After so many falls off the proverbial cliff, it is high time The Gambia started standing toe to toe with the rest in the continent’s premier football showpiece. The sight of any two teams ready for battle is always one to behold but there can be no greater moment of pride than hearing one’s own national anthem being belted out before thousands and reverberating through the bowels of a jam-packed stadium.
The draw for the upcoming Afcon qualifiers held in Egypt pitted us against Cameroon, South Africa and Sahelian neighbours Mauritania. For animated football followers like me and supposedly every other Gambian, it is both refreshing and heartwarming to see us bounce back. It is equally a development that is still triggering a lot of questions, central to which is the time frame available at the disposal of The Gambia Football Federation and or the Youth and Sports Ministry to appoint a head coach for the senior national team. But as the head of the country’s football federation Lamin Kaba Bajo stated in a recent interview with GRTS Radio, the search for the holder of that all important job was ongoing.
Since they are not privy to the work being done behind the scenes by the power brokers at football house, it is only natural that the public, having waited all this while, are eager to quench their thirst for a competItive international football. Who wonn’t remember the hype that was generated by last month’s warm up game with Mauritania in the build up to the CHAN? Perhaps, the public sometimes tend to believe that self-styled comentators like me have all the answers to their sporting concerns, they hardly cross paths with you without asking for an update, not realising that unless you are GFF’s image handler who is my pal BB Baldeh, certain information shall remain out of your reach unless and until it is ripe for public consumption.
Who will be occupant of The Gambia’s most important coaching job? Where is he coming from? Of what coaching pedigree is he? Those are the few but heavily loaded questions dangling in the air. Of the three opponents we are to face, minnows Mauritania in my opinion should not pose a stumbling block per se. South Africa have flattered to deceive in recent championships, whilst Cameroon are no longer the colossus they once were if only you can cue back to the days when Samuel Eto’o, Njitap Gereme, Rigobert Song and Patrick Mboma were at their pomp.
Make no mistake , the Indomitable Lions and the Bafana Bafana might not as well panic at the prospect of facing the Scorpions, for if there are any advantage the two have over us, it will be the experience of playing at several elite continental tournaments, in addition to the fact that their pre-occupation to somewhere other than the appointment of a new national team Coach and the creation of a new team itself. I have to state here that I was impressed with a bullish Mr Bajo when he told the national radio that in football today, there is no underdog. One need not look beyond a small island nation to be inspired by his assertion.
Once our zone two equivalents, Cape Verde against the odds, succeeded in manouvering her way to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations staged in the oil rich Central African state of Equitorial Guinea where they put up respectable performance against all that came their way. And to proof that they were no flash in the pan, the country in the latest FIFA international friendlies stunned its former colonial masters Portugal in a sort of encounter that should only rekindle our self belief. Do not mind those madristers who like to remind me that a certain Ballon D’ Or winner was never involved in that game.
But whilst there continues to be a shift in the balance of footballing power, we can’t pretend that we are in for a small sail. The Islanders’ change in fortune can be tied down to the healthy involvement of most of their first teamers in the Portuguese league. I can’t wait to see the qualifiers rolling come June this year especially here on home turf where we have proven to be a hard nut to crack in recent years but who are the players to guide us to the promised land? Will the core of the senior Scorpions constitute our foreign exports, home-based stars or will it be a blend of in form locally available stars or their more glamorous US or Europe-based contemporaries? The questions are much as hard as the work ahead. Over to you GFF and Good luck in your search for a new gaffer.
GAMBIAN FOOTBALL NYATO DORONG]]>