Our Team Manager personally called Jammeh Bojang the WAFU General Secretary on several occasions but he wouldn’t pick his calls or return them. But fortunately them, their guide was able to talk to someone at the Dakar Sacre Couer football field who said they may use the field so long as there was no team using it. This went well because the team scheduled to train that afternoon didn’t showed up and they were lucky to use the said stadium on the afternoon of the 4th September instead of the morning of September as earlier scheduled. Mr. Willy Abraham the Head of Delegation was able to get Mr. Jammeh Bojang who claimed he had visited our hotel on the night of the 3rd September 2018 before midnight and was told we were in bed when we had not even reached the hotel or checked in as we got to the hotel at about 00.40am on the morning of the 4th September 2018.
Mr. Jammeh Bojang visited the hotel on Wednesday the 5th September 2018 and informed our team that Liberia had withdrawn and there might be a slight change in the competition which may result the groups being changed from three groups of three teams to two groups of four teams. However, during the technical meeting organised on Saturday the 8th September 2018 at FSF offices, they were told the grouping system will remain same and the Winner in the 2nd Match on the 9th September in the Group B would progress straight to the semis as opposed to the earlier scheduled due to Liberia’s withdrawal. At the said meeting, our team was told that the MRI results and accreditations would be ready and sent to the respective teams as they had continued to ask for the results of the MRI test.
On Sunday morning around the hours of 11.00am, the Team Manager received a call from Willy Abraham, HoD of The Gambian team who intimated to him that 7 of our players had failed the MRI tests and were disqualified. An email was forwarded to him by Willy which had the list of players disqualified from the different participating teams. Mr. Abraham, Abdoulie Bojang, and Mr. Kamasso, called Mr. Jammeh Bojang and headed to his Hotel to seek clarifications on the email received. Upon arrival, they met Mr. Jammeh Bojang, Sherif Ahmed Abou El Enein and another gentleman at lunch and expressed their concerns. They were told by Sherif Ahmed Abou El Enein that there was nothing they could do at the material time and that we should send all our queries to CAF who would be able to answer to our questions. Mr Jammeh Bojang was unable to give us any answers as well as he said that was beyond him.
Our team’s questions were as follows:
1. Was there any possibility for us to see the MRI test results conducted by CAF at the same centre IMODSEN in order to make comparison with the results that we had as we were in possession of the tests we had carried out on our payers?
2. Why were the results being sent to us on the morning of the match day when we were told that these results would be available a couple of days after the tests?
As mentioned earlier, the team was again told to forward all queries and questions to CAF by Sherif Ahmed Abou El Enein as he is unable to answer any questions at the material time apart from confirming to them that he was the one who had actually replied to the GFF General Secretary to confirm which stages were eligible to play in the tournament.
In light of the above, we have formerly lodged a protest with CAF because we believe that we have been disadvantaged by the process and unfairly treated because even after taking our own initiative and resources to conduct the MRI test, at the same facility chosen by CAF, why would the organisers wait until the morning of the match before they would send us the results of the test. Thus, we are urging CAF to intervene on the matter as soon as possible.