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An entertaining and dramatic match at the Marrakech Stadium will be remembered for a stunning comeback, orchestrated by two substitutes as the Gambia secure a place in the Africa Cup of Nations for the second time running. At first, it appeared the Scorpions were going to miss out on a spot in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. They were woeful in the first 45. Outplayed and outwitted by Congo Brazzaville, who threatened to upstage the Scorpions in a first-half display of poise and panache. Congo scored twice in the first half. First, Gaius Makouta capitalized on a lapse in concentration to poke home from close range after the half-hour mark. That was followed by a Silvere Ganvoula penalty after the referee adjudged Gambia’s captain Omar Colley for a handball in the 45th minute. A decision bitterly contested by the Gambia’s camp. At that moment, it appears a seemingly desperate situation for the Gambia. With the clock ticking towards the 80th minute, hopes were slowly fading for the Scorpions, as Congo put themselves within touching distance of qualification. A desperately looking Tom Saintfiet looked to his bench for salvation. And his substitutes did the magic for him and the over two million soccer-loving people of the Gambia. First, teenage Feyenoord forward Yankuba Minteh struck within minutes of his introduction. Substitute Muhammed Badamosi flicked on Ibou Touray’s cross into the path of the unmarked Yankuba Minteh who rolled home from close range in what was his competitive debut for the National Team. Minteh first appeared for the Gambia against Guinea Bissau in an international friendly in Turkey on November 20, 2022. That goal sparked new life into the Scorpions and they piled up the pressure on the retreating Red Devils of Congo. With the clock ticking towards full-time, deep into added time, Saudi Pro League star Muhammed Badamosi turned the tie on its head to help the Scorpions complete an incredible comeback. Hopes were rekindled, and everyone started to believe that a comeback was on the cards as the Scorpions of the Gambia only needed a point to maintain second spot in the group behind group leaders, Mali. Congo at first looked defiant, but they were not able to muster the energy to resist the pressure from Tom and his players who duly got rewarded in the 90th minute when Badamosi leaped high to glance home a looping cross from Musa Barrow. The goal sparked huge celebrations on the pitch and in the stands where a handful of Gambia Football Federation officials as well as few Gambians who managed to filed into the grounds were camped. But, the epicenter of the celebrations was back home in the Gambia as Gambians rejoice another qualification to the Afcon championship by the National Team, the Scorpions. This was truly a historic moment for the Gambia side who played all their qualifiers away from home due to the ban on the country’s only stadium by CAF. Yet, they showed composure and determination to reach another milestone achievement in the country’s sporting history.
After returning to the country following their under-15 youth championship triumph in Oslo, Norway, the Gambian team led by Goodwill ambassador Tijan Jaiteh, presented the trophy to Bakary Y. Badjie the Minister for Youth and Sports.The 2023 edition of the Norway Cup is the second time a Gambian team is taking part in the championship. The Gambian U-15 completed the tournament unbeaten and defeated Ullern 3-2 in the final to clinch the 2023 championship trophy in Oslo.Championing the investment of resources in sports towards the well-being of Gambian youth, Minister Badjie recognized the team's outstanding efforts in bringing glory to the country and putting the country's name on the world stage.‘You have the joy of having won the trophy but then the country benefits. People who didn’t know about the Gambia would know. The media will talk about it and someone who doesn’t know will hear it. And those that are interested will go searching where Gambia is, you know what that does, it increases our tourism’. Ndey Marie Njie, the Permanent Secretary at the Youth and Sports Ministry congratulated the team and urged them to keep working hard. She assured them of the government’s continuous investment towards the improvement of the welfare of youths.Tijan Jaiteh, the Goodwill Ambassador for Sports, thanked the Ministry for its contribution to the team’s participation in the tournament. He said the youngsters fought hard to bring home the trophy despite playing six games in nine days.National Youth Adviser, Lamin K. Saidy, expressed delight and satisfaction at the team's performance, which he said brought joy to the people of the Gambia. He commended the Ministry for investing in Youth development.Speaking on behalf of the team, Ebrima Saidy and Sainey Njie, expressed the team’s sincere appreciation to the ministry and the country for their encouragement as they continue to seek their support to bring more glory to the Gambia.
At the invitation of the Gambia government, Muhammad Sidat, the Confederation of African Football head of professional football, carried out a preliminary assessment of the ongoing works at the Independence stadium.The CAF professor was invited for expert inspection and recommendation as the Gambia raced against time for the hosting of their final AFCON qualifiers against Congo in September.'We requested that they come so that they can look at what we have done so far. In the event there is anything that we need to improve on, they can advise us, after which we will ensure that is done before they come for the final inspection.’‘So that by the time they come for the final inspection, we would have gotten almost everything 100%.’ Marcel Mendy, the Executive Director of the National Sports Council, said.The CAF's head of professional football was escorted by local stakeholders from the Sports Ministry, Gambia Football Federation, and the contractors to different parts of the stadium for a professional assessment.After over a three-hour walk through key areas of the interior and the exterior of the stadium, the inspector said there has been progress, but some adjustments are needed.‘There were matters in relation to the accessibility of the players and media. We wanted to ensure all these points were taken care of.’‘In modern stadiums, we need to ensure that players, media, fans, and VIPs have their own entrance and exit, so there is no clash. This was one of the remarks we were trying to find alternative solutions to.’ Muhammad said.The expert further said the environment around the stadium is crucial for safety. ‘We understand that there are still works going on, but ensuring access, the gates, and external perimeter all of these areas has to be completed and right to the best standards possible.’He recommended another fence [perimeter] to be built around the pavilion before the next assessment.As per CAF’s requirement, stadiums are assessed two or three months before the match day. Sidat said a circular will be sent to GFF in the coming weeks when CAF will provide a timeline for GFF to send their preferred venue for the Gambia’s next game.The inspector said that by the beginning of August, all venues for the CAF final round of AFCON qualifiers must be confirmed.‘It is a tight timeline, but I have received assurances from all the authorities that they are working day and night to meet all of the final works. So let’s hope that happens.This means a tough race against time for the contractors. It remains to be seen if the Gambia will host their final round of AFCON qualifiers against Congo at this stadium, what is certain now, is the acceleration of work round the clock for contractors who will be hoping to meet the deadline.
Red Scorpions have shown another great performance in a campaign that ended in great fashion for them as they clinched back-to-back titles in the Gambia Football Federation Women’s Division One League.The serial champions were just too strong and could not be struck from their stride, for yet, another season. And again, teams in the league appear to have no answers to coach Choro Mbenga’s side for the second season running as they completed a successful title defense.Even though they were already confirmed champions even before going into the last round of matches on Sunday evening. But the defending champions once again showed that they are not just title-winning conscious, but setting records that will keep their name as perhaps the greatest ever female team to ever compete in a GFF league.They failed to take their foot off the gas in their final game, even against struggling Abuko United. As if that was the game to decide their fate, they ran out 3 – 0 winners. The league’s top scorer Kumba Kuyateh scored twice to take her tally to 20 goals and Fatou Bojang scored the other.A coronation was already waiting and it happened after the final whistle. As champions, Red Scorpions will receive five-hundred thousand dalasi. Second place Berewuleng will be handed two-hundred and fifty thousand dalasi and, third place Police Ladies one hundred and twenty-five thousand.In a ten-team league, Red Scorpions won 17 and drew one in the 18 games they played. They scored 51 goals and conceded just 8 which made them the team with the best attack and defence in the league. And, amassed 52 points altogether, 13 points clear from second place Berewuleng F.C.One might argue that the league is weak, this could be true. But it will be unfair to lose sight of the dedication and the organisation of this Red Scorpions side.If other institutional teams in the league cannot match Red Scorpions' achievement, then that is clear proof that Choro and her management have invested energy to sustain their growth this far.“11 league titles and a record 41 games unbeaten run”, is a milestone feat anywhere the world over. We can only congratulate them on their remarkable achievement. It was deserved. This was truly the right complement to the energy they invested throughout the campaign. It was worth it after all!
Serrekunda West women's basketball team once again reigned supreme as they defeated Kotu Blue Ninjas to retain the Gambia Basketball Federation's knockout title. West who triumphed over Blue Ninjas 53 - 50 in the first leg, completed a double over their opponents, beating them 61 - 58 to accomplish their dream and mission on Sunday evening. West proved too strong in an evening meant for Blue Ninjas to tie the series and forced the game to a third set. But, the Kotu side could not make amends. SK West started brightly and won the first set 17 - 14. That set the tone for what awaits Blue Ninjas in the remaining sets. There was no balance of power in the second and third sets as West maintained their dominance, winning the second set 40 - 30 and the third set 57 - 44. The gap seemed unassailable at that moment. But Blue Ninjas nearly produce a shocker as the outstanding Bintou Dambelly with her solo movements and amazing three-point throws and her teammates cut the gap to three points. But, SK West’s energetic versatile player Alasana Senghore and the rest of her dynamic teammates stayed resolute to defend their three points lead and sealed a successful title defense. To West the glory, this was a truly deserved victory!
Falcons have suffered the most heartbreaking moment in their history when they surrendered the top spot to Real De Banjul with a game to spare in the title race.Ultimately, they had their share of the cruelty of what is considered ‘a beautiful’ game as they lost the Gambia Football Federation Division One league title and one million dalasi winners' prize money to Real De Banjul on goal difference.Losing titles in football is painful, but losing them after initially appearing to have them firmly within your grips could be even more painful.The Abuko-Willingara-based club were on course, truly on course for glory. Since they got into the top two of the standings on match day eight, they never go below second place.By round 13, they mounted the summit and maintained the position for 15 consecutive games. In those games, they won 5, drew 6, and lost 4, making them the most consistent team.Falcons stretch their stay on top to round 29 which was the penultimate round of matches. At the moment, even if they stretch their hands, they will be able to slightly touch the title.But, their chase for a historic title, was handed a major blow by relegation-threatened Greater Tomorrow – a side fighting for their lives in the league who condemned them to a shocking 1 – 0 defeat.This was a moment Real De Banjul has desperately been praying for. Who will expect Willy Abraham and his team so desperate for the title not to take advantage!They defeated Banjul United 2 – 0 to finally toppled Falcons on top and opened a two-point gap going into the final round of matches. Even though Real drew 0 – 0 with Waa Banjul in the last games, but Falcons’ 4 – 2 win over Steve Biko was not enough to regain the top spot as Real were five goals superior on goal difference after both sides secured 52 points in 30 games. To say football has ever been cruel to any team in the GFF League like this in the past decade or so, is open for debate.But, the manner in which Falcons who were just in their second season in the Gambia Football Federation Division One League and were on course to writing their own history, lost the title, is an agony that not many teams have faced.How they inexplicably lost the league in such a fashion is something many pundits can’t figure out. Perhaps, they were over-excited, and instead of thinking of getting the job done, they lost focus. What initially appeared so closed has now turned so far. Falcons will have to try their luck again next season. But, they already have a task of persuading their long-term coach Lamin Sanneh who said he will leave the club at the end of the season, to stay.
Tanji Village football team are crowned champions of the 2023 Kombo South District football competition after showing a superior performance that earned them a 2 – 0 win over Berending Village in the final. The two faced off at the Sanyang football field in a tie expected to be a crunch encounter but ended up being a one-sided affair as Tanji showed a master-class performance that left Berending in bewilderment all through the evening. And goals from Dawda Kujabi and Abdoulie Dibba capped off what has been a great competition for the energetic and free-wheeling Tanjie side that merited what they got judging by the displays. The score was enough to earn Tanji the crown and the winner’s prize money of D45,000, while the disappointed Berending were handed a consolation of D35,000. SUPERIOR TANJI UNMATCHED At a jam-packed Sanyang arena, Tanji were simply unmatched both technically and tactically. They showed the difference in quality within the opening proceedings when they put Berending on the receiving end of constant pressure. That was coupled with a series of threats as Tanji came close and missed chances that really should have been goals for them. The closest came when Abdoulie Dibba effortlessly skipped inside two Berending defenders and rolled a shot wide with the goal at his mercy. While Berending were trying to look for means to cope with the pressure, Tanji continued their high-pressing game and finally got the goal that initially appeared elusive, as Dawda Kijabi slotted home from close range for the breakthrough in the stoppages going into the break. That was an assailable score line and one would have expected Berending to return from the intervals with some purpose after the halftime team talks. They did not show any conviction, and Tanji continued to dominate. It did not take long for a second goal to duly arrive for Tanji. They launched an attack with quick exchanges that left Berending’s defence in confusion before their unstoppable Abdoulie Dibba made it two-nil in the 50th minute with a fine poke that beat the rushing Berending’s keeper. Berending had shown some glimpses of individual brilliance, but collectively, they could not find the means to contain a Tanji side that even deserved a far more convincing victory as they missed chances that should have made the score even more embarrassing. Tanji were technically and tactically too good for Berending who might consider themselves unlucky, but realistically, Tanji were simply irresistible in an evening meant to crown a new champion in Kombo South. Becoming a champion will require performing a little better than the defending champions, Tanji who knocked out the defending champions Gunjur in the semi-finals, are the new champions of Kombo South. If there was anywhere Berending truly dominated Tanji, was on the sideline, where their vocal supporters dressed in traditional attires with beads tied around their waist and across the chest, roared from start to finish. Should there be any award for the supporters, without doubt, Berending supporters with their melodious Jola songs and dancing, would have deservedly carried it home. But their efforts were not complemented by their players who showed a lacklustre performance all through.
Falcons Football Club took a giant stride towards clinching their first-ever league title in the Gambia Football Federation Male Division One league after securing another impressive win in round 26 of the 2022/23 GFF division one league season.The Abuko-Wellingara-based club registered a vital two-nil win against the relegation-threatened PSV Wellingara side at the late Ousman Saho Football Field in Yundum.Bai Sonko and Buba Camara scored the goals that helped Falcons to open a five-point lead at the top of the league table in round 26.Falcons who are the most consistent side in the league this season just need three wins in their remaining four games to automatically clinch a historic title in their 2nd attempt since their promotion to the top tier in 2021.Considering their consistency and form, the Blue Army are on course for glory. Unless the league turns dramatic like the Premier League or Bundesliga, coach Lamin Sanneh and his Falcons are not showing any signs of becoming Arsenal or Dortmund, who surrendered the titles to second-placed sides after initially appearing to have it firmly within their grasp. That though, is the day and night prayers of the second-placed Real De Banjul and some other teams chasing to topple Falcons at the summit.
The development of this Gambia U20 side has caught even the most ardent Gambian football fan by surprise. How the team has evolved from the WAFU Zone-A Championship in Mauritania to the AFCON in Egypt, finishing as runners-up on both occasions and now a dominant showing in the FIFA World Cup in Argentina, has left many wowed. Is it down to tactical maturity, technical genius, or sheer hunger to break into global football powerhouses? Those are questions for another day. In this one, we focus entirely on the race for the unthinkable, but not a race for the impossible – the Gambia’s attempt to clinch the U20 World Cup trophy. The Gambia once again shocked the world with their football prowess, as they finished as Group F winners ahead of current runners-up – Korea Republic and 2013 champions France, to reach the round of 16. The young scorpions matched their best-ever performance at this level when the Gambia made their first and only appearance in a U20 world cup tournament in 2007. The Gambia will take on Uruguay on June 1st, 2023 in the round of 16. THE CONTINENT’S PRIDE! This unbeaten run of the Gambia U20 side in the 2023 FIFA World Cup is already a continental victory, as they became the only African side to gain an automatic qualification with two wins and a draw in the group stages. Nigeria with 6 points and Tunisia with 3, negotiated their way via the best third-placed team slots, while continental champions Senegal crashed out on a huff, disappointingly finishing bottom of Group C with two points. This is already a big disappointment for Senegal and will no doubt cut short the euphoria around their AFCON success. And so too the continent lost some pride as its champions failed to prove their worth where it mattered the most. As it appears, coach Abdoulie Bojang and his charges are the only continental representatives that have shown a performance far convincing that one can trust, and is quite capable of driving home some pride for the continent. And, Nigeria with their pedigree and history which saw them accumulate 6 out of the possible 9 points in the opening group stage, can’t be ruled out of anything. They are continental architects in playing this tournament. They appeared 12 times, and in the process, finished as runners-up in 1989 and 2005. Tunisia’s performance is far from convincing. With a mere 3 points in the group stage, should they go beyond the round of 16, will surely be one of football’s biggest bonuses. This Gambia side has already set the bar high and they did not look like they are willing to lower it against any opposition. Given their recent form and performances at the group stage, they look potentially ready for any side. “We don’t look at names, what is crucial for us is we believe in what we can do,” Coach Bojang said. That statement is justified by the performance they showed at the group stages against France, Honduras, and the Korean Republic. Their performance at the group stages which they combined with verve, precision, and tactical discipline without an iota of panic, clearly sends a strong intent about their ambitions. This team is clearly up for the unthinkable, but not impossible mission. They are poised to make global history with the way they are realistically chasing the FIFA youth accolade at the same pace as some serial champions. TASK AHEAD Now that the Gambia has moved from a side tipped to be ‘heading home’ early, to potential title contenders, means, the task ahead can be a tough one. “The most important thing is our tactics and trying to be better than our opponents during the 90 minutes.” Lie Bojang said. And the task is, to apply that statement on the pitch when they face Uruguay, a side that is playing this tournament for the 15th time but has yet to clinch any title as they reached and lost the finals in 1997 and 2013. This could be considered a big achievement for a side like the Gambia who are only appearing for the second time. But, this crop of young dynamic players, seem to care less about reputation, and, the flair and depth of the Gambia’s squad are quite capable of causing an upset against any opposition. The return of Muhammed Jobe to the already-established Gambia U20 has taken the team to another level and the firepower of the unstoppable Adama Bojang could be a cause for concern for any defensive line. Adama who scored two goals, is a candidate for the golden boot as he is two goals behind Italy’s Cesare Casadei who tops the chart with four goals. Can the Gambia set a new record by surpassing the round of 16 or even cause a global tsunami by reaching the finals?
That is the story of Haruna Rashid Njie of Gunjur United who proved himself as one of the key figures, if not the key figure for the Gambia U-20 in the just concluded CAF U-20 Championship in Egypt. Rashid is from Gunjur United a team in the Gambia Football Federation Second Division League, that has been struggling for promotion for the six-season running. Haruna himself has been part of that struggle for three seasons now.His path to the limelight, coupled with how he went on to not only establish himself as a regular starter, but the architect of coach Abdoulie Bojang's tactic, in a setting where coaches usually trust top-tier, semi-professional and professional players for virtually any team selection, is not just interesting and surprising, but equally, inspiring.Rashid is the first young player from his village - Gunjur, to have been consistent in the national colors at the youth level. There has not been any player from Gunjur who made more appearances for any national youth team like Rashid. That in itself is a milestone achievement already. The versatile lad was the only second-tier player in the team (U-20) that represented the Gambia in the CAF U-20 Championship. Of all the games he started, he helped his side maintain a 100% winning streak without conceding a goal. That run ended in the final which he missed due to suspension after he picked a red card in the semi-final against Nigeria. The Gambia went on to lose the final against neighboring Senegal. His replacement Bailo Bah was altogether below par, and, Rashid's alter-ego in midfield - Mahmud Bajo missed his rhythm. The defense line equally missed the usual protection in tougher situations as Senegal put two unanswered goals to clinch the title at the expense of the Young Scorpions. Perhaps a moment of justification for the people who perceived Rashid as the key player for the U-20. If anyone banks on this as a defense mechanism for their claim, considering how Senegal tilted The Gambia's midfield that day, they can have good ammunition to fire at opponents in any debate. But, that is a case of its own and, for another time.What is clear is that Rashid's path to the limelight is altogether an interesting realistic story, not a fairytale! Surviving the psychological trauma of being brought up by a single parent to playing for academies in both Gambia and Senegal and taking the risk of playing Divisional football at just 15 years for a struggling side, and, fitting well in a setting where he is one of the youngest, is truly an amazing journey. BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEYThe journey has been a remarkable one, remarkable as the Scorpions performed in their maiden AFCON appearance in Cameroon - only if you know that story. If there is any percentage of luck in Rashid's journey, that will not be more than 10%, most of it could be credited to commitment, bravery, and respect for the game. 'All I do is to train and relax because my focus is to become a professional footballer' he said.'Growing up as an orphan as I lost my dad who was the provider for the family at a tender age, I knew the onus of the family would rest on me, so I need to work hard.' 'And any community that you go to in the Gambia, you will find a very good talent. What matters, in the end, is hard work, patience, and respect for your leaders. There's no magic in football, it's all down to commitment and hard work and that has been my focus' he told GFF Media.Born in Gunjur, a footballing community in the West Coast Region on the 23rd of September 2005. Rashid, like any young boy in the village, will go on to play football in childhood for fun. Little did he know at the time that will someday change his life. And that did not take any longer. Rashid's talents were noticed at a young age by local summer football teams in Gunjur. Many came knocking, but Red Star F.C. the most successful club in Gunjur convinced him to join their camp. He was taken to the Gunjur United academy which is managed by the then coach of Red Star - Babucarr Kakai Bojang. And Rashid soon became a key figure for the U-15s.THE TURNING POINTWhile playing for the Gunjur United Academy, Haruna was scouted by a Senegalese agent who took him to the Africa Foot Academy in Senegal after agreements with Gunjur United. Aged 13, Rashid went on to become the captain of the U-15 of the Dakar-based academy. But, he only spent two seasons there as he returned home after the Covid outbreak. And, then returned to Gunjur United, and joined the first team in the Gambia Football Federation second division league as their youngest player in the 2020/21 season. largely coming as a substitute, Rashid still managed to score 8 goals and made four assists, making him the youngest player to have achieved such a feat. His side - Gunjur United narrowly missed out in the qualification for the top tier league, losing 2 -1 to Team Rhino in the play-off in what was their closest attempt as they finished 4th in the league. In his second season in 2021/22, Rashid had a glittering campaign. For the season, he scored 16 goals from his position as a supporting striker. Since then, the young star started grabbing national attention and ultimately the big moment came at age 17. DREAM COME TRUE'I used to watch the Gambia U20 with my friends on TV. I will only watch the first half and tell them I am going for training, I want to also play at that stage someday.'He was clear about his dream and he worked towards it. And, it soon turned from a dream to a real-life situation. In just his second season as a second-division player, he got his first call-up to join the U-20 for trials. The moment he has long dreamed of, and, who will expect a player as hungry as Rashid to miss the opportunity. He impressed beyond expectations and got selected in the squad that represented the Gambia in the WAFU Zone A championship in Mauritania in 2022 and came out as runners-up - losing 1 - 0 to Senegal in the final. Rashid was largely a substitute in that tournament. But, he will work hard to change that. Another call came, this time from the CHAN team (U-23). Rashid traveled with the team to Morocco for a doubleheader against Guinea Bissau in the qualifiers in July 2022. Unfortunately, they missed out on penalties after a one-all aggregate. Rashid was the only player to have erred in the shootout as Bissau went on to win 5 - 4. But that did not overshadow what has been described as a 'great achievement' for the youngest in the midst - a raw talent from division two. Tall, well built, pacy, skillful, and clinical with a strong dual foot and great vision and ability to protect and retrieve the ball, Rashid will continue with the U-20 squad. His ability to operate effectively in different positions, coupled with his discipline and great work ethic will soon make him a distinct figure in coach 'Lie' Bojang's set-up.Playing in a more unaccustomed position - offensive midfield, Rashid proved a mastermind in a position that would have been new for any player in his situation.Yet, he was one of the revelations of the tournament, stepping in to support his side with excellent technique and vision. He provided security and stability all the way to the semifinal against Nigeria. Rashid and his partner were vital components in a midfield that proved too clever and quick for most opponents. Rashid and his U-20 teammates will travel to Argentina in May 2023 for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Another moment for him to prove his worth, this time on the global stage.If he should come back with a contract from any European team after the World Cup, that will not be any surprising. Perhaps the least a quality player like him deserved. Rashid's rapid growth does not come with any favor from anyone. If there is any secret, that will be hard work, commitment, focus, and discipline he has shown all through his journey. A great player is in the making!