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Club reps react to appointment of Normalisation committee for GFF

Jul 14, 2014, 10:40 AM

Club representatives yesterday converged at the Gambia Football House in Kanifing to react to the recent FIFA Emergency Committee’s decision to appoint a Normalisation Committee to solve the problems faced by the Gambia Football Federation (GFF).

Fifa in taking its decision stated: “The appointment of the Normalisation Committee follows the decision taken by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on 30 April 2014 to suspend GFF for two years from all CAF competitions.

“CAF took the said decision after it was found that the GFF had fielded five over-aged players during a game against Liberia in the CAF U-20 Championship qualifiers.

“In addition, CAF enquired about one of the players and it was found that he had been previously registered with a different date of birth. Finally, and according to CAF, suspected cases of age cheating for youth competitions by the GFF have already occurred on numerous and repeated occasions in recent years.”

“During both the CAF Executive Committee meeting held on 30 April 2014 and the CAF Congress that took place on 9 June 2014, CAF President Issa Hayatou reiterated the zero-tolerance policy for cases of fraud and stressed the need for a strict enforcement of sanctions.

“FIFA is fully supportive of the CAF sanctions since malpractices such as fraud and age cheating have no place in football.

“In addition, it appears that the current board has lost the confidence of several major stakeholders who are playing a key role in supporting football activities in Gambia. As such, it seems any decision taken by the current board would be perceived as biased and therefore could only worsen the situation.”

But representatives gathered at the GFF House to express their dissatisfaction in a letter addressed to FIFA Secretary General and copied to Pointsports.

For the benefit of our readers we reproduce the full text of the letter below:

We the undersigned members of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF), received with great shock and dismay the news of the appointment of a normalization committee of five members by FIFA Emergency Committee that will run the affairs of GFF and organize elections by 15th September 2014 latest, barely less than two weeks before the GFF Annual General Meeting and Extra-Ordinary Meeting required to subject the GFF board to a confidence vote or otherwise.

In your letter addressed to the GFF President, we were able to deduce that this decision has been reached on the basis of the situation of the GFF following the events that led to the suspension of the GFF by CAF from its competitions for two years.

In view of the above, we are with the conviction that what appeared to FIFA as the situation of the GFF, as a result of the under 20 suspension saga, does not truly reflect the current situation of the GFF that warranted the appointment of a normalization committee.

In this regard, as the key stakeholders in The Gambian Football, we deemed it necessary to clarify issues highlighted in your letter that might have agitated FIFA to act so swiftly on our young and dynamic executive committee that is hailed as the best ever in the history of Gambian football, for the purpose of averting any setback to the growing momentum of football development in The Gambia. In addition, it will also be important we bring to your attention other developments that are relevant to the subject.

(1)Fielding of over-aged players by GFF

We keenly noted that the action of the GFF was not deliberate but rather occurred as a result of the administrative negligence of the former Acting Secretary General of the GFF and now the Deputy Executive Director National Sports Council (NSC) whom for reasons best known to him, failed to make available to GFF, the CAF circular that mentioned the legibility of players in the CAF U-20 competitions while the GFF relied on the existing CAF rules and regulations.

(2) A player who registered with two different dates of birth under CAF

On that, we were able to gather that the said player was one Ali Sowe (a player of Gamtel FC) in the 2012 CAF Orange Confederation Cup Competition. Gamtel FC submitted its list to the GFA Secretariat for registration for the said competition with the date of birth 14th June 1994 as Ali Sowe’s date of Birth. In filling the CAF registration form, the GFF Secretariat mistakenly entered the date of birth of a player preceding Ali Sowe in the Gamtel FC list. The GFF blamed its secretariat for the administrative data error but not CAF. However, we have noted that this incident happened during the normalization period in 2012.

(3) Two GFF vice presidents allegedly publicly blamed the previous board of the GFF

By the last paragraph of 2 above, the former GFF board cannot be excused of any blame.

(4) Some members of GFF had not attended the interviews with the authorities who were trying to gain understanding of the event

The authorities herein referred to the Taskforce Committee set by the NSC to investigate the matters surrounding the disqualification of The Gambia from the CAF U-20 Competitions. The taskforce comprises members only from the NSC and the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS). The GFF questioned the credibility of the taskforce based on its composition:

(i)Mr Malang Jassy – the then DPS of sports (MoYS).

(ii) Mr Lamin King Colley – Chairman NSC and former 2nd vice president GFA.

(iii) Mr Pa Suwareh Faye – Deputy Director Planning (MoYS).

(iv) Mr Marcel Mendy – Deputy Executive Director NSC and former acting Secretary General of GFF.

(v) Mr Ebou Faye – General Manager Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel and the former Secretary General appointed by the Normalization committee but the GFF terminated his appointment.

Based on the composition, the GFF questioned the credibility of the taskforce and requested thorough investigation by a competent and credible body led by the police with a view to provide explicit recommendations geared towards ensuring that decisive actions are taken against people who are found wanting in the saga. This was welcomed by the police but not considered by the NSC.

The taskforce committee invited twelve people for questioning, two of whom were taskforce members, namely Malang Jassey and Marcel Mendy; eight were GFF members, namely Kebba Touray the 2nd vice president GFF, Ismaila Njie accountant GFF, Abass Bah Secretary General GFF, Ebrima Manneh Technical Director GFF, Victoria Roberts Administrative Assistant Secretary, Baboucarr Jobe Administrative Secretary, Peter Bonu Johnson senior National Team Coach, and Saikou Bah the team manager U 20. Only Johnson and Bah failed to honor the invitation.

(5)The GFF denied any wrongdoing with regard to the registration of a player with two different dates of birth.

The GFF did not cast blame on CAF but rather its secretariat for the administrative data entry error.

(6)The emergency committee took note of the considerable level of disappointment and shame expressed by the broad sections of The Gambian society and The Gambian authorities while the GFF embarked on new development programmes.

The fact of the matter is, initially the population was carried away by the strong media release from the MoYS and the report of the taskforce committee of NSC against the GFF but as soon as the GFF and its members clarified issues it was a complete mass support for GFF. This was manifested by the positive contributions in radio and television programmes and the numerous visitors that stormed the premises of the police headquarters on daily basis throughout the day during the course of their detention. Furthermore, the release and reinstatement of the GFF leaders was highly welcome by the vast population of The Gambia and the authorities as well.

(7) Complaint of a dozen of GFF members that they no longer trusted the current GFF board.

This is news to GFF, its members and the population at large as there was no media publication for that. If it is a genuine course, why should one move behind the scene in presenting such a petition to FIFA? We would be very much disappointed if FIFA that has been hailed for its democratic values can consider the position of a minority group over that of the majority. Besides FIFA advised for an extraordinary meeting on confidence vote which the NSC and GFF agreed to on the 19th July 2014 as the date for the holding of the extraordinary session. This is captured in a document signed by both parties. The notice of which has been served to members.

(8)……it deemed the current board to have lost confidence of several important stakeholders, including The Gambian authorities…….

With due respect be rest assured that the vast majority of Gambians, important stakeholders and The Gambian authorities have high confidence and trust for the current GFF and any move to remove them in this current circumstance will be a disaster to Gambian football.

We believed that the release of the GFF and their subsequent reinstatement meant that the authorities have no case against them and a reaffirmation of the trust in them. We believed that was why the minister and the NSC engaged the GFF on that resulted in a joined press conference organized by the NSC and GFF on lifting the suspension for the way forward that both parties will work towards ensuring that the CAF suspension is lifted on The Gambia. We believed it was in this spirit that they both travelled to Brazil.

(9) The FIFA performance Assessment Team

It could be recalled that the FIFA performance team that visited The Gambia sometimes back, rated the GFF as number one in terms of performance and management out of the 43 countries in Africa that they have visited. This was on both print and electronic media in The Gambia.

At this point, we wish to sincerely and honestly submit that we the undersigned members of the GFF have the trust and confidence in the current GFF BOARD and believed that the vast majority of Gambian people and authorities have the trust and confidence in the MUSTAPHA KEBBEH-led board.

In the light of the above, in view of the democratic principles of FIFA, we hereby appeal to FIFA to reconsider its decision in appointing a normalization committee and allow the current board to continue holding its AGM and extraordinary meeting where the members will freely decide their fates.

In anticipation of your kind consideration of our request, please accept the assurance of our best regards and highest esteem.