May 23, 2014, 10:15 AM
Alieu K. Jammeh, Minister of Youth and Sports, yesterday launched “Road to Azerbaijan” for the female U-17 team set to take part in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup from 22 September to 23 October 2012, at a ceremony held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
In his launching statement, he said the event complements government’s effort and called on everyone to support the team with whatever amount of funds they could contribute. “In any capacity you can help the U-17 is welcome,” the sports minister said.
He said the President of the Republic of The Gambia is helping to develop sport in the country and not only football, adding that they have spent tens of millions of dalasi on the national teams “but still people complain”.
“Anything a man can do, a woman can do better,” he said, adding that Gambian women have shown it, highlighting the recent achievement of Suruba Colley, who broke a national timing record in the London Olympic Games.
He said he hopes the female U-17 team would do better than what the male U-17 team did in Peru.
Whoever wants to help the team can go to any GTBank branch to deposit the money, he says, while calling on all and sundry in the country to give a helping hand to the national U-17 heroines who have done the country a national pride through their excellent performance in the qualifiers leading to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan.
Fatim Badjie, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, congratulated the team and Choro Mbenga, team administrator, for going that far.
She also urged the players to do their best in the competition so they can raise their heads up when they come back home.
“Do it for every Gambian and every girl,” she said, adding: “This is a serious business and take it seriously since you have taken it as your careers.”
She also called on every Gambian to come forward and support the team, saying she is ready to spend a day with the team to interact with them and also give them motivation before they leave for the tournament.
Tombong Saidy, chairman of Gambia for Gold, described the occasion as “special” because the Gambia female U-17 team has qualified for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
He also said the aim of the gathering is to raise enough funds to prepare the team for the tournament so “they can achieve something when they go”.
“The team is paired with other tough teams but we should be proud of the girls because they are one of the three African teams that qualified for the tournament and are not going to represent The Gambia alone but Africa as a whole,” he said.
“We need to commend government for its efforts because they are doing a lot for Gambian sport.”
Ousman B. Conateh, chairman of GFA Normalisation Committee, said it is a honour for him to be part of what is coming to be history in Gambian football.
Mr Conateh added that he was pleased when he was approached for the initiative on the launching of the Road to Azerbaijan.
He said they have decided to pull out of the male U-17 and U-20 qualifiers and concentrate on the female U-17 team that has already qualified, noting that even taking care of only the female U-17 team needs a lot of money.
He commended The Gambia for Gold for their efforts, saying it is not easy to run football. Women always come out first in anything that is meant to develop the country, he noted.
Fatou Mbye, deputy speaker at the National Assembly, said football and sport in general has an important role to play in our health, adding that the performance of the female U-17 team is unprecedented in the history of Gambia football.
“Keep the Gambian flag flying, I am sure you will do well,” she said, adding that she will not be surprise if the team should lift the trophy.
“I hope everybody will make it our responsibility to come out and support the team financially,” she said.
Kumba Kuyateh, representative of the National Female Artist Association, said they are privileged with the launching, adding that after discussions with the necessary partners they feel it is necessary for them to contribute their quota.
She said they hope to use their influence to raise enough funds for the female U-17 team, adding that they will host a fund-raising show with Jaliba Kuyateh and also a fund-raising game between them against the ministers and civil servants.
Fatoumatta Jah, president of the Gambia Women’s Federation, said the contribution of women in sport has gone a notch higher, adding that she hopes this will address gender equity.
Choro Mbenga, team administrator for the Gambia female U-17 team, said words may not say how happy they are with those who came up with the initiative of Road to Azerbaijan, adding that they hope with the initiative, people will come out to support the team.
She also called for more support for women sport, especially the female U-17 team so they can also qualify for Rio 2016.
The future of Gambian sport is feminine, she said, while thanking her fellow coaches of the female U-17 team for their continuous support towards Gambian football.
At the end of the launching, the following people pledged the following amounts: Tombong Saidy, D5,000; Alh. O. B. Conateh, D25,000; Fatou Mbye D10,000; Ndey Awa Khan D5,000; Sally Sidibeh-Sissoho, D5,000; Aji Fatou Senghore 30 jersey, 30 shorts, socks and 10 sports wears for team officials; and GRTS television pledged to run all Gambia For Gold activities free of charge.
Meanwhile, the Gambia U-20 male team has been withdrawn from the qualifiers due to financial constraints.
The return leg was set to take place in The Gambia on Saturday 11 August 2012. Morocco have now progressed to the next stage of the qualifiers.