The future of Gambian refereeing is bright and the authorities are committed to producing more Papa Gassamas for Africa’s best to hand over to when the time comes for him to hang up his whistle. These were the remarks of the President of The Gambia Football Federation, Rtd. Captain Lamin Kabba Bajo, at the opening ceremony of a five-day FIFA Member Association Refereeing Course currently underway at The Gambia Football Federation Hotel in Old Yundum.
“Papa Gassama is our pride as Gambians. Before him we had other prominent referees but we want to produce more Papa Gassamas so that when the time comes for him to retire, he will hand over the baton to you,” Bajo said.
“Papa has always been encouraging the young ones and the ball is now in your courts to make the best out of the existing trust and confidence in you. We want to produce a full panel of referees because Papa is so good we don’t want to give him in the hands of others. Therefore, I’m challenging the assistant referees to step up their game and if that means we have to do a revolution to achieve it, we would make sure it happens.”
Mr. Bajo described the training as one of the activities that the Federation cannot afford to miss and therefore, thanked FIFA for their support. He added that he’s not satisfied with the number of Gambia’s current FIFA enlisted panel, noting that the welfare of the referees is very important to the GFF, describing them as indispensable. “Previous courses have impacted on our football and this has also reflected on your performances, especially during this year’s Super Nawettan,” he said, adding that the Federation hasn’t received a single complaint about referees in the past two years. He also challenged the instructors to help develop more women referees.
The GFF boss also hailed the increasing number of local instructors and appealed to the FIFA refereeing instructors to help develop more Gambians. He thanked both the local and international instructors for the sacrifices they have made.
The acting General Secretary of the GFF, Abdou Salaam Jammeh, said referees have given more glory to The Gambia than any other athlete(s). He described the training as a stock taking and said particular emphasis must be put on physical and mental fitness as well as the interpretation of the laws of the game because a single mistake can jeopardise everything.
FIFA referees instructor, Felix Tangawarima, a Zimbabwean, said Papa Gassama is one of the best referees in the world. He said he worked with the three-time African Referee of the Year ten years ago and had seen the potential of a World Cup referee in him from the beginning but the Gambian had self doubts.
He said after a day with them, the current batch has the ability and the capacity to do the same. He promised to do his best to develop more Gambian referees while also putting emphasis on more Gambian assistant referees to be helping Papa and other Gambian FIFA referees at international competitions. “You’re not politicians so, therefore, you should leave politics to politicians and just concentrate on your trade. Refuse to be used by anyone,” he advised the participants.
The President of The Gambia Football Referees Association, Ansumana Kinteh, said the course came at a time when there is a serious challenge for the referees to keep up the momentum to stay at the top level. He said the challenge lies before the young ones to do more than Papa Gassama.
He also challenged the assistant referees to step up. “Papa with other assistants is a serious course for concern. We want to boost the confidence of our assistants so that they can begin to officiate games alongside him. The course isn’t new but the challenges are new and numerous,” Kinteh said.
“In the course, 80% is practical to improve your man management and approach so that you know how to react and be yourselves when making decisions. This is one of the reasons why our referees are very tough on them during the Super Nawettan. So I’m looking forward to a successful one week and am challenging you to get the goods as expected.”
He thanked the GFF for its commitment and support to the programme. He noted that this was the last FIFA MA Course in Africa and if not the timely intervention of the leadership of the Federation the country would have missed out on a very important event. He promised to work hand in glove with the GFF Referees Committee and its leadership to ensure that the welfare and well-being of the referees are protected at all times.