Gambia government rewards 2019 African Games athletes

BANJUL, September 7, 2019 – With the aim of rewarding success and inspiring others, the Gambia government allocated plots of land to the medal winning athletes^nbsp;and beach volleyball teams, while each of the swimming, judo and basketball players received 50,000 dalasis each (equivalent to US$1000)

The Gambia’s lands minister, Musa Drammeh, handed the land title deeds to each of the athletes through President Adama Barrow. The remaining athletes will receive their cash prize from the finance ministry through the sports ministry.

Last Friday the delegation was brought to the President by the Youth and Sports Minister, Hadrammeh Sidibeh. This comes in the wake of a historic performance at the African Games in Morocco, where The Gambia scooped three medals. Two won by Gambia’s “Queen of the track and field” Gina Bass, and the Gambia male beach volleyball team.

The 24-year-old police officer, Gina Bass, won silver medal in the final of the women’s 100 metres, before going on to win gold in the final of the 200 meters’ women race, after defeating Marie Josee Ta Lou, the feared Ivorian and the then continental best. This was the undoubted pinnacle in Gambian athletics’ history.

The new achievement has earned Miss Bass a ticket to the Olympics in Tokyo next year, but before that, she will compete at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, later this month.

The male beach volleyball team were the first to give Gambians something to celebrate after winning the gold medal in the final of the beach volleyball, a few days before Gina Bass’s silver.

The Qatar-based pair, Mbye Babou Jarra and Sainey Jawo, used their experience to be crowned African champions.

President Adama Barrow, while congratulating the athletes, said the country is proud of their successes, which has raised the Gambian flag. The Gambia is a small country with a population around 2 million people. “We are all proud of you. Size does not matter, what matters is the commitment and determination to succeed,” President Barrow told the athletes at the Presidential palace in the capital, Banjul.

Recognising the fact that funding sports is expensive, he nevertheless gave assurances of his government’s readiness to give more support, while encouraging them to do more. The governments have over the years been blamed for not investing a lot in sports development. The Gambia has one of the poorest set of sports facilities in the world.

Hadrammeh Sidibeh, the Sports minister, expressed pride in the achievements of the athletes. According to him these latest achievements support a redirection of focus in terms of the funding and administration of sports in the country.

Dodou Capi Joof, President of The Gambia National Olympic Committee, said the celebrated success calls for more motivation from athletes and the need for the government to invest more in sports infrastructure.

He gave assurances of the National Olympic Committee’s continued commitment to the promotion and development of athletes and sports in the country.

The athletes, who were having an interaction with the President for the first time, were delighted at the surprise package from the government.

“We were not expecting something like this from the government, but we are so elated that our efforts have been recognised,” the athletes said.

These historic achievements are expected to be a game-changer for the direction of the administration and funding of sports in the country. For many years, the biggest chunk of the government’s funding for sports has been focused on football, which other sporting disciplines have frowned upon. The outstanding successes recorded by these athletes far outweigh anything the Gambia has achieved in football. While the athletes celebrate this reward from government it is hoped others will be inspired to excel.

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