The Gambia stands firm under FIFA threat


Tunisian player Mohamed Ali Nafkha (L) vies with Gambia's Sanney Nyassi (R) during a friendly football match on January 9, 2010. FIFA has threatened to impose sanctions upon The Gambia after the government replaced elected football officials with an appointed 12-month committee.



The Gambia will not back down on its decision to dismiss elected soccer officials, despite warnings from the international soccer governing body, FIFA, the BBC reports.

FIFA says The Gambia’s decision to replace the officials with a government-appointed 12-month “interim committee” is against the organization's rules, and will not be “recognized and/or condoned."

Ousted soccer leaders were ordered to report to FIFA today, preceeding a meeting next week in Zurich between FIFA and The Gambia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports.

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Gambian Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mambanyick Njie, stood by the move to appoint new leadership, after Gambia’s loss in the first round of the Africa Nation’s Cup qualifiers to Algeria last week, Reuters reports.

"We believe that our action is necessary and relevant and it is irreversible because, sport in general and soccer in particular, should be administered in the best interest of Gambians and national development," the permanent secretary said, according to Reuters.

The Gambia has not been banned from the game, but FIFA has promised, “severe sanctions” if the West African nation refused to comply. FIFA says it will consider banning the country from international matches and cutting off funding for what it calls, “governmental interference,” the AP reports.

The Gambia sports and youth ministry says if FIFA does not want to work with the government, the country will not participate.

"We will continue to pursue the conversation with FIFA but what must be clear in this country is that the Gambia Football Association cannot participate in any continental or international competition without the support of the government," Njie said, according to the BBC.

In the past FIFA has been both criticized and praised for wielding its power inside countries. In 2010, the Brookings Institution issued a report, saying if FIFA uses its position to demand countries adhere to international norms, it should “apply its rules to all countries with similar standards.”

“Even if FIFA’s interventions may be salutary when they reverse ill-advised political decisions,” the report continues, “Such interventions ultimately constitute a challenge to the sovereignty of member countries.”

The Gambia’s next scheduled match is a June 1 "friendly" against Morocco, followed by another round with Algeria June 15.

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