By Own Correspondent – A five-day intermediate coaching course for 25 female coaches from the first and second division clubs of The Gambia yesterday kicked off at the National Technical Training Centre in Yundum in the West Coast Region of The Gambia.
The course was organised by the Gambia Football Association (GFA) in collaboration with Fifa.
Ms Jacqueline Shipanga, Fifa Instructor from Namibia, speaking at the opening ceremony, congratulated the national U-20 team on their victorious result over their much-fancied opponents Ivory Coast, a result that has ensured the participation of the U-20 team in the U-20 African Championship to be held in Libya in 2011.
Ms Shipanga also said the course is highly relevant to both the participants and Fifa staff, as “it shows the world the power of football”.
She said football as a universal language prevents conflict and builds peace, something the participants will learn in the course.
She also said that part of her job with Fifa is to promote women football and take it to higher heights around world, particularly in Africa.
“It is not only necessary to win gold medals or trophies but also to teach the values and skills [of football] which are essential for us,” she said.
“Through football, you can learn respect, discipline, fair play, leadership, self-confidence, empowerment, tolerance, integration, teamwork and much more.”
Madam Shipanga also told the participants: “The world needs coaches like you; we need young female leaders ready to be role models within the communities of The Gambia.”
She also urged the participants to share the knowledge they would gain from the training with others, as they would have to serve as role models in the sports fraternity.
In delivering the keynote address, Beatrice Allen, the acting president of the Gambia National Olympic Committee, said she was very proud to be associated with the event, given her role as IOC member in the Olympic movement.
She also stated that it is important to train female coaches who would be responsible for the training of their fellow women and girls.
Ms Allen further stated that to minimize the norm of men coaching women and girls in football, especially in Africa, a critical mass of trained female coaches is essential, particularly in The Gambia.
She therefore called for more support to women’s football to get more women and girls interested in sport.
She finally thanked Fifa for facilitating the course and for supporting the growth of women’s football in The Gambia.
“I hope the training will be an annual one, to target women and girls at different levels, including girls in schools,” she said.
Seedy M. B. Kinteh, president of the Gambia Football Association, congratulated the facilitators and participants of the second high-profile Fifa training programme for women’s football.
He said he was very much grateful to Fifa for giving them Madam Jacqueline Shipanga, a brilliant instructor, a coach and a leading manager, to conduct the training.
Kinteh, also stated that the extraordinary growth of women’s football in The Gambia over the years, was underlined by the remarkable team performances and individual displays during local leagues and international friendly matches.
He also highlighted some good examples of the new generation of women footballers such as Veronic Malack, Mariama Bojang, Saruba Colley and Hella Dicko.
“Despite all the achievements, women football, when compared to men football, is struggling in terms of sponsorship, marketing and media coverage and I would like to appeal to the companies, The media and NGOs to come forward and support women’s football,” the GFA president appealed.
He also revealed that the GFA under his leadership has put in place a female national team for future international competitions, with Ms Mariama Sowe and Ms Choro Mbenga as assistant national team coaches.
The GFA president further revealed that the team is ready to represent The Gambia in Caf and Fifa qualification matches, adding that they will also represent The Gambia in the WAFU international tournament for women at the end 2010.
The GFA boss concluded by congratulating President Yahya Jammeh, Fifa President Joseph Sepp Blatter, Fifa Goal Project Chairman Mohamed Bin Hammam, Caf President Essa Hayatou, and Fifa Development Officer Sampon Kablan, for their support to the GFA.