Yaya Jammeh and Gambian football; The Vodoo, the love and the promise

The former secretary general Momodou Sabally told me “Jammeh was a super fan. I only wished our sports administrators loved the game half as much as he did. His level of commitment was unparalleled.”

Yaya Jammeh had followed suit most of the African leaders to patronize, motivate and support sports with football leading in the trend. In 2015, Alasana Ouattara gave each of Ivory Coast’s winning team a house worth $34,000 and a cash of the same amount.

Upon breaking their jinx of appearing in the AFCON, Uganda President Museveni held on to his promised to award each of the Cranes 15,000 Dollars. Alpha Conde the latest president to comment on football during his BBC interview where he said: “It would be unthinkable for me not to be the number one fan of my team. And I fight for them to succeed by creating the right environment and by giving them the resources.”

The state house has hosted lots of dignitaries and celebrities, Babili Mansa made sure football was welcome, celebrated and honoured in the highest office in the country. Even when most of his critics questioned the wealth he splashed on Senegalese musicians, Yayi kompins, Nollywood stars, some for covering his crime, the U17, U20 and then U17 women category also had shares. Often delayed match bonuses and unpaid allowances, any token/gift from Babili Mansa had a long way for the team.

In 2012, Yaya Jammeh gave the Female U17 (Baby Scorpions) team D100, 000 each plus D50, 000 to their technicians and a Mini coaster, the same offer was extended to the male U20 team. Back in 2009, Yaya Jammeh gave out D29 Million Dalasis to the Gambia U17 players and officials when the team was heading to Algeria. It is not all about monetary benefits, but uplifting morals, encouraging patriotism, and fostering professionalism to make sure players are treated professionally so that they stay patriotic to the national colours of the country. In 2006, Bakary Papa Gassama, who is Africa’s finest, had to commend Babili’s support because he felt that Yaya Jammeh has contributed to his success.

Bouake and Dakar:

The Scorpions found themselves in Bouake when an uprising trigged by the rebels. The rebels came to the national team’s hotel in search of one man. The Scorpion players were robbed, and went on to taste hunger and thirst, a very horrible situation. Seedy Kinteh managed to communicate with Jammeh, Jammeh intervened by sending a chartered flight, Jammeh didn't air lift the Scorpions alone without delegation from Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Worst things could have happened hadn't been things were delayed. The return leg of Senegal v Gambia, a tense derby as fans unrest and chaos across Dakar. Jammeh again airlifted players and fans back home. Despite losing 3-1 in Dakar, Jammeh granted each of the team and its officials a plot of land because of their dedication and spirit shown by the players. Whenever Jammeh calls on the Scorpions to the State House, moods were always high.

Yaya Jammeh wishes and dreams were left shattered when different Ministers of Sports and presidents of the Federation failed to organize strong committed personals to make the development of football a dream. Jammeh through his instinct managed to trust some football men, while he had reservations and missed trust for others.

The voodoo

Yaya Jammeh grew some rivalry with Senegal, over the years for reason best known to him. Is Cassamance an influence for his hatred to few presidents of Senegalese? When Senegal assembled one of its best team ever, Jammeh made sure he halted Senegal's impressive record against the Gambia, when Senegal were at their best.

They had just returned from Korea/Japan World cup and vying for a qualify spot of African cup of nation. Jammeh who went to claim to have cure for AIDS and other sickness, wasn't any short of mystic and Voodoo for the Scorpions.

Sheeps were given as sacrifice in the middle of the stadium, his Muslim leaders offered prayers in the same ground behind closed doors. Off course the game ended 0-0, a coincidence?

Jammeh will be remembered for two things in Gambian football, after his generosity towards the footballers, Jammeh was in the view that his voodoo do have impacts on results. He didn't play football politics well because he was misled about the Kebbeh saga and that left a bad blueprint.

Now it's President Adama Barrow's time to chip in and push Gambian football and sports in general.

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