President Jammeh celebrates Gambia's victory - Pledges D1Million for each U-17 player
Monday, April 06, 2009
The Gambian leader, Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, has pledged D1Million to each member of the Under 17 players and officials as a reward for winning the 2009 African Under 17 Championship in Algeria last week.
The president described the gesture as a fulfillment of the promise he made to the team earlier prior to the final. The sports-loving Gambian leader made this pronouncement during the special victory celebration staged at the July 22nd Square on Saturday in honour of the team that has made the whole country proud.
Addressing thousands of home crowd, President Jammeh thanked the players and their officials for a job well done. He said: "I remember when I spoke to the team in a telephone conversation, the coach promised me that by the grace of Allah, they would win the tournament and bring the cup," and you have kept your promise."
He thanked all Gambians and non-Gambians for their support to the team. He also hailed members of his cabinet for their support and prayers. The Gambian leader poured praises on the vice president, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, for her unwavering concern for the team. The vice president, he said, was so much concerned about the welfare and security of the team, as she would do for her own children.
The Baby Scorpions won all their five matches in the process for their second title in the age-category championship in the absence of the Gambian fans who failed to make the trip to the North African country.
While thanking the team for executing themselves well in the absence of the fans, President Jammeh admitted he would have loved to send the fans to cheer the team up in Algeria if not for security reasons. "It was not my inability to send the fans to Algeria, but security reasons," he said, and added, "If I can send fans to Peru, then sending them to Algeria would be a piece of cake. In CAF/FIFA rules, the Algerian government is obliged to protect the players and not the fans."
President Jammeh also reminded of a nation-wide tour, the team, regarded as national heroes, will embark on to enable other regions to welcome them. "After today, we will work with the president of the Gambia Football Association, Seedy Kinteh and SoS Youth and Sports for the team to go on a nation-wide tour so that other regions can welcome them," he said.
Recalling The Gambia's excellent performance in the 2005 U-17 championship World Cup, when the country defeated the reigning champions, Brazil, the president sent some sort of a warning message to FIFA that The Gambia is again coming to Nigeria.
Jammeh reminded Gambians that in 2004 he sent notice to FIFA that The Gambia was coming. "Came 2005, we were there. Barely four years after we are talking of participating in another World Cup," he said. "I want to assure the coach and the team that they have my government's support and 99% of the Gambian population. This is the second time we are winning the African U-17 championship. I am telling the coach and the team that this year we want the World Cup. By the grace of Almighty Allah, we will bring the junior World Cup to The Gambia," Professor Jammeh stated.
Though the Scorpions will not participate in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, the president stressed to the world's football governing body (FIFA) that The Gambia will participate in the World Cup after South Africa 2010. President Jammeh also thanked the president, government and people of Algeria, recalling that during Thursday's final against Algeria, some Algerians were supporting The Gambia as opposed to some countries "where we were bowed as we sang our national anthem."
He said Algerians have shown true sportsmanship by cheering the Gambian team despite losing to them in final, adding that their gesture is worthy of emulation by any African country hosting such competition.
As he rounded up his brief but eloquent address, President Jammeh said: "When I spoke to you, I made a promise that if you bring the trophy to The Gambia, I will give you a big surprise. You have kept your promise, and today I am going to fulfill my promise and I know 99.9% of the Gambian population will support me in this." "Africell is always boasting of making people millionaires, but today I will make history by making all the members of the team a millionaire by giving each player and official D1million." "If you had come earlier, you will all go with your money today but since you arrived late, come to my office on Monday [today] and you will all receive your monies", said Professor Jammeh who also urged the boys to bring him the World Cup from Nigeria, later this year, and get another surprise package. In conclusion, President Jammeh reminded the gathering about the importance of team-work, adding that as long as we unite and continue to work together, we will always get what we want.
Speaking earlier, the secretary of state for Youth and Sports, Sheriff ML Gomez, expressed delight at the victory. Gomez commended the team, the management and the entire Gambian population for their support and hard work. The Youth and Sports supremo also saluted the chief supporter of Gambian sports, President Jammeh, for his support and prayers. Saturday's victory celebration was graced by the vice president and secretary of state for Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Fatoumatta Jahumpa-Ceesay, Chief Justice Abdou Karim Savage, secretaries of state, foreign diplomats, security chiefs, cultural groups, artists and thousands of Scorpions faithful.
On the day of the victory
On the day of the final that saw the Scorpions won their opponent, the president formed part of hundreds of thousands of Gambians, in and outside the country, who celebrated the trilling victory of the U-17 team.
Just moments after the end of the match, flanked by the vice president, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, and secretaries of state, and surrounded by a host of jubilant Scorpion fans, the president made a telephone call to the team's base in Algeria. The telephone call by the president did not only make him the first person to express appreciation for the heroic performance of the Darling Scorpions, but it also served as opportunity for him to talk to officials of the country's football governing body - among them the GFA president, Seedy Kinteh and the team's Egyptian coach.
A visibly happy, emotionally overwhelmed and proud President Jammeh told the boys on the phone to Algeria that he was thankful to them and the entire Gambian population ''for making us a proud nation.'' He dedicated the victory to the Almighty Allah, reassuring the Scorpions of fulfilling his promise to them in the wake of the fulfilment of their promise to him. ''My prayers,'' he assured them, ''are always for you.'' The president's expression of appreciation resonated in a declaration of Friday as a public holiday, in honour of the team, promising to host an all-night party for them when they arrive back in the country.
Vice President Dr Njie-Saidy shared similar mood with the president. Also speaking to the team on the line to Algeria, she conveyed thanks to them, their coach and the GFA boss, on their performance. She dedicated the victory to the effort of the Gambian leader, describing him as chief patron and supporter of the Scorpions. Speaking to journalists shortly after his telephone call to the team, President Jammeh first praised Allah ''for making this possible.'' He called it a great day for Gambian football worldwide.
The president recalled that it was Algeria that denied the senior Scorpions from participation in the African Nations Cup, having defeated them. This competition, he indicated, served as a perfect opportunity for The Gambia to pay back, on Algerian soil for that matter. On behalf of the government and people of The Gambia, he again expressed thanks and appreciation for the team ''for making Gambians proud of themselves.''
Author: by Nanama Keita & Assan Sallah