Funding a major constraint to the growth of the game of scrabble in The Gambia

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…Gambia Scrabble Association to take sport to schools – GSA President, Dr Abba Hydara
…PANASA President’s Cup and AYSC a phenomenal that added gloss to the game of scrabble in Africa
By Maxwell Kumoye

Lack of funding has been identified as one of the major reasons why the game of Scrabble in The Gambia is taking the back seat on the continent despite having a good number of talented, experienced and creative wordsmith in their midst.

This is the candid submission of the national number four player in the almost landlocked country of The Gambia, Dr. Abba Hydara in an exclusive interview at the Orchid Hotel, Ikota-Lekki, Lagos after the closing ceremony of the maiden edition of the President’s Cup (PPC) and the African Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC).

“As you know, The Gambia is one of the smallest almost landlocked country in West Africa with a little over 3.2 million inhabitants and the economy is not very robust, so getting funding for sports like scrabble is not easy.” Dr. Abba Hydara, who is also the President of Gambia Scrabble Association (GSA) said.

Despite the challenging economic impact on the game of scrabble in The Gambia, Dr. Abba Hydara, explained that they have been able to keep the zeal and passion for the sport alive and burning through the staging of regular monthly national championships.

“It’s pretty difficult for players to pick the bills for a national championship. These bills include, accommodation, feeding, renting of hall and participation fee. These are the road blocks that hinders the spread and growth of the game of words in The Gambia.” The seasoned administrator and Specialist Ophthalmic Surgeon, stated.

Glaucoma Specialist, Dr Abba Hydara, who was introduced to the game of Scrabble by his elder sister, Aminatta Siffai Hydara, the first female regional governor in The Gambia, four decades ago, is determined to help the game to blossom across the country by reaching out to the primary and secondary schools.

“We are having some fruitful discussions with both private and public schools in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia on the the need to have scrabble as part of their extra curriculum activities and the response has been very encouraging.” The Specialist Ophthalmic Surgeon who is also a university lecturer said.

Part of the drive to get Gambians hocked to the mind game is for Gambia Scrabble Association (GSA), to play more regional and international events like the President’s Cup, African Scrabble Championship and the West African Scrabble Championship among others.

Dr. Hydara, explained that arrangements have reached an advance stage to host a two nation scrabble jamming session between The Gambia and the emerging West Africa Scrabble force, Liberia either in December or January in Banjul.

John Sock, Omar Malleh Jah, Kebba Suso and Dr. Abba Hydara are some of the big word players that will be lining up for The Gambia against Liberia for the grueling competition in Banjul.

Training and retraining of technical officials and coaches is another area The Gambia Scrabble Association (GSA) is actively working on. Shortly after the closing ceremony of the President’s Cup (PPC), Khaleed Adedeji who directed the event conducted a refresher course for Gambia tournament directors on how to use TSH to oversee tournament.

TSH is the latest software used to direct and officiate scrabble tournaments worldwide and Dr. Abba Hydara bore the cost of the training program.

It’s instructive to know that, Dr. Hydara became The Gambia’s First National Scrabble Champion in 2001 when he defeated the legendary Nigerian Scrabble player Abiola Oyinloye in a best of 3, 2-1 and he is currently national number four player.

Interestingly, Abiola Oyinloye’s stay in The Gambia helped accelerate the growth of the game of Scrabble in that West African State that’s almost surrounded by Senegal. Dr. Abba Hydara’s best International performance was at the 4th Israeli International Open Tournament where he placed 2nd after Toh Wei Bin of Hong Kong. In that Tournament his word MIJNHEER without a blank was voted the best word of that Tournament.

The fine medical doctor was a Division A player in Israel from 2008 to 2009 and consistently played professionally in Kenya.

His finest hour in Kenya was his sixth spot in 2015 before he left for The Gambia a country with 9 national languages while his best performance at the African Scrabble Championship was in Cape Town, South Africa in 2014 when he finished 13th no thanks to the back to back loses to legendary Nigerian players like Tunde Oduwole, Olaiya Kabir and Dennis Ikekeregor.

Instead of heading to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA in July for the WESPA Championship, The Gambia Scrabble Association, made the PANASA President’s Cup (PPC) it main target for the 2023 Scrabble calendar because of its strategic importance to the development of the game on the continent and that move, Dr Abba Hydara says is a huge blessing for The Gambia and Africa.

“I have attended many tournaments both national and international and I think, the President of PANASA Adekoyejo Adegbesan has taken tournament scrabble to a whole new level, the President’s Cup (PPC) is the first of it’s kind on the continent and the African Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC) is a new baby too.” The widely traveled and experienced Dr. Abba Hydara, a Pan Africanist, added.

“I used to think that the Mind Games Incorporated (MGI) Scrabble Premier and grand slam were the most advanced demonstration of organization of tournament scrabble, but the President’s Cup has dwaft (MGI), probably the only beauty about MGI was that on each day there was a dressing code, probably not to put too much pressure on participants, the President’s Cup did not do that, they did not put too much pressure on participants to put on team jerseys and stuff like that. Dr. Hydara stressed.

On the standard of the twin events, he said: “The organization of this dual tournament is phenomenal, the organization of the African Youth Scrabble Championship AYSC in the Chrisland School environment, the environment is secured, the environment is probably the most serene especially for our young people, now coming to the Orchid Hotel here in Lekki and having the President’s Cup, the environment is phenomenal, the food is fantastic, and the playing hall was very good.” The senior consultant and head clinical services of Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre in Kanifing, The Gambia, stated.

He concluded by emphasizing that the organizers have raised the bar. “Generally the players were calm, we had the best of sports-manliness and the players played to their best and as expected, the best player won the President’s Cup and we all salute the winner Godwin Victor, young, humble, friendly, exceedingly brilliant gentleman who won the tournament and we are deeply grateful that it turned out like that, in all the participants put their best in it including the first runner-up former, world champion Wellington Jighere and a good number of other players like my friend Ben Quickpen and especially our friends from Kenya and Uganda.”

Over 225 Players from 10 countries: Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Ghana, Cameroon, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, United States of America and host Nigeria featured at the four-day events of the PANASA President’s Cup (PPC) for the elite while students Under 15 and Under 19 participated in the African Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC).

Both corporate bodies and well meaning individuals backed and supported the two-in-one event and this huge and heavyweight backing came from all parts of Africa and America.

They include, Nigeria Breweries Plc, Friesland Campina WAMCO Plc, makers of Peak Milk, Peak Choco and Peak Yoghurt Drink, Kenya Airways, Diageo Nigeria, PZ Wilmar Foods Ltd, makers of Mamador Spread and Vegetable oil, Air Peace, Winifred Awosika Foundation, Ojeyz Security based in Ghana, Ayoci Energies Ltd, Atelier Architects, which is also a Ghanaian firm, Thrive Agriculture, SocialLiga, Midas Farm, Cinq-SAA, Madoms Global Trade, Boaz Commodities Ltd, Petrichor Group of Industries, SamTimer, manufacturers of top quality scrabble boards, timers and other related scrabble equipment and BradMein Nigeria Ltd.

Well meaning stakeholders and individuals with deep pockets and kind hearts like Engineer Gbenga Ojofeitimi, Dr. Musa Olasupo, Engineer Ojior Osikhena, Samuel Anikoh, Haruna Adamu, Austin Isiekwe and SM Quartey lubricated the sponsorship, partnership and support base of the PANASA President’s Cup.


He is the President of Gambia Scrabble Association (GSA), and has been the most senior, highest trained and most experienced member of the Gambia National Eye Health Programme of the Ministry of Health since 2015.

His cumulative clinical, surgical, research and teaching experience spans three decades, including extensive community and rural posting as well as leadership.

Before joining the Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care CentreSheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre in 2015, the Gambia had little or nothing to offer for blinding eye problems like Glaucoma, Complicated Cataracts, Childhood Cataracts and Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy and other Inflammatory Retinal problems: patients with these problems invariably slid into irreversible blindness.

Today, having presided over the only specialist eye hospital in the Gambia as the only Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist, hope and confidence has been restored to patients and families with advanced eye conditions and surgeries with safer and better outcomes assured.

The widely traveled and experienced Dr. Abba Hydara, is a Pan Africanist has also worked in Israel and Kenya.

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