By Edrissa Jallow and Yusef Taylor
During the Finance Minister’s 2023 Budget Speech he highlighted that the renovation and rehabilitation of the Gambia’s only National Stadium are ongoing and set to host international matches by March 2023. Finance Minister Hon Seedy Keita made this revelation about the Independence Stadium last week Friday, 2nd December 2022 during his marathon 2023 Budget Speech at the National Assembly.
Back in July 2022, the General Manager of the Gambia’s Independence Stadium and Friendship Hostel, Ebou Faye informed Gainako that the Gambia National team will hopefully play at the Independence Stadium in September 2022.
This was after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) banned 23 stadiums from hosting international matches, with The Gambia’s only national stadium joining the banned list. The ban came as a result of “failure to meet the required standard to host CAF A type competition”. This was according to a letter communicated to the Gambia Football Federation (GFF) dated 16th February 2022.
Soon after the ban, the Ministry of Youth and Sports revealed that the Government had agreed to spend D100 million on rehabilitating the stadium to bring it up to standard. The statement issued on 4th July 2022 noted “that because Government operates on an annual budget, a non-budgeted work that will cost the state more than D100 million dalasi can be challenging and doable only after proper consultation. Nonetheless, due to the importance attached to this, Government has since indicated the availability of funds, pending the fulfilment of public procurement processes – a stage we are currently on“.
Gambia Football Fixtures
The Gambia exceeded expectations by progressing to the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in its maiden appearance at the biggest African football competition, the African Cup of Nations. Since the ban, The Gambia’s National Team (The Scorpions) have not been able to host any home matches and instead left with no option but to look for stadiums in other countries like Senegal, Morocco and Turkey.
Chad, who was also included in the ban list had to play the Gambia in Morocco for two straight games which the Gambia won 3-2 on aggregate. The Scorpions then played South Sudan beating the “Brights Stars” of South Sudan 1-0 at the Stade Lat Jor in Senegal Thies.
Speaking to a GFF Official we’ve been informed that the World football’s governing body FIFA suspended the Qualifiers scheduled to be held towards the end of the year. More recently, the GFF announced on its Facebook page on 2nd December 2022 that: “The Gambia capped off the year 2022 with a stalemate against Guinea Bissau in an international friendly match played in Antalya [Turkey]”.
As seen below The Gambia has home matches scheduled for March 2023 and will be able to play at home if the Stadium Renovation is completed to the required standard.
September 2022 and March 2023 Football Promise
During his 2023 Budget Speech, Finance Minister Keita revealed that “the Ministry [of Youth and Sports] will also continue the rehabilitation and renovation of the stadium to meet the required standard for the hosting of international matches by March 2023”.
In an exclusive interview with Gainako, Mr Faye explained that the “cabinet has given approval for the minister to go on for the financing of [the] area bid… and we [stadium managers] have already put the tender (and) they have been allocated to contractors”. This statement was made in July in the run-up to the GFF Elections. Gainako will make efforts to visit the stadium and observe the progress of renovation works.
“The Stadium [has] been reporting on the state since 2012 as there has never been any major maintenance and rehabilitation of the facilities since it was built in 1983”. The management of the Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel said in a Facebook post. The Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel are under one management.