By Edrissa Jallow
The General Manager of the Gambia’s Independence Stadium and Friendship Hostel, Mr Ebou Faye reiterated to Gainako that the Gambia National team will hopefully play at the Independence Stadium in September 2022. Mr Faye who is the 2nd Vice President of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) and also doubles as head of the competition department at the Federation made this statement during an exclusive interview with Gainako Editor, Yusef Taylor during the launching of the Lamin Kaba Bajo’s Manifesto, seeking for a third term.
During a live interview on Gainako Online Newspaper Facebook page, our reporter questioned the Stadium General Manager: Are “you sure that in September for sure Gambians will be able to enjoy the boys’ play?” In his response, Mr Faye noted that “hopefully I cannot say for sure but hopefully because at the moment cabinet has given approval for the minister to go on for the financing of area bid… and we have already put the tender (and) they have been allocated to contractors”.
It could be recalled on Saturday 4th June 2022, shortly after The Gambia secured its first win of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers at the Stade Lat Dior in Thies, Senegal, the Minister of Youth and Sport, Bakary Y Badjie who was among the dignitaries in attendance expresses optimism that the scorpion will play its September game of the AFCON qualifiers at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
CAF Suspends 23 Stadiums from Hosting International Matches
Meanwhile, just recently, 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.
The ban came after a series of warnings from CAF who have consistently raised concerns over the Gambia’s Independence Stadium’s poor condition.
“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.
It can be recalled that 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 dalasis 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“.
A Standard Newspaper publication dated 5th July 2022 also revealed that “according to the National Sports Council NSC executive director Marcel Mendy, the renovation and remodelling of the stadium has since been tendered as per GPPA approval and last week the Contract Committee conducted an assessment of the bids and submitted a report and recommended contractors to GPPA for approval”.
US$1.5 million, D12 million Sports Development Fund and Stadium Events
During the press conference for the launching of Lamin Kaba Bajo’s manifesto, it was revealed that the World Football Governing body, Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) contributed US$1.5 [equivalent to almost D80 million] to GFF for football development during the Covid-19 Pandemic. In addition to this, our reporter asked about the funds generated by the stadium through artist performances and other events held at the stadium.
Mr Faye clarified that “the management of the stadium…don’t generate the funds to do anything” but “funds we generate is to complement our subventions today’s salary to meet our monthly obligations. But for the government, they must have to invest for the stadium and it has been neglected for so many years”.
Earlier in January 2022, Gainako published a FactCheck on Financing Youth and Sports Development. The publication revealed that D12 million has been invested in the Sports Development Fund which is being managed by the Ministry and the National Sports Council.
In our quest to get more answers on the issue our reporter continued to probe, asking about the Sports Development Fund and “why haven’t [the Stadium] used the fund? Why is over one million US$ [FIFA Money] sitting there?”
Mr Faye explained that “there is no longer a development fund but there is a levy that finance sports. But if you look at the levy the amount that is coming goes to financing senior officers because for the past-year-old gov’t has spent over hundred and fifty million dalasis [D150 million] on the national team more than that, so, the national team consume a huge amount of it because it’s football”.
Speaking about the unused US$1.5 million FIFA Fund Mr Faye explained that “if you look at the GFF what FIFA does is approval and access is totally different. You get the approval and then started all these projects [when] we could have even invested in one or two projects and completed and go to other ones”.
However, at the time they “were over-ambitious and very happy and then went on with all these projects which we haven’t completed. Luckily we will complete one or two” said the Stadium General Manager.
“Stadium Budget D9 Million That Cannot Do Anything for Me”
According to the 2nd vice president of The GFF, “the problem with the stadium for example is the budget. Stadium budget D9 million dalasis [per year and] that cannot do anything for me when it comes to infrastructure [or] building for the stadium”.
“The last time we went to the National Assembly is one of the topics [budget] we discussed with them to see how they can improve the budget of not only the Ministry [Youth and Sport] but the stadium”, he continued that the “Stadium [needs] capital intensive investment and is [the] government that should do the investment”.
According to the Stadium General Manager, National Assembly Members (NAM) approved D9 million a year for his institution but the stadium can’t access the money.
“The budget approved by the national assembly, since I have been in [the] stadium we have never accessed all that money” adding that “you cannot give stadium D9 million dalasi a year and stadium cannot even access that D9 million a year of our approved budget by the national assembly. We cannot access it”.
“Every Year we Need Almost About D30million” for Stadium Rehabilitation
The General Manager added that the annual rehabilitation of the national stadium requires about 30 million dalasis. According to him this he said is among the solution to meet the internationally required standard stadium.
In order to find out exactly how much upfront investment is needed to rehabilitate the stadium to a standard that will permit CAF and FIFA matches to be held our reporter asked Mr Faye to disclose how much funds are needed upfront for the national team to be able to play in the Gambia instead of Senegal.
To this Mr Faye responded to say the “only way to fix it, let them [government] do a general rehabilitation, the entire stadium needs to be rehabilitated”. Our reporter continued to demand a conclusive answer to assess if the Stadium Manager has an idea of how much funds are needed.
Hesitantly Mr Faye revealed that rehabilitation for the entire stadium requires more than D60 million. However, at least “every year we need almost about D30million” for the rehabilitation to take effect.
According to Mr Faye, the national team will “hopefully” play in September at the stadium.
Watch the interview in the video below.