Kebba Sambou, President of Abuko United Female Team & Omar H.O. Saidykhan, President of TMT Football Club.
By Buba Gagigo
Abuko United Female Football Club has formally sent a protest letter to the Gambia Football Federation against the purported sale of their football team by co-founder Dawda Bassen without the collective consent of the team members.
On October 31, 2023, TMT announced that they had signed an agreement with Abuko United women’s team to acquire full and complete ownership of the Abuko United female club, which they said accounts for total control of the club.
“The female first division club will as of now be owned by TMT Football Club under the leadership of club president Mr Omar H.O Saidykhan. As a result of this agreement, the financing and management of Abuko United women’s team is now under the management of TMT, further strengthening the agreement is that the name of the team is now the TMT women’s club,” TMT announced through their club’s official Facebook page.
TMT also stated that the team would be competing under the TMT name in the upcoming female division one league and that the GFF had been informed of the agreement.
In an interview with Kerr Fatou on Saturday, Abuko United Female Football Club president, Kebba Sambou, refuted TMT’s claims, stating that Bassen had no authority to sell the team without the consent of the other team members.
“One of our members went and sold the team without our consent. We have made it very clear that we did not agree, but they are still insisting that we sell the team, and they have changed the name to TMT. I have written a letter of protest, but it is like they haven’t taken it seriously. What they are saying is not true, our team is not sold. The person who claimed to sell the team cannot sell it alone, although he’s part of us, but he cannot sell the team alone without our consent. We were not consulted until we heard it on the air that the team was sold.”
Upon receiving news of the sale of the team to TMT, the Abuko United Female Football Club executives sent a protest letter to the GFF on October 31, 2023, stating that Bassen had no legal right to sell the team.
“Abuko United Female Club Members are hereby writing to condemn the act taken by the founder of the club because he is not the legal owner of the club, Abuko United is governed by a board, and any decision to sell or partly partner with anyone should be communicated and agreed upon by the board but not any single individual. The Management Board of Abuko United Female Club strongly condemned the action taken by the club member Dawda Bassen and asked the Gambia Football Federation not to recognize any agreement or document describing the sale or partnership of the club to any individual or Institution. We solicit your Intervention on this delicate matter,” the team wrote to GFF in a protest letter.
Following the submission of a protest letter to the Gambia Football Federation, the club received guidance to conduct an executive meeting, document the minutes, and provide copies of the constitution to the federation. This process was duly completed, and a letter detailing these actions was dispatched to the Gambia Football Federation on Friday, November 3, 2023.
The Abuko United Female Football Club convened a meeting, attended by key figures such as club president Kebba Sambou, Chairman Dawda Bassen, Adviser Omar Malack, General Secretary Veronic Malack, former Head Coach Lamin Jammeh, and Team Manager Mariama Malack.
During the meeting, President Kebba Sambou expressed disappointment with Dawda Bassen, asserting that Dawda had breached the club’s constitution. Sambou emphasized that a club of Abuko United’s stature should not be entangled in such sensitive issues. He urged Bassen to consider the contributions, both financial and in-kind, as well as the volunteer services provided by every club member. Sambou further requested Bassen to rescind any decisions made in collaboration with Omar Saidy, founder of TMT, immediately before the season’s registration deadline.
According to the meeting minutes reviewed by Kerr Fatou, Dawda Bassen, who was present at the meeting, questioned the source of information claiming the sale of the club.
Veronic Malack, the General Secretary of the club, responded that she obtained the information from TMT’s Facebook post and the Gambia Football Federation.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the management of Abuko United, Dawda Bassen criticized the club for a lack of organization and proper coordination. He mentioned that he discovered most players were training with TMT, prompting him to inquire about their contracts. According to his findings, all the players’ contracts had expired.
During the meeting, Dawda revealed his frustration and disappointment, stating that no one had informed him about the expiration of players’ contracts. He disclosed that TMT verbally requested the usage of eleven key players, whose contracts had expired. Subsequently, Dawda met with TMT, and they mutually agreed for the 12 players to join TMT for the regional third-division league. As a result, since the players no longer had contracts with Abuko United, TMT compensated Dawda with D40,000.
Dawda observed that a significant number of Abuko United players were affiliated with TMT training. After a meeting with Omar Saidy, he proposed a partnership deal amounting to one million dalasis. However, Dawda declined the offer, citing Abuko’s inability to afford such a sum. Instead, he decided to retain the existing players and aimed to elevate key members from Abuko United’s third division team to reinforce the roster for the upcoming GFF Women’s first division season.
In an effort to collaborate, Dawda reached out to Abuko United’s third division team for joint preparations for the first division league. However, the head coach and assistant firmly stated that none of the third-division players could join the main team due to their rigorous preparations for an upcoming competition. Frustrated with this response, Dawda struck a deal with TMT to replace Abuko United in the first division. He explained that Abuko United would participate in regional third-division qualifiers the following year.
Furthermore, Dawda disclosed that he brokered an agreement with TMT, recommending to Omar Saidy, the president of TMT, the option to select any Abuko United staff member he wished to work with in TMT management.
During the meeting, Veronica Malack inquired about the agreement with TMT and whether there were any benefits, whether in cash or kind, received in connection with the said agreement. In response, Dawda stated, “No, I haven’t received any cash or benefits so far.”
The club acknowledged internal issues awaiting resolution by the Gambia Football Federation. Despite this, they mentioned that the GFF decided to release the fixtures for the women’s league with the club’s name changed to TMT instead of Abuko United. They explained that a scheduled meeting with GFF Competition Director PaSulay Jobe last Tuesday did not take place due to the unavailability of some party members. Furthermore, the club expressed surprise that PaSulay Jobe, currently in Tanzania, had not communicated with them about his travels.
In seeking comments on the matter, Kerr Fatou reached out to the Gambia Football Federation. Bubacarr Camara, the Head of Communication at the federation, currently in Tanzania with the Gambia National team, described the issue as internal. He assured that the federation would address the matter upon their return to the Gambia by sitting down with both sides to hear their respective stories.
“As a federation, we are not responsible for club ownership. Clubs are independently run from the GFF, of course, they are members of the GFF, and they have rights by the virtue of their membership and also responsibilities. Just like any other club, the owners can decide to sell and communicate to GFF. We received a correspondence from the founder owner of the club that he has sold the club to TMT and thus the name changed,” he said.
Afterward, Camara mentioned that they had received another complaint from certain board members asserting that he lacks the authority to sell the club, despite it being ‘established’ that he is the rightful owner.
“So when that happened we decided to invite both parties, but the day we asked them to come they said they were bereaved, so they could not make it. In between, the General Secretary who called them traveled because he’s part of the team doing Organising for Gambia’s match against the Ivory Coast. When we return to Banjul, we will call them as a federation and hear from both parties because we only heard from only one party. Then from there, GFF will take a position on the matter whether we are going to advise or make a ruling. Our conversation with them is going to determine that,” he said.
We reached out to Dawda Bassen for a statement, but he chose not to comment on the matter, expressing that “all the people involved are my brothers, and it is not time for me to talk.”