Alieu Ceesay, AIPS Member
BANJUL, January 9, 2019 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino held talks with President Adama Barrow of The Gambia in Banjul on Monday, January 7, 2019. The meeting centered on football development and the need for FIFA and The Gambia government to partner in advancing the development of the game in The Gambia. Infantino was accompanied by Secretary General Fatima Samoura.
Football remains the most watched sport in the tiny West African nation. However, The Gambia has never made an appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations. Aside from the undesirable on-the-pitch results, the country has poor sporting facilities – only one stadium, which was constructed in 1984 and is currently in a bad shape.
Infantino described The Gambia as a country where football is loved by its people.
“We [FIFA] are here to cooperate. FIFA is increasing the funds for the development programmes as of this year by another 20% for investment in football development in The Gambia.”
The FIFA boss assured that FIFA will support. He called on the participation of The Gambian government in key projects such as infrastructure to professionalize the game. Football, according to the FIFA boss, is a uniting game. “We count on your [Barrow’s] support and cooperation in developing the game in The Gambia.”
“Today is a very important day in the history of Gambian football, for the first time to receive such a delegation,” said President Barrow who succeeded long time ruler Yahya Jammeh in 2016. Jammeh now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.
President Barrow congratulated the Gambian football fraternity under the leadership of Mr. Lamin Kabba Bajo, President of The Gambia Football Federation.
Barrow is a football fan and supporter of Premier League side, Arsenal.
“We have to face the reality, you cannot develop football without finance, and unfortunately our country [The Gambia] has a small economy. We, therefore, need the support of FIFA in terms of funding and capacity building.”
During the one-day visit, the FIFA delegation also visited the Gambia Football Federation headquarters and the FIFA Goal Project.