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GAMBIA SEEKS TO CONVERT TWO BRONZE TO GOLD AT U-20 AFCON

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Takes on Zambia tomorrow after beating Tunisia

The Gambia is one of the exciting teams to watch in the TotalEnergies U20 Afcon 2023 which kicked off in Egypt on 19 February. The Young Scorpions beat Tunisia in the opening match Tuesday to sit at the top of the table after Zambia drew Benin -1 in  the same Group C.

The Young Scorpions have finished third in two of their last three participations in the competition, but the quest for a world cup ticket will serve as a motivational factor for the team in Egypt.

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Gambia booked their ticket for the competition, after finishing runners up at the WAFU-A Zone qualifiers in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The Young Scorpions defeated Cape Verde, and Liberia, drew with Guinea, before losing to Senegal 1-0, courtesy of a Samba Diallo goal.

In Egypt, they are competing in Group C, alongside Tunisia, Benin and Zambia.

The coach

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Abdoulie Bojang is the man leading the young scorpions in Egypt. He was instrumental in putting in place a team of youngsters, who finished second at the WAFU-A Zone qualifiers, and is going to Egypt in search of the Gambia’s first ever continental glory.

The 44-year-old is a household name in his country. From his playing days with the Gambian National team and Steve Biko Football Club, the former midfielder quickly switched to coaching, where he’s gradually making a name for himself.

He has previously managed Gambia’s U17 team and the Women’s U17 team. The tactician has summoned 25 players who have been camping at the National Technical Training Centre in Yundum.

Players to watch

Gambian football has recorded great progress in recent times. Many young talents have emerged and it’s yet another opportunity to discover more.

Majority of the players who won bronze at last year’s WAFU U-20 cup in Mauritania have been retained.

However, there will be an eye on Ba Lamin Sowe, who has returned to the squad after signing his first professional contract with Tenerife in Spain. The 19-year-old left winger netted twice during the qualifiers.

Bayern Munich’s Mamin Sanyang has been handed his first call up. It will be exciting to see the qualities he adds to a team that already has the likes of Slavia Prague’s Ebrima Singhateh, and Momodou Marong, who plays for Angola’s Interclube.

Adama Bojang is certainly the name to keep. The Steve Biko Football Club forward is one of the top scorers in the Gambian National First Division, and is fully focused on the TotalEnergies U20 Afcon.

“I know our U20 has had successful moments in this competition. It’s not easy, but preparation is in high gear. Everyone is pushing and we are preparing mentally. Representing your country means going the extra mile. It’s not an opportunity given to everyone,” said Adama Bojang.

History in U-20 Afcon

This will be the Young Scorpions fourth participation at the TotalEnergies U20 Afcon.

In their three previous appearances at the competition, the Gambia has finished third twice (2007 in Congo and 2021 in Mauritania.) The only time they failed to go past the group stage was in the 2011 edition in South Africa.

The 2021 edition was probably the Gambia’s best run in the competition. The generation of Lamarana Jallow and Musa Juwaru, succeeded in going through a group that had the likes of Morocco, Tanzania and eventual winners, Ghana. A defeat to Morocco, a draw against Tanzania and a win over Ghana, were enough for the Young Scorpions who went on to beat the Central African Republic at the quarterfinal but were eliminated at the semis by Ghana.

The present team under the guidance of Abdoulie Bojang has intensified preparations since January and are in high spirits in Eqypt, following their recent win in a friendly against Marimoo PakFood.

Local football

Local football in The Gambia is fast developing.

The likes of Real of Banjul, Marimoo PakFood and Steve Biko FC, have restructured and bringing a new wave to the National first division league.

Real of Banjul has represented the Gambia at the CAF Inter-club competitions until 2015, but unfortunately have not gone pass the preliminaries.

Gamtel Football Club and Gambia Armed Forces FC, have also featured at continental level, but generally, Gambian clubs are yet to make a big impact in the CAF Inter-club competitions.

Match schedule (Group C)

21 February: The Gambia 1-0 Tunisia.

24 February: Zambia – The Gambia, 5pm, Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria

27 February: The Gambia – Benin, 5pm (Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria)

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