By Abdoulie Nget
Was it that the Coaches are not competent? Is it that the players are not good? Was it lack of good preparation or was it that our group mates were stronger than the Gambia U-17, this are the questions that many Gambian peoples are asking over the ongoing Africa U-17 in Ruanda.
It was clear like a beamed light as the Gambia U-17 were finally quashed out of the Africa Cadet Championship after suffering a 4-1 defeat in the hands of Ivory Coast on Saturday, which many Gambians if not all are not happy about due to bad performance displayed on the pitch.
The baby scorpions of The Gambia were totally controlled and overshadowed by the Ivorians during the game, which pave their way out of the tournament as their opponents progressed to the Semi final as well as the World U-17 Cup to be played in Mexico.
The Gambia were beaten3-0 in their first game by Congo, but later bounced back with a 1-0 win against Mali, which gave hope to many Gambians that we may qualify but hopes were turned to sorrows as they were trashed 4-1 by the young Elephants of Ivory Coast.
Many questions are now coming up as to whether they did well or not, but the answer to these questions is simple which is “No they did not play up to expectation” when they managed to collected three points with two goals in three games after seven goals being slotted to their net.
The first mistake on my point of view was the training in Egypt were the weather is very cold as compare to the condition of Ruanda where there is very hot blended with heavy rains. Many people are questioning this move, but a member of the Gambia Football Association Kebba Masanneh Ceesay said in an interview before the competition said that the training was good, relaying it on their first training camp where they won and thought that they will win this time if they repeat the same move.
Mr. Ceesay also expressed optimism that the baby scorpions can defend their title, saying that despite the MRI test which many players failed.
Social commentators like Kebba Yorro Manneh said after the game against Congo that “lamentable is the defeat U-17 suffered but reasons advanced by the head coach Lamin Sambou were ridiculous where the Rwandan not on the same pedestal? Why the Egypt training camp then if the weather is not compatible? Can common sense prevail?”
Confidence of players and the Coach before and during the competition
“We have no team to fear,” these were the words of Gambian U-17 coach Lamin Sambou as the ninth edition of the CAF U-17 Championship kicks off in Rwanda.
“This is a strong team in all departments. I have been working with these boys day and night and I know what they are each capable of giving for their country,” Sambou was quoted by West Coast Radio, a local radio station.
“We have great confidence in our team and our chances in Rwanda,” he added.
The Gambians began their title defense against Congo on January 9 which they lost by 3-1, registered a victory against Mali before losing Cote d’Ivoire on January 15.
Knowing very well that a place at the last four automatically earns them a spot at the FIFA U-17 World Cup slated for Mexico later in the year, Sambou assured that his charges will go all out to realize that dream.
“We will certainly qualify,” he declared in a confident tone.
After Mali Game
After the match, Lamin Sambou admitted he and his team were under immense pressure to deliver. “If I do not say I was under pressure, I will not be telling the truth”.
He then went on to say that an unnamed Gambian journalist put him in a very uncomfortable position.
“One journalist in the Gambia put pressure on me, after all the interview I did with him, he told me pack your bags and come home because Mali will finish you,” LS told the packed press conference room.
However he thanked the almighty God and his Coaching Staff for being on his side.
He concluded his interview by praising his goal-scorer Yusupha Dawda Sarr on his debut.
“We just picked him from the Nawettan [non-league competition] and traveled with him in case the MRI test ruled out some regular strikers. But he proved he is a good striker and I hope he will be the one to take over from the captain [Buba Jallow].”
The questionable performance of the Gambia U-17 resulted to their exit and losing a spot in the upcoming World Cup in Mexico, as both Peter Bonu Johnson and Coach Sang Ndong said the performance of the boys were totally not good especially the game against the young Elephants of Ivory. When asked by Gambian Sports journalist Dodou Bojang of GRTS as to who can someone say delivered the best in the game, Bonu and Sang Ndong thought of it and said the goalkeeper whom four goals was slotted to his net then one can say there were no good performance for the Gambian players.
Though they tried their level best of having a spot to the competition but people wondered why they did not continued their performance.
After the game Gambia Under-17 coach Lamin Sambou has explained why the Baby Scorpions failed miserably in Rwanda and he’s not holding himself responsible for the failure.
Speaking to West Coast Radio and Gambia Sports Online a few hours after the team’s elimination on Saturday, LS told Abdoulie Bah: “Indeed it has been a sad day simply because, we are eliminated in the tournament and as the head coach I feel very sad.
“This has never happened to me with the under 17; it’s definitely a sad moment for me.”
As to the causes of the heavy defeat, LS couldn’t find fault with the weather or the pitch as he did when Congo beat the Baby Scorpions 3-0 in the opening encounter.
Instead he took a swipe on his players.
“Today’s defeat was caused by nothing other than bad performance.
“The boys failed to live up to expectations; they never adhered to our instructions today therefore they conceded an early goal.
“We told them how the Ivorians would come out at us but they failed to do what we told them. That’s the bottom line,” he argued.
“It’s obvious that they will say what they want to say. But football is a revolution.
“I have been an assistant for the past 5-6 years and we have been winning. If today I am the head coach and we’ve lost, that’s what God has decided,” he told Abdoulie Bah.
The embattled Under-17 coach also addressed the question of his future and seemed to suggest that he might find success in agriculture.
“The onus is now on [the GFA],” he said.
“If they feel what I did was not good and it warrants them sacking me, then I cannot do anything other than to go home and go up to my farm. As you know I am a farmer, so I will continue with farming.”
Maybe some people will attribute the exit of the U-17 to the MRI test as many player were dropped during the test leaving the coach Lamin Sambou to go with what he have, but that could not be taken as an excuse as there were good numbers of players to select the best among them.
Two unnamed fans on the sports program anchored by Sang Mendy said that they were optimistic that the Gambia will make it to the semi final of the competition as well as the world cup in Mexico, which according to information gathered by this paper were not the views of many Gambian after watching a poor performance displayed by Gambian players against Congo.
“Long Live The Gambia U-17”