By Baboucarr Camara
The President of The Gambia Football Federation, Lamin Kaba Bajo, said the Federation remains committed to the development of a competent human resource base for the sustainable development of the national game.
Bajo, who was speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer on a wide range of issues, was making reference to a four-year football development strategic plan document designed by the current GFF administration that seeks to train 385 coaches, 100 administrators, 190 referees and 80 medics by the end of 2017. He added that looking at the target they’ve set for themselves, they have achieved a lot in terms of capacity building, expressing hope that by the end of his first term in office, most of the targets would’ve been achieved beyond the objective.
“[Capacity building] is going on very well and we still give it priority because we know that there is no proper development without a competent human resource. What some people see is just football being played on the pitch but what leads to that is they either don’t know that it goes well beyond that or deliberately they don’t care,” Bajo said.
“For sustainability and for future posterity, I think we have to do it and that is why FIFA and CAF also give priority to our programmes because they know it is the future. [Capacity building] is very fundamental in our plans and programmes and we continue to emphasise on that.”
In an attempt to reorganise the Technical Department of the GFF to be in line with internationally recognised standards as dictated by the strategic football development document, the Federation recently received a technical consultant from the Confederation of African Football to help in implementing the objective.
The consultant has since left The Gambia but not without making recommendations to be used as a mechanism to put in place a competent Technical Department that would introduce programmes geared towards the sustainable development of the national game, but Bajo said he is not in a position to disclose details of his recommendations as they are still going through the document.
He also said that the proposed National Youth League, which is a FIFA sponsored programme, is now awaiting approval from the world football governing. He added that schools football has already started in the Greater Banjul Area.
“We are not doing it alone; we are doing it in consultation with the School Football Association and the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education so that we can better reach the target groups in schools. The Federation has already financed the first stage of it which is in the final stage and in the next couple of months we will look into the second stage which is countrywide. We want to ensure that before the end of 2016, the school football league is implemented,” Bajo affirmed.
In the area of football infrastructure, the GFF said it is committed to build eight international standard football pitches; twelve fit for the local leagues; fourteen in the regions; twenty at the district level; twenty-one for the school league and four FIFA Goal Projects.
This is expected to reduce the demand on the five grounds that the various national and regional leagues in the different categories are all concentrated around in the Greater Banjul Area. The infrastructure will help in the efforts to decentralise the game, which the GFF said is very fundamental to its development agenda. In achieving this, the GFF wants to build football infrastructures throughout the country by ensuring that gradually, each of the 43 districts has a standard football field.
“The Soma Mini-Stadium, which we inherited at its conceptualisation stage, is in progress and as soon as that is completed, we will start another artificial turf project in Basse after which our concentration will turn to Farafenni. If we have these standard fields around the regions, at least for a start, I think that will also help them a lot to alleviate the constraints of infrastructure,” he emphasised.
He also spoke about professionalising the domestic league with the possibility of increasing the number of teams in the first division in future. To achieve this, the GFF recently conducted a CAF Football Licensing seminar for all the twelve first division clubs in The Gambia.
Bajo described the licensing system as a very tedious one because clubs need to have the capacity to be able to put in place a permanent address which must be a fully functional secretariat with highly competent staff, structures of a team manager, senior coach, and a youth coach.
“It is not an easy thing because you must also run a youth team in parallel with the senior team and if you look at the financial situations of our clubs here they are struggling but we will have to get there by sitting down to discuss because there is also the opportunity of support from CAF and FIFA. There will be a time when every club must achieve that level in order to participate at CAF inter-club competitions,” he said, but was quick to emphasise that instead of persecuting the clubs, they will work towards helping them in any way they can.
“We are working on a stakeholders consultative forum because that is important and in this anybody who is interested in football will come out and see how much we can better direct our football in the interest of all.”
Bajo also spoke about implementing a robust marketing strategy to ensure that the Federation will at some point become financially independent. He spoke about the FIFA Win-Win Programme, which through the world football governing body’s funding and knowledge, the Programme supports member associations to generate more income for the development of the game.
The Federation, Bajo said will soon begin the process of comercialising the National Technical Training Centre in Old Yundum by turning the facilities into a three-star hotel which will be registered under The Gambia Tourism Board and would serve as the main source of revenue generation for the GFF.
The second segment of Lamin Kaba Bajo’s exclusive interview with the Daily Observer will be published in our Monday edition.