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Football - The start of a New Era?

Sep 9, 2013, 9:36 AM | Article By: Lamin Cham

A few days ago on a visit to Football House I wrote. “’Another angle Kebbeh needs to work on to lengthen his honey moon is to ensure victories in international matches especially home ones. His regime inherited a dull moment in spectators’ confidence in the national team and he must inject a whole new set of ideas and, some would argue, even personnel to achieve that. His priority must be to guide the nation to her African Cup Nations appearance by working very hard to motivate and inspire players and technicians and the nation at large to adopt a fresh approach to football matters. There should be no dull moment in building and sustaining interest of the people in the game and GFF officials must be seen and heard regularly, inventing new ideas and keeping good momentums’’.

Well, Saturday’s win over Tanzania may have come too late to get us to Brazil but what it has achieved is exactly what I have summed up in the quotations above.

In my twenty years of association with Gambian football, I have never seen a heated, frantic and urgent attention been attached to a match that could only bring a consolation to a lost cause. Gambian attitude towards final matches of dead qualifying campaigns have been one of dismissal and indifference. But not this one. From the top brass to the small sub committees and to the little man on the ground supplying water, the expression on everyone’s face had looked like the country was facing its biggest sports meeting in life; radios and TV shows trumpeted the importance of the match; committees and sub committees of those very committees were formed and tasked to implement one or two things; Vigorous and continuous meetings took place making the Football House looked like the headquarters ofsuccessful company about to dish out bonus to employees and dividends to shareholders, all in the quest to drive the nation to adopt a new sense of urgencyand direction in football.

Even the concept ofinvitations to the match had some touch of professionalism; Gambians with connections to football ranging from former presidents and staffsucceeding generations of GFA administrations, veteran footballers, top government officials and the less known but passionate members of Gambian football from past and present were all invited to feel the freshness of the new wind of change in football.

Journalists who often complained the loudest, in fact collaborated with security forces, their former quarrel partnersto pilot and perfect a new approach to conducting post match interviews and as well as revising the process of designating the media family at matches. The securitycommittee itself headed by Major Omar Bojang, deviseda new style, by implanting personnel every 20 feet apart all around the inside of the stadium, conveniently under the pavilions withan eagle eye overall angles surrounding the pitch.

All what was left to put the ice in the cake for a spectacular debut of President Mustapha Kebbeh and his executive was a win by the scorpions, a challenge which another Mustapha himself rose to by putting two goals past the Tanzanians. The joy of seeing Gambia win at home was inspiring and moving, and no doubt instrumental in bringing back all hearts to celebrate the country.

The New GFF executive and equally the Gambia national team players took a deep of sigh of relief and can now dream of keeping this new found momentum and perfecting it to achieve greater heights.

But as I observed the other week, the length of this great feeling depends on how proactive the GFF executive is in seeing to the needs and welfare of the players, and engaging the public with professionalism and statesmanship. In so doing they would get the good will of the Gambians, Government officials and ranks alike working towards one objective. That is what leaders do. Inspire and carry everyone along without discrimination. It is obvious that more radical voices would take the victory home as an illustration to renew arguments over issues now put to the past, but President Kebbeh’s calm and open composure at his first major public function and his gentlemanly declaration that the victory is not his but the whole country, clearly stands to pass all morale tests. 

Welcome to a new chapter in Gambian football.