The President of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF), Lamin Kaba Bajo, has strongly responded to allegations made by the Gabonese football delegation which attracted massive international media attention as most of which only relied on Arsenal and Gabon captain, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s version on social media.
Mr. Bajo informed journalists at a press conference held by GFF that neither the Gabonese advance team nor their ambassador or minister’s arrival details were communicated to The Gambia Football Federation (GFF).
“I also want to be on record to inform the general public that neither their (Gabonese) advance party team nor their ambassador or minister’s arrival details were communicated to us. So, we were not aware of them arriving into the country. All we knew is that they were in mailing list but when they were arriving we never knew.”
He added that not getting any information about their arrivals led to them not being accorded the necessary protocol.
“Worse of all about this incident is, the advance party came into the country to prepare the ground for the match, without any call or even contacting the GFF. They did everything on their own without consulting us. Which is very unprecedented in football,” he said.
The GFF leader said during this pandemic, countries have their own standard practice for those entering their country, noting that on top of that, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has adopted its own requirements with regard to covid-19 test in line with FIFA standards and protocols.
“The CAF rules unequivocally states that any individual who is departing from a country or an area of or transiting through a country or area with current covid-19 community transmission status, must provide confirmation of a negative PRC test result conducted no earlier than 72 hours before departure.”
He further said that: “The new CAF rules subject delectations, match officials and match appointees to mandatory PCR test to be conducted no earlier than 48 hours before the match and be made available 2 hours before departure for the stadium.”
As a result of these rules, Bajo stated that every member of the Gambian delegation flew into Gabon on time and with negative covid-19 test results. According to him, they were subjected to two separate tests; both at the airport and at the hotel while in Gabon.
“Because of the respect that we have for the laws of their country, we complied without hesitation and hope that they would act in the spirit of fair play. It was after the second test at the hotel, one of our key players (Sulayman Marreh) returned positive despite entering with a negative result conducted in Belgium prior to his travel.”
According to him, the GFF had on numeral occasions attempted to ensure the cooperation of its Gabonese partners to communicate their arrival information to make sure all necessary arrangements were made for their smooth transportation from the airport and throughout their stay in the country. “But all efforts proved futile,” he said.
“Apart from the regulation, we should provide them with a bus and a second vehicle for their officials but our vehicles were left abandoned because they went and made their own arrangement without consulting us.”
The GFF boss said in their efforts to know the arrival time of their counterparts, they sent the GFF protocol officer to the airport to have some information about their arrival time.
“The airport control tower said they were going to arrive at 10 p.m. and later midnight. My information said that they arrived at 23:55 p.m. (almost midnight) as opposed to the claimed by my colleague (Gabonese Football Federation president) who said they arrived by 23:45 p.m. but the record at the airport control tower wouldn’t lie. They arrived five minutes to midnight surprising us.”
President Bajo said the initial announcement date communicated on Gabonese arrival was on 14 November (late night of 13 November), noting that they (Gabonese) even told them that they were coming together with the Gambian delegation from Libreville on 13 November; which they later changed.
“They later changed and communicated that they would be coming on 14 November and later changed again to 15 November at 20:00 hours (8pm). Until 09:35 a.m., we never had any communication from them.”
He noted that they instructed the General Secretary to write to CAF to inform them about their frustration for the Gabonese delegation not communicating their arrival time, adding that all what they wanted was to try and avoid the possibility of any lapses on their side regarding their arrival into the country.
“When they arrived, to add salt to injury, they refused to hand over their test results which they claimed were negative and that brought suspicion. Then we said no, if they cannot provide us their test results like any other passenger then we cannot allow them into the country but rather to have them tested for covid-19.”