The confirmation of the first positive Covid-19 case in The Gambia on 17th March 2020 led to the suspension of sports in the country, particularly volleyball for over a year.
The pandemic caused the Gambia’s failure to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which according to the president of The Gambia Volleyball Federation, was due to lack of training, interaction as well as long wait for the resumption of league competitions.
The pandemic also led to some players building weight, especially women players as a result of the long wait for the resumption of training and league competitions.
Bai Dodou Jallow, president of The Gambia Volleyball Federation, said Covid-19 really affected the lives of everyone, with volleyball not exceptional.
“The pandemic stopped all volleyball programmes around the globe. It really affected The Gambia’s qualification into the last Olympic Games for volleyball.”
He added that the Gambia volleyball team was in a good run of form on its qualification campaign, but later the pandemic pushed the games in disarray.
He added that the restart of the qualification games saw a different story from the players’ form and fitness level.
“This happened as a result of lack of training due to the covid-19 restrictions. It also makes players, especially the female player’s gain weight as a result of being restricted for training.”
Mr. Jallow added that the pandemic also affected the entire association’s activity programmes for a long period, ranging from their league championships and capacity building programmes amongst others.
He revealed that sending videos on their platform and encouraging each other to fight hard and stay safe amongst others was the only thing happening.
According to him, the Covid-19 made it difficult for some players to get back to the level they were before the pandemic.
President Jallow revealed that at the administrative level, it was so difficult for them to restart some of their programmes because they had to follow the Covid-19 measures.
Anna Marie Bojang, a female volleyball player, said Covid-19 generally caused a lot of damage in sports, especially in volleyball.
“It was hard for us. We were not training and there was no self-motivation because we were home all alone without any exercises or even interactions. We could not even keep our fitness due to the social-distance measures.”
She noted that at some point they were discouraged and frustrated because they did not know when or whether they would return to training.
Fatoumatta Jammeh, another volleyball player said: “As sportsmen and women, we cannot sit for a certain period without training. Lack of training has been a very big factor at some point in our career due to the pandemic. When we resumed training, it was hard for us to get back to the level we were. The fitness was lacking.”
She stated that for people like her, the pandemic made them gain weight after sitting for more than six months without training.
“In sports, collectiveness is very important, especially in volleyball.”
“We were supposed to represent The Gambia in Zone II but due to the pandemic everything was cancelled.”
Lamin F. Badjie, head coach for The Gambia female volleyball team, said some of his players were at some point discouraged and frustrated, because they did not know when the sport would resume.
Mr. Badjie, who is also the head coach of GAF female volleyball team, said they were supposed to travel to Italy for a training camp but the pandemic cancelled the trip.
Marie Wadda, head coach of The Gambia women beach volleyball team, said Covid-19 impacted the lives and livelihood of everyone.
“The Covid-19 stopped all competitions and interactions. Sports without interactions, demoralizes a player’s ability and performance. The pandemic made us stay indoors continuously,” she said.
According to UN statistics about the economic impacts of covid-19 in sports in The Gambia, “support for sport was making huge strides in 2019 after years of incremental, but important progress, the future is uncertain about the continued momentum of gender equality in sport due to the economic crisis resulting from the covid-19 outbreak.”
Meanwhile, research virologists have claimed that Covid-19 is here to stay as part of the already existing bodies of viruses like HIV, SARs, and Ebola.
The effects of COVID-19 continue to ravage sporting activities around the globe, ranging from mega sporting events, competitions, team training, meetings and other related sporting activities.
As of 26th October 2021, The Gambia officially registered a total of 9, 965 cases and a total related deaths of 340.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with Mai Media and The Point Newspaper.