The Gambia debates making Real de Banjul champions

Gambia
Football in the Gambia has been suspended for over a month

There are growing demands on the Gambia football federation to either declare the 2019/2020 league season as null and void or declare Real de Banjul as champions.

Football in the Gambia has been on a break since 18 March following the government’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Gambia is one of many countries attempting to respond to the 5 May ultimatum issued by the Confederation of African Football to member associations, asking them to decide on how they will complete the remainder of the season.

But Ebou Faye, vice president of the Gambia Football Federation said the GFF cannot make a decision before this deadline, as the Gambian government has instituted a state of emergency.

"We have already communicated to Caf - we can only continue with the league if the state of emergency is lifted and there is no restriction to sporting activities by the government," Faye told BBC Sport Africa.

Real de Banjul currently top the table with 29 points after 14 games. The City Boys sit six points ahead of second place Gambia Armed Forces.

Some stakeholders and fans have called for Real de Banjul to be declared champions, while others would rather the league be scrapped and voided.

But Faye said that would be a hasty decision.

"That is premature - we cannot do that," he said.

"To decide whether Real will be champions will have implications. There will be relegation and the second division top teams will have to be promoted. All these are connected. So it is premature to decide," Faye tells BBC Sport Africa.

"There is a state of emergency now and it will expire on 17 May. Our decision will depend on what the government will do.

"If they lift the emergency and allow sporting activities return, the league will be continued. But if the state of emergency is extended, then the stakeholders will sit down and decide whether to nullify the league."

Despite having to wait on the government to decide on the fate of football in the Gambia, Faye said he was wary of football returning too soon.

But he said he believed the country’s ministry of health will make the right call.

"Football is a contact sport, but we are not experts and the safety of the Gambia people is more important than football," he said.

"What the ministry of health advise we do is what we will follow. We can only play if they give us the go ahead."

Players are awaiting the next move of the administrators as the possibility of resuming football is debated.

Real De Banjul assistant captain Gregory Sambou feels it is unsafe for football to return soon.

"I think Real De Banjul should be crowned champions," Sambou told BBC Sport Africa.

"The league should be ended because I don’t feel safe to return to football with this current situation."

So far, five African countries - Kenya, Angola, Liberia, Ethiopia and Mauritius - have terminated their league seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenya declared Gor Mahia as champions of the 2019/2020 season while Liberia, Angola, Ethiopia and Mauritius declared their seasons null and void.