Less than a week after The Gambia and Algeria played to a 1-1 draw in their first leg of AFCON qualifiers, Gambia Football Federation (GFF) President, Lamin Kaba Bajo, on Wednesday offered clarification about the overcrowding at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
“We have no intention to put our own lives at risk. We were all faced with security issues,” Lamin Kaba Bajo told journalists during a news conference held at Football House in Kanifing, some 7 km away from Banjul.
Last Saturday, the Independence Stadium was reportedly overflowed with more than 35,000 spectators. Images of fans climbing up the stadium’s light poles to be able to watch the match were widely shared on social media platforms, provoking waves of reactions about their safety.
Mr. Bajo made it clear that the stadium management provided them with the information that the current capacity of the stadium is 24,700.
He said it was based on that information that the Events Management Committee in consultation with GFF decided to print 24,500 tickets.
A GFF handout obtained by this reporter shed light on the factors that caused the overcrowding, revealing that counterfeit tickets were being sold. “The GFF was able to intercept some of these tickets for evidence.”
GFF President said it is too disturbing that people who were tasked with the responsibility to cut the tickets into two halves before fans enter failed to comply with the rules.
“They collected the tickets wiithout cutting them and went ahead to resell them for financial gains,” Bajo deplored. “GFF did not print a single ticket above the capacity of the stadium.”
Taking the gloves off, GFF boss said some people within the organisation have failed them and expressed his resolve to hire ‘new faces’ to do the job.
For his part, the Vice-Chairman of the Event Management Committee, Lang Tombong Tamba, said without the support of the public, security personnel will not make any impact.
There were instances where fans reportedly broke the stadium gates to get into the stadium.
He also decried the fact that dishonesty has become the order of the day as some people decided to flood the stadium with counterfeit tickets.
“There are lessons drawn from the incident and we we’ll take drastic measures to avert reoccurrence in subsequent matches,” he assured.
The President of the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia (SJAG), Musa Sise, called on media practitioners to take responsibility for the accuracy of their reports.
Acknowledging the fact that football is bigger than any of us, Sise decried the fact some reporters were busy misleading members of the public.
“Nobody reported about the reasons behind the inactiveness of security personnel,” he voiced out. “If everything goes bad; it goes bad for all of us.”