What Next, After Djibouti?

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By Lamin Cham

A potentially disruptive and even chaotic chapter in our football was averted Sunday when we made it to the Afcon group stages. Well some might say we made it but only just, given the absence of killer instincts in our men both in Djibouti and Banjul. However, there were flashes of brilliance and a dogged determination to avoid defeat from our team. The tie was a make or break in many ways. One, failure would have called for a disaster because all hell will break loose as fans would have reached the limit of their patience and the demand for heads to roll would have been louder. Secondly the Kaba-led administration would have taken a lot more pressure and louder out right public demand for it to take the moral decision to quit.

Well that bridge is crossed now but there are lingering doubts about the future with the current unconvincing state of our team and its technical and administrative matters. Many Gambians feel that the style and judgment of Coach Tom Saintfeit or may be his chemistry is either not aggressive, flamboyant, or inspiring enough to warrant trusting the remainder of the qualifiers in his hands. And what is left is even more daunting than the hair raising experience we had eliminating Djibouti.

If his style and approach to matches are not a worry, his in- ability to regularly attract the best of the country’s players at all times is questionable. And here he may not share the blame alone. The administrators at Football House must cast away their ego to engage, cajole and make compromises to get back all the players they may have beefs with. Yes players have to be equally patriotic but the GFF should be far above the truant players in terms of maturity. It is illogical to afford to miss or categorise players as dispensable lots when they continue banging goals for their clubs while their country struggle to win minnows. The players can afford to feel big, arrogant and delinquent but the GFF cannot either.

Let me tell you a story in Gambia football which I always remember. Back in 2007, The Gambia national team led by Jatto Ceesay and comprising a number of experienced players made a 10 points demand from the GFA and threatened to boycott the national team if the complaints were not addressed. The GFA was not clearly happy especially because the players’ complaints were, according to the GFA, channeled first in the media rather than Football House.

The executive reacted in some revengeful fashion. Most of the senior players were not invited for subsequent national team duty leading to their premature retirement from international duty. I still believed that act by the GFA cost us a potential chance to qualify to the 2008 Nations Cup, because the replacements, mostly the former Under 17 boys, lacked the maturity and experience needed to brush sides with the big guns in our group.
Back to the present, the GFF should avoid picking quarrels with players and give free reign to whoever the coach is.

In conclusion, and this concerns the fans, we may not have qualified to the Afcon but Gambians are not rookies in football rules and regulations. In fact, our officials have been ranked among the best if not the best in Africa in some cases. Do we therefore deserve drunk and disorderly ganja smoking, or conscious but over-zealous supporters who cannot control their emotions and are portraying us in negative fashion and getting us in trouble with Fifa or Caf each time we host a visiting team?
In the last few years alone the GFF has paid close to a million dalasis or more in fines alone, all because we all misbehaved in the stadium. Let us change for the better.