Scorpions coach Tom Saintfiet has called up 23 players for the team’s upcoming training camp in The Comoro Islands, where they’re scheduled to play two international friendly matches. The camp holds from August 30 to September 8.
The list included the much –hyped Dembo Darboe who is set to make his debut after pulling out in previous selections at the eleventh hour due to different circumstances. He scored 16 goals in 17 matches this season to inspire his Belarusian top flight side to the top of the table with 47 points, three ahead of second place BATE Borisov, with three matches in hand.
Darboe is also the leading goal scorer of the league, banging 6 ahead of his nearest challenger, Ablaye Mbengue of Dinamo Minsk. Since turning professional in 2019 with North Macedonian club FC Shkupi, Darboe has played 58 matches and scored 34 times, the latest being one of the four Shakhtyor beat Slavia-Mozyri with at the weekend. He collected the ball in his own half and ran through the entire length of the field before rounding the keeper to score his side’s third of the game in the 66t minute.
However star midfielder Sulayman Marreh is out injured and so too is left-back Omar Gaye, with the latter expected to be out for at least six months. Gaye made an impressive appearance in the last training camp in Turkey and many expected him to be on the plane to Cameroon but with this lengthy layoff, his participation in Gambia’s maiden Africa Cup of Nations is now in jeopardy. The duo is replaced by England based Ebou Adams and Ibou Touray, who are both making a return to the Scorpions after long absences.
Noah Sonko-Sundberg and Maudo Jarjue (Chuka) have both recovered from injuries that kept them out of the June camp and are back in the team as well as Abdoulie Sanyang, Bubacarr Jobe and Lamin Jallow who just moved to Fehevar of Hungary.
AS Roma’s teenage sensation Ebrima Darboe, James Gomez and Leon Guwara all impressed in their debut call-ups and have retained their places while Sampdoria’s Omar Colley will continue to captain the side in the absence of regular skipper Pa Modou Jagne. Guwara now plays for Jahn Regensburg in the German Bundesliga 2 and they currently top the rankings with a maximum 12 points from four matches.
Muhammed Badamosi has just returned to full fitness after injury and the coach has decided against calling him up this time to allow him get into shape at his club FC Kortrijk, while Hamza Barry remained a notable absentee as he works towards regaining his full fitness following a long injury layoff. The other notable absentee is Modou Barrow who has also returned to fitness after injury but was left out to concentrate on his attempts to engineer a move away from South Korea before the end of the transfer window in order to secure his AFCON spot.
The coach will prepare his team technically ahead of next year’s continental showpiece and as a result will first play against The Pirates of Seychelles, ranked 199 in the world, on 4th September before facing The Coelacanths of The Comoros, three days later, on the 7th September.
“Due to the current World Cup qualification [in Africa, where most of the bigger nations are involved], we can only play against teams who are out of that qualification,” the Belgian told www.gambiaff.org.
“Comoro Islands qualified just like us for the first time for AFCON. They have their players playing all over Europe, and in top leagues, Holland, Belgium, Serbia, England and France. They are 133 on the current Fifa ranking while we are currently 147,” Saintfiet said.