The President of the Gambia Football Federation, Lamin Kabba Bajo has recently returned from Abuja, Nigeria. He was in Nigeria at the invitation of Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick following the historic visit to Africa by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the newly appointed FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura.
Upon his return to Banjul, the GFF boss spoke to the Football Federation website www.gff.gm about his visit and subsequent meetings with the FIFA President and Secretary General, and other issues.
Mr Bajo said he was at the Abuja meeting with several of his colleagues across Africa at the invitation of NFF President whom according to him decided to invite his colleague presidents to welcome FIFA President and Secretary General and to discuss with them matters relating to football development in Africa and the world at large. “We participated in a series of programmes and other engagements organised by our host including a courtesy call on the President of the Nigerian Senate,” said Bajo.
He stated that the FIFA President was pleased to interact with the African football leaders and further renewed his commitment to working with Africa for the continuous growth and development of football. “We told him that our loyalty to former President Sepp Blatter was based on the support he extended to Africa especially the hosting of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa including a host of other football development programmes for Africa and assured him of our undivided support and loyalty to enable him implement his vision for the development of the game on the continent and globally”.
The GFF President further stated that he and his colleagues also thanked FIFA President for quickly fulfilling some of his campaign promises amongst which are the appointment of an African as the FIFA Secretary General, and also for increasing the FIFA financial support to member associations.
Mr. Bajo said that a caucus meeting, though not related with the visit of FIFA President was held by English speaking countries within CAF during their stay in Abuja. The sole objective of which he said was to create a forum through which they can defend the interest of the Anglophone countries for a common purpose, among which was the need to put up and support common candidates for the forthcoming elections into the FIFA Council, slated for this September. This he said was based on the fact that CAF is now divided into language group (English, French and Arab/Portuguese/Spanish) for this purpose, and that the positions in FIFA Council will be allocated according to these blocks. By the new status, two members from the African block will be elected to serve for six months before a full weight of seven officials be voted into the council in March 2017. Candidates from seven countries are vying for the two positions to be filled in, viz: Senegal, Ghana, South Sudan, Niger, Madagascar, CAF 1st Vice President Pattel (from Seychelles) and CAF 2nd Vice President Almamy Kabele Camara (from Guinea-Conakry).
Asked about his reaction to some media reports alleging that the Abuja meeting was meant to plot the toppling of the incumbent CAF Supremo, Issa Hayatou, GFF President vehemently denied this allegation and further stated that he has never attended any meeting in which such an issue was discussed, and that his presence in Nigeria at the invitation of his Nigerian colleague was to welcome and meet with FIFA President and Secretary General, and also to take part in the Anglophone Block meeting on the election of candidates into the FIFA council. “In fact, there was nothing of such discussed at any of the meetings I attended,” said Mr. Bajo.
Reacting to this reporter’s question whether the NFF had obtained the approval of the CAF leadership in organising such a gathering of African Football Presidents, Bajo said that he was of the belief that that was the case as CAF is the immediate authority of football on the continent. He added that “even where we have our differences, we should always find a forum to argue it out well and finally reach a common agreement in our collective interest”.
GFF President emphasized that he is loyal to the current CAF leadership in Hayatou and that he will continue to give him his fullest support and allegiance. This, he said was further manifested by the fact that the GFF is among those member federations which have already urged Mr. Hayatou to run for President for another term based on the fact that Africa needs him at the helm of CAF at this very crucial period, with his experience and strength of character seeing how he brought honour and dignity to FIFA during its troubled period.