Sulayman Kuyateh, head coach of Samger football club in the 2nd division has called on the Gambia football federation to engage the government on ways to ensure football restarts in the country amid the pandemic.
In May, the GFF cancelled all their competitions as the Covid-19 outbreak began to wreak havoc throughout Africa.
Recently, many African countries including Tanzania had resume league football and Kuyateh wants the Gambia to follow suite.
The former Gamtel coach said there should be safety measures or protocols to ensure football returns in the safest possible. “Covid-19 doesn’t seem to be leaving us anytime soon, so we should look out for ways to play football with it, “he tells The Chronicle. “The GFF should talk to the government to put some restrictions as other countries and allow us to play football.”
Gambia has recorded 2,797 Coronavirus Cases since the epidemic began, according to the World Health Organization, with 96 reported dead cases.
Meanwhile, the football federation is yet to decide on the future of league football. “At our level we are planning and working on how to restart the league, “says Ebou Faye 2nd Vice President of The Gambia Football Federation who also doubles as the head of the competition department at the GFF. “The plan was to resume in October but now that the government has placed a state of public emergency, we cannot do anything yet, “he said.
However, Kuyateh said there should be carefully measured, step-wise approaches to see what can be achieved safely for the sport to return. “It is possible for football to resume, “he said. “We don’t have many people watching our games compare to other countries. We have less than five hundred people in our league games, so public gathering like crowds can be controlled with observation of rules recommended by WHO.”
Last week, the football federation received $1.5 million grant from FIFA meant to help ease the financial challenges that have affected the sport as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In a disbursement formula released earlier, the football federation allocated 4 million dalasi for medical protocol for the restart league for all venues and clubs.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive financial disruptions around the globe, and league football in the Gambia is no exception. “We are sitting at home not doing anything since March and football is our way of making money, “Kuyateh said. “We have to play to make a living. Football is a job for many people and because of there is no league football some players are not getting paid by their teams.”
Muhammed Lamin Drammeh is a freelance journalist working with The Chronicle. He’s studying political science and English language at the University of The Gambia.