Covid-19 misery befalls Gambian basketballers

Sep 3, 2021, 1:27 PM | Article By: Arfang M.S. Camara

Gambia’s basketball has been severely hit hard as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lack of income, support and the long wait for the resumption of the game in the country due to the pandemic have put more misery towards the development of the game.

Basketball, being one of the most dormant sports in The Gambia has been in revival for so long, but the confirmation of the first positive Covid-19 case in The Gambia on 17th March 2020 forced the suspension of the game in the country for a very long time.

Gambian athletes, coaches and stakeholders have called for support towards the development of the game, as the pandemic led to some players quitting the game due to lack of support and also due to the long wait for the resumption of the league games.

 “The covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected not only me but the entire basketball fraternity. For us as athletes, we suffered a lot because it has been over two years without any activities, especially national competition,” said Fanta Minteh 3x3 National Team player.

Miss Minteh, who is also the captain of Serekunda West Female basketball team, noted that it was very tough for them because most of their lives depend on basketball.

She added that even though they are struggling for its development, the pandemic has worsened the situation.

“The emergence of covid-19 added more misery to us as basketball players in the country. The only freedom to play basketball was taken away from us by the pandemic when the government banned all sporting activities and restricted public gatherings.”

According to her, the pandemic also economically affected them as they find it very difficult to have transport to go for training or even to get money to buy shoes for practice.

“We depend on our coaches who also depend on their daily work because basketball as a game in the country is not paying.”

She called on government, NGO’s, private sector and other stakeholders to come to their aid and assist in the development of basketball in the country.

Bintou Dambelly, Hope Academy’s basketball player said the covid-19 pandemic really slowed down their game, adding that it has affected them mentally, physically and economically.

“The pandemic stopped all our activities ranging from the national leagues and capacity building training amongst others. There are a lot of young people who really want to play the game but due to the impact of the covid-19, everything slowed down.”

Miss Dambelly, who is also a notional team player, added that one of their challenges during the pandemic was sitting at home, folding their hands and doing nothing.

“This is the sport we really love and also rely on as a means of survival, and also representing our country.”

According to her, they were very devastated as the pandemic stopped league games.

She also called for support from all sectors in the country in reviving the basketball game in the country, adding that this is the only thing they love doing as it also serves as a means of survival.

Muhammed Camara Danso, basketball player for Serekunda West, stated that the pandemic has been tough for the whole world and for him personally, it gave him a lot of setbacks in his basketball career.

“A lot of things could have been at another level if it was not for covid-19,” he said.

According to him, the pandemic also made them not going for practice entirely, adding that it also brings some setbacks to them to be able to develop their games to the next level due to restrictions on public gatherings.

The secretary general of The Gambia Basketball Association, Muhammed Njie, said as a new executive who came into power little before the emergence of the pandemic, could not do much towards the development of the game due to the pandemic.

“We have been having challenges to develop the basketball game in the country before but when covid-19 emerged it made things harder for us.”

Aside from the many challenges faced due to covid-19, he said, the other challenge they are facing is the interference of former executive members.

“The covid-19 pandemic has impacted the basketball game in the country. The pandemic stopped everything (sports calendar) ranging from the local and international calendars,” said Alieu Nyan, head of Gambia U-18 basketball team for both males and females.

According to him, the pandemic forced basketball to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for quite a while, noting that basketball faced major momentum particularly with the involvement of youth.

“Basketball in the Gambia has been in revival for so long that any small disturbance has a great impact on it, including the new executive trying to find momentum; trying to start the league again; securing sponsorship and trying to get people to believe in the basketball game so that they can invest in basketball.”

According to UN statistics about the economic impacts of covid-19 on sports in The Gambia, the covid-19 pandemic has created significant disruption across The Gambia, especially in sports. The socio-economic impacts on dormant sports especially basketball, swimming, handball amongst others heavily affected the development of the sports. The pandemic has also provided an opportunity for reflection on what the new normal will look like and opportunities for building back better, the report adds.

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 ravaging sporting activities around the globe, ranging from mega sporting events, competitions, team training, meetings and other related sporting activities.

As of 28th August 2021, The Gambia officially registered three covid-19 related deaths with a total of 9, 715 positive cases.

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.

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