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Gambia Football Federation Disputes Claims of 14 FIFA-Built Pitches

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Lamin Jassey, Secretary General Gambia Football Federation speaking at the press conference.

By Landing Ceesay 

The General Secretary of the Gambia Football Federation (GFF), Mr. Lamin Jassey, addressed journalists to provide clarity on the misconception that FIFA had erected 14 football pitches in the country. Contrary to popular belief, he explained that FIFA had executed 14 interventions, not the construction of full-fledged pitches.

Mr. Jassey emphasized the need for clarification, stating, “Now, let me come to the issue of the FIFA projects in the country. People are saying that FIFA built 14 pitches, let me make this categorically clear that FIFA did not build pitches in the Gambia. Something like this (referring to FIFA’s graph report) needs explanation and interpretation. FIFA, I repeat, did not build 14 fields. FIFA intervened 14 times or let me say FIFA did 14 projects as far as infrastructure is concerned from 2016 to 2022. This is what exactly, I repeat, they intervened 14 times.” 

He continued, shedding light on the staged nature of the projects and the misconceptions surrounding them. “For example, if you talk about Banjul, FIFA has intervened in Banjul 3 times. Because the way the GFF has been applying for these projects is in stages. For example, one project will be to do the perimeter fence only, and then we will write a project proposal to the FIFA. And say we will want to do the perimeter fence of Banjul. That perimeter fence is a project of its own. When that is approved, it is called SOA (Statement Of Approval),” Mr. Jassey told the Journalists. 

The Gambia Football Federation called a press conference on Thursday to address concerns stemming from FIFA’s published list, indicating the construction of 14 football pitches in the country. FIFA had confirmed disbursing over $10.8 million to the GFF during the mentioned period for the purported construction of natural and artificial grass pitches and the renovation of an existing surface.

However, this announcement sparked controversy among Gambian football enthusiasts, who questioned the transparency of the GFF and sought clarification on the locations of the alleged 14 pitches.In response, Mr. Jassey clarified that the term “interventions” did not equate to the construction of complete football pitches. He detailed how the funds were utilized for diverse infrastructural projects, including pitch upgrades, renovations, and the establishment of training facilities.

To illustrate FIFA’s involvement in The Gambia, Mr. Jassey provided examples, stating, “For example, over usage of Banjul artificial turf, after a year or two we realized that this was not fit for purpose. We should not play our national leagues on this. So what do we do, let’s write a project proposal to FIFA. That is different from the perimeter fence we earlier applied for, Is going to be a separate project. That will be written and approved, and you will have a statement of approval (SOA). What do we have there, two interventions from FIFA? 

“Then we will say again the dressing rooms are dilapidated. This is not hygienic, and we need to change the dressing room or there are no public toilets. Then we will do another project for Banjul and say, okay, we are going to deal with public toilets and a dressing room. This gives you another project. There will be a Statement Of Approval (SOA). Now Banjul alone how many interventions, three interventions,” Mr. Jassey explained. Mr. Jassey refuted claims that FIFA had built 14 pitches, emphasizing that FIFA never approved funds without proper documentation and validation.

He explained, “You think FIFA can build a field without even having the documents of that field and without knowing that, that field doesn’t exist. Some of the reports if you read as if FIFA did some project, we kind of came here, made it up, and sent a report to FIFA and said we built 14 fields. But for each of those fields, we have to tender an agreement between the owners of those fields and the GFF to say that if they invest in this field whenever GFF wants to play football, or we want to play our leagues, we must have priorities. All of these things are happening. GFF invested in those fields, but is not only GFF that is using those fields. That’s how FIFA does things”. The FIFA Forward program allocated approximately USD 2.8 billion to the 211 FIFA Member Associations, including the Gambia Football Federation, six confederations, and various zonal and regional associations. The global report on the FIFA Forward program highlighted the support for over 1,600 distinct projects during its initial seven years, all aimed at fostering long-term advancements in football development.

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