Jan 10, 2013, 9:13 AM
The 4G’s of Gambian Football
“The Gambian football fraternity presently may be divided into three distinct groups. Group one can be further divided into two sections. Section one of Group One can be described as the ‘Old Guard’ and most of the people belonging to this section are old to middle age persons. They are very important figures in Gambian football history and most of them own or control football clubs in the existing GFA League. They are presently in control of Gambian football in the form of being members of the Normalizing Committee (NC) of the GFA.
It will be a big mistake to underrate or underestimate the contribution the old guards have made in community, national or international Gambian football. We must respect them and honour them but we must also acknowledge the fact that they are human beings and so are prone to self interest and mistakes. The biggest problem being, how, for many years, they used the Regional representatives (Regional Sports Chairpersons) and their clubs to elect the executive of the GFA and prevent the decentralization and professionalization of Gambian football in the process.
To justify and retain control of the GFA and Gambian football the old guard developed some concepts for football development in the country for FIFA/CAF, The Gambia Government, the Gambian people and the media. It was common to hear:
1.The provincial clubs are not yet ready to join the GFA League because in the past clubs from the provinces were beaten 18 to 0 by Banjul based football clubs.
2.Proper football field infrastructure does not exist in the provinces
3.The provincial road network and transport system is not good
4.And so on
It was also an open secret that some people of the old guard believed that “they eat breath and live football “ so football in The Gambia belongs to them. This concept originally started in Banjul with the people of Banjul but has spread to KM and today in some areas of the WCR mainly due to migration and influences by the people of Banjul. It was also not strange to see people who originally came from the provinces (e.g. as far as Basse) but used sports as a spring board for political or social advancement joining or being part of this group.
Political and social advancement is still a factor in Gambian sports but recently those factors have been overshadowed with the increased wealth in the game of football. There is a lot of money in football today and a good player is worth millions of Dallasis in the international football market. Hence, the drive to reduce the potential competition from provincial clubs. This is one of the reasons the old guard have resisted the decentralization of our football and the professionalism of our football leagues. The other reason is simply because they did not know how; because no serious pressure or study have been put on them or made to decentralize or professionalize league football until now. Instead of putting forward the FIFA influenced proposed constitution for consideration by the clubs and Gambian people they decided to doctor a constitution that further isolate the Regions (That NC constitution was rejected by FIFA and all sectors of the football fraternity) . But perhaps the NC did not understand or maybe they misinterpreted the FIFA influenced proposed constitution.
Section two of Group One can be best described as the ‘Middle Guard’ and most of the people belonging to this section are middle age to young. Some of them are very important figures in Gambian football history and most of them own, control or manage football clubs in the existing GFA League. They controlled Gambian football during the last 7 to 8 years until they were sacked by the Minister of Youths and Sports (MYS) and replaced by the NC of the GFA. In fact, the middle guard was trained and promoted by the old guard to take over from them but the middle guard was in a hurry to take over power and when they saw some infighting amongst the old guard they decided to make their move. The middle guards played them against each other then push all of them aside, so some of the old guard felt betrayed, hence, the negative tension between them. Presently, it seems like the old guard have maneuvered their way back to power with the formation of the NC of the GFA.
There is no difference, in concept, objective or ambition, between sections one and two in group one just differences in interest and personality. The middle guard was elected into power mainly on the bases that the existing constitution will be revised and reformed to decentralize and professionalize the football league.
The President of the GFA was elected precisely because he was from the provinces, despite the fact that he was a ‘trainee’ of the old guard and later was the owner of a GFA League club and despite the fact that he with his GFA executive worked with FIFA in formulating the first FIFA influenced proposed constitution. It was not, however, in his interest to change anything in our football over the seven years he was President, hence, the frustration of the Gambian people and the MYS. Resigning their post after being removed was the safest thing to do because of their failure to deliver their promises. Presently, because they cannot really defend and justify themselves, the middle guard are engaged in character assassinations and petty exposure of the MYS and certain members of the NC of the GFA.
In their imaginary fear of losing their standing, influence and even clubs if decentralization and professionalism is practiced by the realization of the FIFA influenced proposed constitution the middle guard have mobilized some of the existing GFA League clubs and formed an association (the Football League Association) to resist the proposed constitution while pretending that it is the personnel’s in the NC that they are really against
Section one of Group two can be described as the ‘Regional Middle Guard (RMG)’ and most of the people belonging to this section are middle age to young. Some of them are very important figures in Gambian Regional football history and most of them own, control or manage nawettan centers in the provinces and football clubs in the existing Regional League. This section one of group two includes most of the Sports Chairpersons in the provinces. They were at one time in GFA Executive elections between the old guard used to favour one opponent against another. Two to three of the old guards used it very effectively against their rivals but it was last used by the middle guard to push out the old guard after convincing the RMG’s that the old guard was only using them.
The RMG are mainly football lovers from the provinces controlling/owning nawettan centers/Regional League clubs or people from the Grater Banjul Area (GBA) who migrated to the provinces and became sports chairperson or have a regional football club. They have for many years put their hopes, and total trust in both the Old and middle guard to change the status-quo, but to no avail.
Section two of Group two can be described as the ‘Regional New Guard (RNG)’ and most of the people belonging to this section are middle age to young. Some of them are very important figures in Gambian Regional football history and most of them own, control or manage nawettan centers in the provinces and football clubs in the existing Regional League. This section two of group two includes a few of the Sports Chairpersons in the provinces.
The RNG are mainly football lovers from the provinces controlling/owning nawettan centers/Regional League clubs or people from the Grater Banjul Area (GBA) who migrated to the provinces and became sports chairperson or have a regional football club. Some of them have been fooled once or twice but are determined not to be fooled again, especially, by the Middle Guard and their GFA League club owners from the provinces. They have studied the proposed new constitution and have decided that it a step in the right direction and are determined to adopt it if it is not doctored. However, this group is yet to be convinced of the sincerity of the old guard because they sent out a constitution which is still titled the ‘GFA’ and yet they go around announcing the formation of the Gambia Football Federation, the increase in the number of National First and Second Division clubs, etc. Which is which?
When you are the bearer of something you don’t really want to bear you create confusion.
I apologies, sincerely, if I have offended or hurt anybody by the above mentioned analysis of the history or events of Gambian football. The true intention was to get to the truth so if anybody feels that what has been said is wrong or misunderstood in any way you are welcome to put it right with facts and figures. The other intention is also to bring about understanding by Gambians of what really is going on in our football and form the basis of reconciliation between the various groups that are presently controlling our football.
One thing which is common and certain to all those groups mentioned above is that they love their country and the beautiful game; but they may have allowed their personal interest and/or lack of knowledge of sports sometimes comes in the way of the 4G’s: “for the Good of The Gambia” and “for the Good of the Game”.
Three reasons working against the FIFA back proposed Constitution
It seemed that my advice on what to do about the FIFA back GFA proposed Constitution fell on deaf ears. In this article I will attempt to do three things:
One to prove that some members of the NC twice deliberately mishandled the sensitization and presentation of the FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution, to both the Regions and the GFA First and Second Division clubs, with the sole objective of getting them to reject or extracting out the most important aspects of it (for their own personal reasons), hence, antagonize FIFA/CAF and the MYS.
Two to prove that most of the GFA First and Second Division clubs owners were totally against the constitution for their own personal reasons and not for the 4G’s
Three to prove that most of the Regional Sports Chairpersons, who control the Regional Football Clubs, instead of critically looking at the benefits the FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution, FIFA/CAF and the Gambia Government can achieve for them, in terms of decentralization, professionalization and the development of football in the provinces, they concentrated on revenge against the old guard, on power (voting rights) over the Greater Banjul Club owners, and empty promises from the recently sacked GFA Executive.
The NC and the FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution
The NC delegate returned to The Gambia from FIFA, in Geneva, with a mandate to present the first FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution and an extension of six months to convince the Gambian people. The blue print Gambian constitution the NC was given was a product of a joint effort between the recently sacked GFA Executive and FIFA. Unfortunately, that FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution did not see the light of day (e.g. not presented to the people for consideration by the old “elected” GFA Executive). The funny thing is that, that FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution; still never saw the light of day even during the first three months of the NC. Why?
Because the NC, like the former “elected” GFA Executive, did not like it, simply because it threatens the very existence of the existing GFA League/Clubs and encourages the existence and development of professional football clubs and a real National League. A new doctored constitution was made, protecting the existence of the GFA First and Second Division League and at the last weeks of the NC mandate they tried to push it down the throats of the Gambian people. That NC backed document was designed to reduce the voting rights of the Regional Delegates and totally isolate the Regional football family. It was, obviously, rejected and the mistrust of the NC by the Regions increased tenfold.
I cannot imagine what happened between FIFA and the NC at the end of the first six months of the NC but they were not happy with the way the NC was handling things, hence, the few trips to advice the NC by FIFA personnel’s and the ‘total involvement’ by the FIFA/CAF representative instead of ‘observer status’ at the 8th of December Conference. In fact, one could observe clearly, misunderstanding and misinterpretation between the FIFA/CAF rep and the NC rep at the conference.
Whatever happened, it was again agreed to present a new and even better FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution and another six months was given to the NC to discuss it with the Gambian people. The thing is that, that constitution was again also doctored. The document that was widely distributed and what was said in the media was completely different (even during the adaptation conference some people said that what was promised to them during the tour of the NC is not in the now presented constitution). In fact the Constitution presented, one or two weeks before the conference, is completely different from the widely distributed MYS/NC toured constitution.
A keen observer can see the frustration of the MYS and the FIFA/CAF rep as they try to rationalize with the comments coming from the Regional delegates. One could also see the deliberate attempt by the NC rep to push the Regional delegates into corners at certain issues in the proposed constitution. On top of all this lunch was deliberately held from the delegate to make them angrier and throw the whole proposed constitution out. The NC rep did not succeed in throwing the whole proposed constitution out but the most important aspects were rejected; and just in case the entire Regional delegates of 28 changed their minds and did not fall into the trap of voting ‘Yes”, 13 women club delegates was added to the constitution at the last moment to make sure the ‘Yes” have it.
According to the FIFA/CAF rep all attempts were made to make the Regional and GFA First and Second Division football clubs understand and accept the proposed constitution. But according to many independent observers, all efforts were made for the Gambian football family to reject the proposed constitution by the NC. In fact, GFA Divisional football clubs that were owned or managed by top NC members all voted against the original FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution.
The GFA First and Second Division clubs owners and the FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution
As mentioned above most of the people owning GFA Divisional club belong to the middle guard and are totally against the decentralization and professionalization of Gambian football because none of them have the requirement or capacity to be a professional football club or belong to a professional national football league. Their opinions and voting pattern show their rejection of the setting up of Regional Associations. A number of this group want the return of the sacked GFA executive and anything that will discredit the standing of members of the NC is good enough for them. Only a few GFA Divisional clubs voted with good intension and for the 4G’s.
As mentioned above ‘when you are the bearer of something you don’t really want to bear you create confusion.’ Most of the 53 delegates that voted “Yes” to amend FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution did so while rejecting the most important items of the constitution. The question is, a lot of them did not really understand the constitution due to the late distribution of it.
Most of the 9 delegates that voted “No” supported the last (near original) FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution; these committees/clubs included the Banjul Sports Committee, Upper River Sports Committee, Real De Banjul, Serekunda East, Starlight, Banjul United, Upper Badibu, Basse FC and Wulli FC. The question is, could some of them have voted no because they, as did the yes voters may have done, do not really understand the constitution due to the late distribution of it or totally rejected the FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution.
My apologies (for mentioning any doubt about the committees/clubs above) and congratulations (because those committees/clubs have seen the future of Gambian football) to those committees/clubs who voted sincerely to adopt the (near original) FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution.
The Regional Sports Chairpersons and the FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution
If there was any group that really needed to be blame for the disappointing result of the 8th of December Conference is mostly the Regional Sports Chairpersons who despite advice from the GFA/CAF rep and caution from the MYS refuse to see reason. The FIFA/CAF rep told them that you have been complaining of under-representative in Gambian domestic football by the GFA, FIFA/CAF and the Gambia Government now this constitution is designed to solve that problem and more. The MYS warned the delegates that this is the best opportunity for Gambian football to progress for many decades.
One of the Regional Chairpersons summed up their feelings about Gambian football in the following example. He said the situation is like a man with two wives. “Whenever the first wife is to cook he would give her money to go to the market place to buy food. But whenever it comes for the second wife to cook he will give her no money to go to the market to buy food.” If the husband in the story were the recently sacked GFA executives (this ‘elected’ executive had over seven years to rectify the situation but did not) or the present (NC) GFA executives you should put the blame on the people who filled those executive positions not the proposed constitution, the Gambia Government or FIFA/CAF. If, on the other hand, the husband is FIFA/CAF, you still have to blame the past or present GFA executives because FIFA/CAF gives the money to the GFA executive to give out the ‘food money’ to both wives. This is not a good reason to reject the original proposed constitution.
People should be aware that most of the football clubs in the provinces are owned, controlled or influenced by the Sports Chairpersons. It is also important to note that the Sports Chairpersons make up the National Sports Council (NSC). Football is, fortunately, the most popular and most powerful sports in The Gambia, unfortunately, the NSC has in the past found it very difficult to control the GFA executive and their reps in the provinces. The problem is that some of the Sports Chairpersons fear that they will not be able to control the proposed Regional Associations; so the control, influence and even ownership will change to the executives of the Regional Associations. This is not a good reason to reject the original proposed constitution.
People should also realize that thanks to the power struggle of the old guard the Regional Chairpersons used to decide who makes up the GFA executive. This power, which they have over GFA League and Club owners in some of the Greater Banjul Area, is not helping our football. Power without representative (provincial clubs not represented in the National League) is unless. This power if not used responsibly can destroy our football or put it in deep recession. It was this power that rejected the original proposed constitution.
The Regional Chairpersons should, by now, realize that they no longer hold the balance of power to choose the next GFA executive. They gave it up to the 13 women at the 8th of December Conference, 2012, together with maybe their chance to decentralize and professionalize our football. For the Regional Chairpersons the only way out now is to elect people who have not already betrayed them with the agreement that the positive items taken out of FIFA backed GFA proposed Constitution will be returned immediately at the coming Congress.
DO NOT BE FOOLED AGAIN BY THE MIDDLE GUARD WHO EVEN IF THEY ARE RETURNED TO POWER MUST IMPLEMENT THE FIFA BACKED GFA PROPOSED CONSTITUTION OR WILL FIND IT EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO FUNCTION, DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF THE GOVERNMENT AND FIFA/CAF