BURNING ISSUES IN GAMBIAN FOOTBALL …as Scorpions take on Algeria Friday

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By Buba Falloboweh Jallow

Coach Tom Saintfiet has no consistency in dealing with players picked to play for the national team since his arrival at Football House.
Tom talked about The Gambia’s ambition to make it to Egypt 2019 but I think it is too late and such hopes shouldn’t be projected. I think the draw against Algeria and Togo and the home defeat to Togo have cost us a lot and drastically reduced our chances of reaching our first CAN finals.

Again Coach Tom Saintfiet is on record as saying he has been in contact with Ali Sowe and Sulayman Marreh but the duo’s decision to bypass this decisive match is a great loss to the nation. But we must not forget that Tom openly criticised Ali Sowe’s performance against Togo and overlooked him against Benin and I think that may be the reason the players’ agents or management decided to keep their players from the uncertainty of the coach.
Again, every squad unveiling since Tom arrived at Football House has raised eye brows, cementing the notion that since the tenure of Sang Ndong, there has always been a communication breakdown between the technical team and the players. Many players were waiting to honour the call-up to the national team but are once again left in the cold. Ali Sowe wasn’t at his peak when he played against Togo (He didn’t have complete preseason either with Chievo/CSKA Sofia) but he is a lethal striker of class. His confidence has returned and he has earned the trust of the coach at club level and would have been a great deal if he features against Algeria just like Sulayman Marreh. But are they convinced in the project of Tom Saintfiet?
The Gambia, which continues to be the worst ranked team in the continent, continues to fail to build the core of the national team. Further more, inconsistently appointing coaches but changing players in every game has taken a toll on us of late.
Tom Saintfiet said he had confidence in Steve Trawally but continued to say that Steve’s absence is still due to tactical reasons and maintaining that his place can be filled by Bubacarr Jobe and Ablie Jallow but he needs physical strikers upfront like Badamosi, Nuha Marong and Adama Tamba.

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Coming to the Algeria match on Friday, Tom is on record as saying that they have been busy looking for players who can fit the bill in this match but I think bureaucracy was a factor. For example, the following players have not heard from the technical team: Ken Mansally, Momodou ‘Zico’ Ceesay and Pa Dibba while Modou Barrow’s father has publicly allegedly said that the GFF secretary general Lamin Jassey asked him to tell the Reading forward to apologise to the coach and Barrow does not know what for? Was it a discussion at the executive level or within the technical team? But which ever way, the players deserved open communication and Tom Sanfiest’s European tour would have been useful in bridging those communication and relationship gaps instead of spending time on that unnecessary scouting. Our scouting should be top-notch. Tom Saintfiet also said Barrow’s exclusion is to give young players chance to prove themself, yet he ignored young ones like (aloum Faal, Kaba Sambou, Bun Sanneh, Alasan Manneh, Alieu Jatta, Pa Omar Jobe, Yusupha Njie. This way, the technical team is setting a very bad precedence.

Finally, I hate to think of this and I don’t wish it happens but I don’t think the Scorpions will have the chance to qualify, and it breaks my heart. This game is about pride. Algeria have not been convincing since Brazil 2014 and critics will judge Coach Djamel Belmadi on the outcome of this match, so you can see how the stages can be high even for Algeria even though they are already qualified. It’s equally a pride for Tom Saintfiet who might coach the Scorpions for the very last time unless his contract is renewed. Both teams and set of players will have a statement to make, and they will surely perform. I think The Gambia had a chance to win the first leg in Bakau, but we didn’t and I am not sure if we can produce that same performance considering that we are not having all our best players who are much needed for Friday’s assignment in Blida. God help us.

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