Aug 23, 2016, 12:13 PM
The U.S. Embassy in Banjul on 12 June 2014 began the distribution of 12,000 footballs donated by US-based NGO One World Futbol Project to schools throughout The Gambia.
The distribution, held at the Alliance Francaise during a public viewing of the kick-off of the World Cup opening match between hosts Brazil against Croatia, was attended by over 300 people with 10 schools beginning, with each receiving a box of football.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the distribution of balls to the schools, Ebrima Manneh, Technical Director of Gambia Football Federation (GFF), described the gesture by the US Embassy as welcoming.
He recalled that the relationship between the GFF and the US Embassy started when the GFF organised a friendly game against Guinea Bissau female national team in which, unfortunately, the Guinea Bissau team didn’t turn up, and as a result they organised an exhibition game which US Embassy’s Eric attended.
He added that since then Eric had been showing interest in women football and in the wake of the World Cup he invited the GFF president to attend the programme but unfortunately he was in Brazil at the time and did inform him to grace the occasion.
Manneh further described the initiative as laudable, saying that giving sufficient balls to beginners, such as school football, is “really laudable”.
“The GFF is pleased to be associated with the US Embassy,” he highlighted, pointing out: “The US Embassy has the social commitment to Gambians and I think this is one of the areas they can do better.”
“People in office will always pursue their love for what they always participate in,” he observed, saying Eric and wife really loved women football and would always participate in the game.
“Eric’s personal preference is to football and that is one of the reasons we are trying to maximize it to make sure the opportunity reach the needy people,” the GFF Technical Director said.
Manneh revealed that they have already got another arrangement with the US Embassy in sponsoring and financing women football on a yearly basis.
“The day has shown Gambians that we have the US Embassy who are willing to help Gambian people to realize their potentials,” he said, adding: “Football is sport and it is meant to fulfill people’s potentials and bring people together, which is the concept and philosophy the US Embassy has and we should all help to share those concepts.”
He added: “It is very important to sustain the collaboration between the GFF and the US Embassy because the Kebbeh-lead executive looks at increasing the quantity of people who will participate in football and in due cause give opportunities to those who want to take football a career.
“I think where the US Embassy, NGOs and other international agencies can help is to increase participation, as grassroots football is more important , as when it gets right there and goes through the lather football will develop,” he noted, saying these are areas other agencies lack.
It is where the GFF does not have sufficient resources to implement, he added, noting that if they could forge partnerships like the one with the US Embassy it would help them lighten the burden on helping the grassroots to grow.
US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Richard Yoneoka, in his remarks, said they were very excited to be associated with helping Gambian football.
They made distribution to 10 schools on the day and in a couple of months to come they would be donating to other schools across The Gambia, he added.
The gesture was to ensure they support girls, boys, youth grassroots football, he added, saying: “We as Americans are sports ‘crazy’.”
He continued: “When we look at sports and the impact it has on youth and on our lives, especially girls, sports teaches us discipline, achievement, teamwork. There is nothing but positives when you get kids involved in sports, when we look at that - we look at what kind of contribution we can make to The Gambia.”
He urged the beneficiaries to use the footballs, saying: “Don’t leave them in the boxes or rooms; get them out with the girls, get them out with the boys, get them playing.”
He concluded: “These footballs are pretty very special with special constructions; they hopefully do not deflate, you do not need an air pump, you do not need a needle to inflate them, they should last a good long while.”