By Lamin Cham
Next month’s double-header between The Gambia and Togo could decide our fate in the CAN 2019 qualifiers. In a group where only the winner is guaranteed an automatic place, and with The Gambia already behind Togo and Algeria by 3 points, it is almost certainly likely that the best the Scorpions could hope for is a possible very good second place finishing. Even this will be compared with the scores of other second place finishers in the other groups to determine which three best second-place finishers will grab the last three spots to Cameroon.
Now, and granted, The Gambia has some real catching up to do, but the Scorpions have the opportunity to cancel the advantage of one of those ahead, Togo, on October 12 in Lome and October 16 in Banjul.
So yes, The Gambia can dream to take all 6 points against Togo, no matter how hard that may sound for that is the only cushion to lay our heads high on ahead of Benin’s visit and our trip to Algeria. . However anything short of that could mean we may have to wait for 2021.
But there is reason to hope if lessons are learned. The current era in our football reminds me of the generation of the Jatto Ceesay, Sefo Soli, Kemo Ceesay, Edi Sonko, Ebou Sillah and the Njie brothers. There was so much talent, passion and hope in our football that everyone agreed it was only a matter of time before we reach our first CAN. But a bout of administrative blunder from the then GFA blew that all up. The players had written a protest letter to the GFA demanding respect on some ten points of concern. The GFA saw red and considered the protest as rebellion especially because the news of it first broke in the media. They prematurely retired virtually all the experienced players by not inviting them and fast-tracked the then famous but immature Under 17 lads to full-time Scorpions. The result was catastrophic. The Baby Scorpions may have won the Under 17 – cup but they were not yet the class of the big guns in other countries in our group.
That lesson remains valid in the present dispensation. Administrative blunders can come on many forms and the GFF needs to be awaken from the slumber that led to Stadium chaos to put up a serious organisation in Banjul on October 16 and provide the best of arrangement for the boys in the trip to Lome. On the technical side I am encouraged by the seemingly tough stance of Tom Saintfiet. He sounds to me as one who will not bow down to pressure. His handling of the Steve Trawalley case showed he is ready to take tough decisions and be responsible for any consequences. His calmness and composure on the touchline and choice of line-up shows a man in control and not mere slogan chanting adventurer who will tinker his team anytime he comes under pressure. But like many of his predecessors, Tom Saintfiet must know that his sainthood would only be confirmed if he gets us to the CAN. Am I clear here?