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.
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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.
From the Head of State to the Sports Minister, the GFF President, the coach of the Gambia National Team, the players, and the last supporter of the team. One thing they all eye, is the Gambia’s return to the AFCON for the second time in succession.The team is truly on the brink, and the performance they showed to this stage, will leave any supporter with great hope. Scorpions of The Gambia are currently second in Group G, a position that is still in contention. But they stand the biggest chance to make it their own when they take on Congo who are third, three points adrift, and stand a chance to topple the Gambia – alas! – ‘God forbid.’ Gambia will take on Congo on Sunday 10th September in Morocco at 7 p.m. Gambian time for a place in the 2023 AFCON in Ivory Coast.The worst the Gambia can avoid to return to the AFCON for the second time, is a defeat, which will see Congo through on a head-to-head basis, even though, they will tie on 9 points with the Scorpions. Their double victory over the Gambia will give them an advantage as per the CAF rules – that is if they (Congo) win.THE SQUADThe Gambia’s Belgian tactician, Tom Saintfiet, has named his squad that he believes can help him achieve another milestone – qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations for the second time under his spell.On his previous unveiling, the Belgian has come under immense criticism. But it appears he got it almost all right this time as many of his critics did not lash at his mode of team selection. He named a 23-man squad that on paper looks solid, and it will not be any surprising if they look solid on the pitch too.The team comprised notable names like Omar Colley, Modou Jobe, Able Jallow, Babucarr Gaye, Musa Barrow, and Assan Ceesay among others who all experienced the continental showpiece – AFCON, in the last edition in Cameroon which was the first time the Gambia make AFCON appearance.Remarkably, they finished 6th overall – losing 2 – 0 to the host nation Cameroon in the quarterfinals.This crop of players can be trusted. Judging by the clubs they are playing for, the playing times, and their form individually. Players like team captain Omar Colley, Ablie Jallow, Assan Ceesay, Muhammed Badamosi, and Yankuba Minteh were all on the scoresheet for their respective sides heading into the international break. With such form, and Tom Saintfiet’s pragmatic approach, one could only stay upbeat that the Scorpions are on course to write another history.OPTIMISM AND REACTIONS.I was opportune to be closer to the players during their training camp in Turkey in late 2022. I had interviews with a lot of them. As sensitive as they might appear, I still had casual discussions with a lot of them during their leisure time at the hotel, about their readiness for a return to the AFCON.The message has been the same. ‘We want to go back to the AFCON. And, we will do whatever it takes to qualify. All we need is the support and prayers of the Gambian people, so we can make them proud again.’ This was what many of them echoed.Quite reassuring, isn’t it? Those are committed statements that represent the mindset around the team. Under a coach [Tom] who likes bragging about his records and achievements. One could only sense complete readiness around the Scorpions team.“We will do everything possible to write more history. It is not easy, though Congo-Brazzaville is a good team. They have good players and a good coach, so we will face a very tough challenge,”“We want to qualify. We have tasted two years ago how beautiful AFCON is, and we want to go back there, and we will be ready to compete.” Tom said in an interview with Ebrima KB. Sonko.Hopes are high that, the Scorpions will write another history as they did in March 2021 when Assan Ceesay scored a lone goal against Angola in Banjul to send millions around the country into ecstatic celebrations as the Scorpions qualify for the AFCON, - Remarkably, the first time in history. CAUTION!As the game approaches, it's difficult for anyone to think about anything, other than a return to the AFCON for the Scorpions. But some of us who have been following football closely, know we can all come crashing, back down to earth if there is one bit of complacency. Not what anyone will pray for, but ruling it all together out, will go against football in all aspects.With the physical strength Congo has in their squad, coupled with their experience in the AFCON [Winners in 1972, 4th Place 1974, Quarterfinalist 1992 & 2015]. You would expect their 1 – 0 win over the Scorpions in the first leg, to click them into gear. And they are under the guidance of a coach [Paul Put] who knows Gambian football, as little as it may, not new to him.Congo will certainly look to mount some pressure as they look to make a return to the AFCON for the first time since 2015 in Equatorial Guinea.This job for the Scorpions is close to being done but also far from done.However, the Belgian tactician and this group of players know how to write history. They have set new standards. And, they are spoiling Scorpions’ fans who have suffered for too long with joy.It will be mind-boggling to bet against them, turning more dreams into reality.
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?