By Omar Jatta
Come to think of it, only two weeks is left before the Scorpions return to action- in Cameroon. On the 21 March, The Gambia will play Chad in the first leg of a qualifying preliminary tie for the 2023 Afcon finals in Ivory Coast.
Because both The Gambia and Chad cannot play at home due to stadium ban, the first leg will be played in Cameroon at the request of Chad and 8 days later, both teams will head to Morocco for the return leg at the request of The Gambia.
The Chadian national team has been training rigorously since when the fixture was announced during the recent Afcon in Cameroon where The Gambia was busy going to the quarterfinals.
The Le Sao as the team is romantically called, is coached by Mahamat Allamine Abakar, who on February 10, released a list of 30 home-based players selected to take part in a series of preparatory training sessions at the country’s Milezi Football Academy ahead of the preliminaries.
The selection will be finalized soon and is expected to include some of the country’s foreign–based players.
Chad has not played a competitive international game since March 2021 following their suspension by both Fifa and Caf amid allegations of government interference.
Following her recent exploits in both the Afcon 2021 qualifiers, where they finished top of Group D ahead of the likes of Gabon, Angola, and DR Congo, and at the Afcon itself in Cameroon, where they reached the last eight, the Gambia who are 55 places on top of Chad in the latest Fifa rankings, will undoubtedly be the favorites to go through to the Afcon 2023 qualifying group stages.
Chad could however prove to be difficult because the country is among the remaining African nations yet to qualify to the Afcon and they will like to end that.
Gambia coach Tom Saintfeit is yet to announce his plans for the doubleheader including his team selection, which may not involve any home-based players and therefore not much preparatory sessions are needed at this stage. The Belgian prefers selecting players from the professional leagues abroad and may be inclined to do the same again. This has worked well for him and the team with their current results, though critics said this may impact negatively on the local league and players.
Gambia Football Fans TV