There has been a “massive shift” in the number of girls playing football in The Gambia in recent years, according to the Gambia football federation women’s football coordinator Sainey Sisoho.
Sisoho says six thousand females aged 9-16 are actively playing football across the country and the number is continuing to rise. “I think it is important to show the progress that we’ve made with the GFF grassroots program,” Sisoho said. “Our target is to make sure every girl in the country have access to play football and we’re working every day to make it possible.”
In October 2017, Monika Staab, FIFA Instructor and women’s football expert from Germany arrived in The Gambia to begin a German-Gambia Football Project with the responsibility of developing women’s grassroots football in the country.
The project dubbed “GFF Grassroots Girls Programme’’ sets out a vision for school-going girls to double their take-up of the game and ensure they learn basic skills and techniques in football. “Progress has been made for girls playing football in The Gambia, “said Monika. “My mission is to give opportunities to girls who want to play football. They deserve equal treatment like the boys,” she tells The Chronicle.
“Thanks to the GFF grassroots girl’s programme, more girls are playing football in this country and that is a massive shift”.
The Gambia has just a few trained female football trainers, and girls are mostly restricted to household chores. However, Monika has taken it upon herself to change that by creating opportunities for girls to get into football. “In all the regions I visited, I realized girls don’t know about football. All they know and do is be at home to help their mothers. They think they can’t kick the ball,” she says.
Monika also believes that progress has made in addressing gender equality in the game, but she says there is still a long, long way to go. “I think it also really important to use the opportunity to talk about the challenges that we’ve still got to fix as well as to talk about the huge change in opportunities there have been for girls and women to play the game, “she told The Chronicle.
Since her arrival in The Gambia, Monika has been closely working with physical education (PE) teachers in primary schools across the regions of The Gambia. “It’s important to engage the physical education teachers because they directly interact with the girls, “Monika said.
Recently, more than three hundred girls in the north bank region villages of Kuntair, Fass Njaga Choi and Njongon received training on ball control, dribbling and passing. Among them is 9 year old Fattoumatta Conateh. She hopes to become a national team player and she sees the GFF project as a good first step to achieving her dream.” I want to thank the GFF for organizing this event. It’s good for us. I’m really happy to be here. I hope to learn a lot from the coaches.”
Aramatta Camara, a 13-year-old student at Tallinding Lower Basic School. Her dream is to also become a football super star.
Growing up in football-craze Ebo Town, Aramata goes out to play football every weekend at her school’s football field, about 3km away from her house.
The biggest influence for me is my father. Though he wasn’t a great football player, he encourages me to play football after he realized that I love the game,” she tells The Chronicle.
Sheriff Kanyi, desk officer of sports (Red 3) for north bank region described the project as a powerful initiative, adding “It has changed the perception to girls football in north bank region. “We are committed to developing school football because that’s where to get raw talents for our various national team categories.”