16 PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE FOR SCORPIONS’ QATAR CAMPING

16 PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE FOR SCORPIONS' QATAR CAMPING

326

The Gambia’s latest overseas preparation camping for next week’s AFCON tourney in Cameroon has suffered a major set back with both matches planned against Algeria and Syria cancelled.

According to reports, some 16 players are either not in Qatar or could not take part apparently due to Covid -19 issues.

The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) yesterday issued the following statement to clarify the issue, which has caused anxiety among Gambians with only about week to kick- off in Cameroon.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The GFF regrets to inform the general public that due to the unavailability of 16 players, representing 57% of the final 28, our pre-AFCON friendly international matches with Algeria and Syria have both been called off.

The Scorpions are currently on a 10-day camp in Qatar preparing for its maiden appearance at the African Cup of Nations, which gets underway in Cameroon in eight days’ time. The Gambia will begin its campaign against Mauritania on January 12 before taking on Mali four days later and round up their group campaign with the 2004 champions Tunisia on 20th January.

As part of the preparations, Coach Tom Saintfiet’s team is scheduled to play with Africa and Arab champions Algeria and  Syria. However, both matches have now been called off at the request of the Gambian team.

This is as a result of the fact that the coach is currently deprived off the services of the following players due to several unforeseen circumstances: Lamin Jallow; Bubacarr Jobe; Baboucarr Gaye; Omar Colley; Ebrima Sohna; Saidy Janko; Sheikh Sibi; Noah Sonko Sundberg; Yusupha Njie; Steve Trawally; Ebou Adams; Ibou Touray; Modou Jobe; Ablie Jallow; Modou Barrow and Yusupha Bobb.

“Because we do not also have a goalkeeper, we are forced to call off our matches against Algeria and Syria. We’ve so many unpredictable situations making it very difficult to prepare for AFCON that we’re not happy with but no one is to be blamed,” Saintfiet told www.gambiaff.org.

“We’re missing so many key players [at the moment] some of whom are here [in Doha already] but are not available to train. Some of them are not even here so it’s a very complex situation. It’s very sad because I was really looking forward to play Algeria and Syria to prepare for the AFCON,” the Coach said.

However according to The Sandiago Tribue, Qatar Football Federation, the organisers, said the match was called off ‘due to positive cases of Covid-19  in The Gambian camp’.

The paper also reported that the Algeria soccer federation had criticised the late decision to cancel the game, which robbed its team of an important warm up.

The federation said it “deplores this attitude which shows a great lack of professionalism and respect towards the parties who have put everything in place for the success of this preparation match.”

The Africa  Nations Cup is due to open on  Jan. 9 in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé despite repeated rumors it was going to be canceled, or even moved to a country outside the continent because of the virus.

Top European clubs have expressed concern for their African players and questioned the ability of the Confederation of African Football and Cameroon organizers to prevent outbreaks at the month-long tournament.

Twenty-four teams are set to play in five cities in the Central African country. Cameroon was initially due to host in 2019 but was stripped of that tournament because of serious delays in its preparations.

The tournament was then delayed for a year from 2021 because of the pandemic.

CAF has insisted Africa’s soccer showpiece will go ahead this time and has employed pharmaceutical company UNILAB to oversee virus testing of players and officials from the two dozen teams.

CAF also announced last month that only fans who are fully vaccinated and can present negative tests will be allowed to attend games, a late restriction that was added at the insistence of Cameroon health authorities, who fear the tournament could become a super-spreader.

Africa has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the world and less than 3% of the Cameroon population are fully vaccinated, according to a global analysis by Johns Hopkins University.