Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gambia Football Federation to Protest CAF Championship Expulsion

By Omar Bah

A spokesperson of The Gambia Football Federation, GFF, has said on Monday they will protest against a decision by the Confederation of African Football to disqualify The Gambia from the U-20 Championship for fielding ineligible players. 

CAF’s decision on April 21 came after Liberia’s FA protest over Gambia’s used of over-aged players during the first leg of the qualifiers in Monrovia which Gambia won 1-0.    

“The GFF is innocent and we were acting on the rules and regulations that were presented to us. The players that we selected were under-20 and they are eligible to play the qualifiers,” argued FA spokesman Buba Star Janneh.

 Below 20 years

“If you are nineteen years old and eleven months twenty five days you are still U-20 and for that being the case all those players we featured were below 20 years,” he said.

CAF rules states the competition is reserved for players born on or after 1 January 1995, as stated in a circular dated 2 September 2013 sent to all its member associations of CAF.

"Indeed, Sampere Mendy, BubaSanneh, Bubacarr Trawally, Saloum Faal and Ali Sowe were all born in 1994 and are not qualified to participate…,” a CAF organizing committee agreed on April 21 announcing Gambia expulsion.

It also cancelled the second leg of Gambia Vs Liberia that was scheduled for 25-27 April and declared Liberia “qualified” for the next round.

But Janneh said all the players mentioned were below 20 years. He said CAF did not indicate any specific age in their regulations.

A bit confused

“When Liberia protested, we were a bit confused because the passports of the players in question were U-20, then it turns out somewhere that only players born on 1st January 1995 were eligible to compete in the qualifiers, but [only] when CAF sent us a formal complain dated on the 14th April, 2014,” Janneh said.

He argued that the match commissioner should have disallowed any player that is beyond the age limit.
Also, he said the GFF has not seen the circular that was sent by CAF to the then normalization committee. “The Gambia Football Federation is going to protest against the decision.”   

National embarrassment

The National Sports Council (NSC), a technical arm of the ministry of youth and sports, has stated that it received the news "with total consternation."

"The National Sports Council condemns the decision of the Gambia Football Federation for using overage players which has caused ‘national embarrassment’ to the country which could have been avoided," its director said.

It announced on Monday a task force to investigate The Gambia's disqualification from the U-20 Championship that will be hosted by neighbouring Senegal in 2015.

In a statement, the NSC said it will accordingly "take appropriate action" but fall short of giving details as to what that means.

GFF's incompetence
"This clearly shows incompetence of Gambia Football Federation as they were advised on a circular that only players born on 1st January 1995 or after this date are eligible to play in this championship," Abdul Aziz Titao Mendy, NSC's Executive Director said.

Mendy said the GFF was given expert advice 24 hours before The Gambia vs Liberia game that they needed to go strictly by the dictates of the CAF circular.

The GFF will be expected to take full responsibility of their own wrong judgment and act professionally in such circumstances, the NSC states. "It is also expected that the owners of football will do the appropriate thing in the interest of the country. The Gambia is definitely bigger than personal sentiments."
  • This entry first appeared on The Voice newspaper
Additional reporting by Modou S. Joof

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