By John Mendy
Women football has had many ups and downs in The Gambia. The development of a national team has over decades faced challenges similar to those across Africa, although the National football federation has four staff members focusing on women’s football.
The advent of the FIFA Live your goals Girls project is also beginning to boost girls’ participation in the game thus promoting the steady growth of the Female domestic Leagues.
Until recently, The Gambia failed to institute a recognised Women’s National team nor has the country participated in a major regional and international tournaments.
However, all this changed in 2012 when The Gambia competed in the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup held in Azerbaijan, playing three games before bowing out the group stage due to lack of experience.
Five years on today, the national team has set their sights on a new horizon and are bent puting that setback behind it and focus on the future.
Target: Ghana 2018
Virtually, the same players that represented the country in Azerbaijan has began working hard to catch up with other nations as hopes of qualifying for the 2018 Cup of Nations in Ghana and the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 grow high.
“Our goal is now to qualify for the 2018 Cup of Nations,” confirmed Penda Bah. “We have an excellent group who play in our domestic league and very familiar. My teammate’s general skill level is high and we’re determined to succeed,” said Ajara Samba age 20, whose dream is to wear the national team jersey.
Samba said she and her team-mates have what it takes to shine in Ghana, as long as certain conditions are met:
“The Cup of Nations is not a pipe dream, as long as we put the work in and line up some friendly matches so as to make our team more cohesive. If the Men’s National team cannot make it, without doubt we will make it.”
The 13th edition of the 2018 showpiece tournament will be held in Ghana from November 17th to 1st December, and the top three teams will qualify for the Women’s World Cup in France the following the year.
The Gambia is aiming to secure one of the seven remaining spots in order to make it to both the continent and global stage for the first time.
The hopes of every female footballer in the world is to reach the Women’s World Cup, and Gambians are no exception, as France will be the host nation in 2019.
“If we put in more work, we will qualify. And I know that dream will be realized next year “inshallah” because my assistant Abdoulie Bojang is vast in Gambian football, so I am very confident we will make it and raise the national flag high” said team coach Mariama Sowe.
Mariama meanwhile believes that Gambia should take a new leaf and start supporting women’s football in order to flourish at continental level.
“We’re well positioned to make women’s football a big success. What we need to do is work hard and take a long-term approach to planning while the general public, including institutions and companies come together and support.”
The development of women’s football has faced several challenges; including funding – another major issue mitigating against the growth of the game in the country, as most financial assistance comes from FIFA and not the national football Federation. But as the women’s national team gets ready for a new challenge, the GFF must begin to have belief in these girls.
The Gambia Women’s National team will first horn their skills against a visiting Cape Verde team later in August 26th in an international friendly ahead of the 2018 qualifiers.