Gambia Renew AFCON Taste Bid

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The scorpions of The Gambia will once again launch their bid to make a debut in Africa’s highest soccer competition, the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday 29 February.
The team will host the Desert Foxes of Algeria in Banjul in the 1st leg of the preliminary rounds for AFCON 2013, which will be held in South Africa.
The scorpions have endured conspicuously stop-start AFCON qualifying campaigns, the longest period of unsuccessful attempts by a Gambian national football team to reach a continental championship. However, hopes are being raised once again with emphasis for the team to maintain its long-standing unbeaten home record since 2008.
With the launch of Gambia for Gold 2012-2014, which aims to raise funds for national soccer teams except for the Olympic team, the under 23. The Gambia for Gold committee and its initiators, the Ministry of Youth and Sports believed “it’s our time”, but that has been far from reality, given the embarrassing campaign for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Veteran sports journalist and football commentator, Moses Ndene had warned prior to Gambia’s visit to Namibia in last year’s AFCON qualifiers that “we need not to raise hopes so high’, after the team won convincingly at home against D.R. Congo in a friendly.
However, with the level of preparation this time, the team not involved in games since October 2011, notable absentees and some of the players apparently arriving less than a week before the game, Moses’ warning could remain the status quo.    
The scorpions will enter the new campaign headed by one of Gambia’s most successful national team coach, Peter Bonu Johnson.
Bonu’s first outing will feature familiar foreign-based Gambian players but with a few noticeable “absentees” in the persons of Pa Dembo Touray (Captain), Adourahman Dampha, Sainey Nyassi, and Tijan Jaiteh, with at least three home-based players expected to be included in the team.
Bonu was appointed late last year by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to head the team for one year, after the sacking of the former Belgian coach, Paul Put on October 31, 2011 barely two years before his contract was due to expire.
Mr. Put, who is serving a life ban  in his country for his “involvement in a match fixing scandal”, ended a pitiful AFCON 2012 qualifying campaign on October 8 with a draw (1-1) against Burkina Faso in Banjul.  
Meanwhile, with reported frictions between the handlers of the game, the sports ministry and the Gambia Football Association (GFA), the blame game over the jeopardized campaign of the senior national team in 2012 has cooled-off.
For now football authorities in Banjul seem set to focus on upcoming campaigns. The sports ministry announces forthwith that Gambia’s President, Yahya Jammeh has agreed to cut short working hours on Wednesday to allow civil servants to go to the stadium to support the team.
The move followed anticipations that “the disgruntled football fans” in the country may turn out poorly, as has been the case in the past. But for a country which has never been to Africa’s biggest football competition, its football dreams remain “hanging on a balance of probabilities”.

Author: Modou S. Joof
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