Gambia women's national football team
|Association||Gambia Football Association|
|Sub-confederation||WAFU (West Africa)|
|Head coach||Bubacarr Jallow|
The Gambia women's national football team represents the Gambia in international football competition. The team, however, has not competed in a match recognised by FIFA, the sport's international governing body, despite that organised women's football has been played in the country since 1998. The Gambia has two youth teams, an under-17 side that has competed in FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup qualifiers, and an under-19 side that withdrew from regional qualifiers for an under-19 World Cup. The development of a national team faces challenges similar to those across Africa, although the national football association has four staff members focusing on women's football.
In 1985, few countries had women's national football teams. While the sport gained popularity worldwide in later decades, the Gambia's national team only played its first game in 2007. That game was not FIFA-recognised. As of March 2012, the team was unranked by FIFA, and as of the following month the Gambia had not played in a FIFA-sanctioned match. The team has not participated in major regional and international tournaments, including the Women's World Cup, the 2010 African Women's Championship or the 2011 All-Africa Games.
The country did not have a FIFA-recognised youth national team until 2012, when the Gambia under-17 women's team competed in Confederation of African Football qualifiers for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, to be held in Azerbaijan in September 2012. The Gambia had fielded an under-17 team of 24 players, narrowed from an initial pool of 49 young women. Two girls from the SOS Children’s Village Bakoteh were chosen as a members of the team. The Gambia first played Sierra Leone in a pair of qualifying matches for the tournament. Gambia won the first match 3-0 in Banjul, the Gambia's capital. The return match was delayed in for 24 hours and played in Makeni. The Gambia beat Sierra Leone 4-3 to qualify for the final round. The Gambia then beat Tunisia 1-0 at home and won 2-1 in Tunisia. Adama Tamba and Awa Demba scored the Gambia's goals. Tunisia's only goal was a Gambian own goal. The win qualified Gambia for the 2012 Azerbaijan World Cup.
Background and development
The development of women's football in Africa faces several challenges, including limited access to education, poverty amongst women, inequalities and human rights abuses targeting women. Funding is another issue impacting the game in Africa, where most financial assistance comes from FIFA and not national football associations. Another challenge is the retention of football players. Many women footballers leave the continent to seek greater opportunity in Europe or the United States.
Gambia's national football association was founded in 1952, and became affiliated with FIFA in 1968. Football is the most popular women's sport in the country, and was first played in an organized system in 1998. A national competition was launched in 2007, the same year FIFA started an education course on football for women. Competition was active on both the national and scholastic levels by 2009. There are four staffers dedicated to women's football in the Gambia Football Association, and representation of women on the board is required by the association's charter.
Death of Fatim Jawara
In September 2016, Fatim Jawara, a player of the national team, left her homeland Serrekunda in Gambia and crossed the Sahara Desert to Libya. In November 2016, she travelled with others on two boats across the Mediterranean Sea, heading towards the Lampedusa island of Italy. Due to a severe storm, their boats sunk and Jawara drowned. She was 19 years old. Her absence was first noted when the national team was due to play Casa Sports F.C. from Senegal as part of a festival to celebrate women's football. Jawara sought to smuggle herself into Europe, attempting crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat to Italy. She travelled first to Libya, before boarding the boat. Several days after the attempt, her family was contacted by the agent to inform them that her boat had capsized, and she had drowned.
Reactions to her death
- Lamin Kaba Bajo, President of the Gambia Football Federation, said "We are grieving at the moment as this is a great loss to the national soccer team and the nation."
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