As the national Under-20 team returns tomorrow, we join the nation to not just welcome the players and staff but also register our profound joy and appreciation about their remarkable performance in the just-concluded Afcon U-20 in Egypt.
The team’s very appearance in the final of this second most important football event in Africa is another milestone and a further confirmation of the significant gains in Gambian football in recent years.
What is more, the boys kept a clean sheet from the beginning to the semi-finals and scoring half-a-score of goals along the way. They also secured qualification to the World Under-20 Cup to be played in Indonesia in May and June this year.
The loss against Senegal in the final was disappointing but has not, and should not take anything from the confidence and gloss of these young boys’ new standing in African youth football.
With only a few exceptions, all the players of this Under-20 team come from the domestic football league demonstrating the quality of the national game despites its financial and organisational deficiencies.
They were moulded and developed by local coach Aboulie Bojang whose tactical excellence in this tournament once again ignited the debate as to whether we should continue to put faith only in foreign coaches. His approach, uncharacteristically offensive and exploratory, was not devoid of beauty. It encapsulated the team to keep a long momentum of excellence.
All said and done and by all standards, the Young Scorpions have done the nation pride and as the team prepares to go to the World Under-20 Cup in Indonesia in a few months, we urge all stakeholders, including the government and the football federation to accord it all dues and necessary logistics to enable it to undergo good technical preparations.
To the coach and staff we say bravo for standing up to African football giants and keeping the flag high.
We advise the government to take greater interest in the age-category teams of The Gambia and not just the senior national team. Since most of the age-category competitions have no cash prizes, the burden of registering and keeping them in international competitions falls on the shoulders of the Gambia Football Federation alone, putting huge strain on their finances. With this kind of performance, the younger teams have proven their worth and they now deserve any reward.