Monday 04 July 2022, 22:00

The start of a new chapter for women’s football in Gambia

  • Gambia wants to propel its female footballers onto the world stage

  • Launch of the U-17 women’s league and a women’s football symposium on the agenda

  • Focus on exchanging ideas with stakeholders in women’s football

The popularity of women’s football continues to surge around the world – and Gambia is no exception. The vision of the Gambia Football Federation (GFF) is to promote the development of and support for women’s football programmes. The GFF’s aim is to create a beneficial environment that enables women to participate in all areas of development, whether as players, coaches, referees, administrators or in leadership roles, thus delivering on a key part of the its national football development plan. As part of this vision, the smallest country on the African mainland held a three-day workshop in partnership with FIFA for coaches in the new U17 women’s league. The workshop formed part of the build-up to the women’s football symposium, where stakeholders in the women’s game met to share their views and experiences.

The symposium rounded out an action-packed week that highlighted the remarkable progress being made to develop Gambian women’s football. With representatives from FIFA’s Women’s Football department and the First Lady of Gambia, Her Excellence Fatou Bah-Barrow, in attendance, the event provided opportunities for delegates to network, collaborate and exchange ideas. "Women’s football in Gambia continues to rise, changing narratives, challenging cultural barriers and empowering girls and women nationwide," said Thuba Sibanda, who acts as an expert on the project. "It was great to be on the ground to see just how fast it’s grown and to meet the coaches, key stakeholders and administrators who are pushing hard on the ground to put the women’s game on the map. "There’s still a lot of work to be done, but thanks to the FIFA development programmes that are currently ongoing, we know that we are not starting from scratch and that the foundations are being laid. Our hope is that with the kind of support it is getting, Gambian women’s football will slowly start to permeate the regional and African football landscape and make its name globally one day."

But what exactly has the GFF already achieved when it comes to development? The plan to take women’s football in the country to an entirely new level first took shape in 2014 with initiatives such as the Grassroots Football Development Plan. FIFA-supported girls grassroots festivals were also held in all seven regions nationwide. The position of Women’s Football Coordinator was created in Gambia in 2014, while numerous FIFA coaching courses in the women’s game were held in the same year. These efforts were followed by projects such as symposiums and workshops to boost the participation of women within the sport, a nationwide coach development programme and involvement in the Women in Football Leadership Programme, to name just a few.

"I’m inspired by the work we are doing in Gambia, and seeing it in person has been quite heartwarming," said a delighted Sibanda. "The Federation is pushing a bold plan to see more and more girls playing football and more women turning professional and taking on roles in the sport after they stop playing, while at the same time enhancing the quality of the women’s game," she added. "We have no doubt that what we witnessed this week is the start of a new chapter for women’s football in Gambia, one where girls who dream of playing football can be discovered by the game and nurtured by it, and where women who want to work in this area can take on crucial roles to spearhead and unlock the next level of women’s football in Gambia.

"A chapter that ensures that the gates to pitches remain open and that girls can access them as a safe space where they belong, are empowered and have role models who continue to hold their hand both on and off the pitch."

*Pictures courtesy of the Gambia Football Federation