FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM GAMBIA’S FRIENDLY

By Sulayman Bah

Friday’s game will go down as point note of success for the Gambia GAMBIA’S FRIENDLYmaking a return to the international football scene. The Home-based Scorpions under the flagship of a much revered Bonu Johnson endured a labourious outing but were to have the last laugh after finally scraping past Mauritania 1-0.

Assembled to participate in CHAN – corruption name for the local-based version of the Nations Cup –a draw of which is set to be held soon, the team is also being lined up as surrogate contingent for the senior Scorpions whose set up comprise vastly foreign-based players.

We list down five major things observed in Gambia’s first match after eighteen months.

  1. Gambia 0 Ivory Coast 3. No one fan will cheer for a side getting drubbed mercilessly but that occasion was an exception. Gambian fans, the result aside, spoke delectably about the team’s new adopted style of play: possession based football. Against a side boasting raft of Africa’s best players including Four-time Africa Players of the Year Yaya Toure, the Scorpions stood out, out-passing the elephants –a side dubbed continent’s paragon of passing football. A continuation of such a trend would have been expected. Instead a combination of defensive midfielders had Gambia unsurprisingly sitting back inviting the opponent into the half waiting to pounce on the counter. ‘The team is just eight days old,’ was the chorus from Bonu and Captain Abdoulie Jatta in post match comments. Understandable? Maybe. Winning with impressive play is the current fever floating aloft over enthusiasts in the football world including Gambians. Reverting to the play-good-win-good format will certainly have fans jumping off their seats and win over skeptics for Bonu.
  2. Selection of players for the national team should be done across the board. But with Real de Banjul engaged in Caf competition, Bonu was restricted to make do with all local players at the GFF league’s disposal excluding the domestic champions. Real’s Alagie Bah would have been the notable name on the GFF wish-list had not for restriction. However the result was always going to bite. The Gambian team lacked creativity in midfield. Brikama United’s Sulayman Saho and Kaba Sambou have sitting dip ahead of the defence as preferred role. An attacking Ebou Kanteh was stationed on the right wing. Up against towering Mauritanian players, the team was overshadowed with the introduction of Ports Authority’s Abdoulie Bah only slightly easing off the pressure.
  3. That Mauritania has developed and could well be on path to being spoken highly as popular neighbouring football countries. The Mourabitounes thumped Gambia 1-0 at home before drawing goalless in the return match of a double-legged fixture test match played at the 30,000 capacity seat Independence Stadium. They are known to trigger upsets in Banjul. The Mauritanian booted the Scorpions out of the CHAN in 2008, a game Gambia finished with ten men after Habib Kunta got sent off. While Gambia plunged into football oblivion the past one-year six months, the Mauritania coach has been busy reassembling his arsenals and see the country’s football minnows status shaken off.
  4. The Independence Stadium fortress came crumbling after Ivory Coast devoured into it breaking off the fear factor once associated with the complex courtesy of the elephants three unanswered goals. However after shoving Tanzania in the WC 2014 qualifier and this latest friendly victory added, the aura of the devil factor with which the stadium has been to big teams looks on the path to being restored.
  5. Scoring problem continues to be an issue dogging Gambian strikers. But chances must be created to see to goals are netted and only one vivid occasion came by on Friday which Ebou Kanteh duly butted to the goal post. Bonu and team will need no reminding that, that aspect of his forward’s game need to be upped. Kaba Sambou has been hailed on night of the friendly, it must however be said, Sulayman Saho was Gambia’s most mobile player.