By Sulayman Bah
Foroyaa Sport yesterday obtained a compendium of post-match reports of what Bonu Johnson told the GFF before and after Gambia’s CHAN exit.
In lengthy dossier chronicling a raft of details including behind the scenes events, Bonu Johnson laid bare what led to the Gambia’s team brutal exit, capturing a startling plethora of problems faced by past and present national team coaches, coming out in public only now.A part of the final report disclosed how the technical team was forced by circumstances to play fatigued home-based national players against Morocco U-23s in a bid to shape up the team, resulting in the team 3-1 savaging.
While bemoaning poor arrangement of the domestic national leagues as a massive contributing factor to player fatigue and consequently leading to the team shock exit, the dossier did not hold back to bring to light how the officials had to roam the streets to buy food for hungry players when the team arrived in Senegal early in the morning.
Running his ink through unfolding incidents as they happened, the former Gambia national team recalled how players demanded allowance increment and the matter only settled after GFF’s Ebou Faye shared US$1000 between twenty-four players.
The erstwhile Gambia Ports Authority gaffer let rip into current system saying ‘…..the game of football does not have quick fix solutions; neither does it have instant fixing.’
‘It would be a good idea if the GFF would devise a method of managing expectations, Sports authorities and indeed football lovers should be guided towards realistic expectations,’ he continued.
‘We wish therefore to pray that the Federation in the future not to put any coach and his technical team in such a situation like we have experienced because it is important that once a competition is schedule adequate preparations should begin.’
Below read text of the final report
This report is to serve as a review of the home-based national team of The Gambia and our CAF CHAN qualifying fixtures against Senegal including preparations in Morocco. This document sets out to provide a permanent record of the matches and technical programme that took place from May to July 2015.
The report will provide as much information as possible on the preparation of the team from a technical, tactical, physical and psychological perspective.
The intention is to state the facts and realities and provide a document that can be used for future reference by Administrators, coaches, technicians, staff and other officials who are active in the development of Gambian football and may be taking a leading role in shaping the future of the sport within the country and beyond.
This report has been written by the Head Coach CHAN/U-23, Mr. Peter Bonu Johnson and assisted by Mr. Mattar Alieu M’Boge Assistant Coach CHAN/Head Coach U-17.
Whilst I was gratified to be appointed as Head Coach of the CHAN National team a responsibility greater than anything before, I was also keenly aware that the responsibility was also much greater than before, I sincerely believed that the GFF understood that this is a gradual process and a long term project.
From the onset our Technical Team was much aware of the desire and eagerness of our Nation the Gambia to defeat Senegal. For this and as with so many things in life, the joy and sorrow are intimately mixed together and requires time to prepare that it may strive and prosper.. My ambition for the CHAN National Team is that it may continue to grow, to thrive and to prosper, further pursuing the course of attaining new goals.
Following my appointment as the Head Coach of the CHAN National team (SCORPIONS) on 1st April, 2015, I with the assistance of my Technical team started preparing the CHAN National Team using the Mauritanian friendly match as a build-up to the CAF RWANDA 2016 QUALIFIERS.
For development work to bear fruit there must be sufficient time for the process and it must address both the grass roots and the top tier of the game and it is for this very reason that CAF created the CHAN COMPETITION every two years thereby giving the home-based players the opportunity to measure themselves on the pitch internationally and qualify their countries, also giving them the opportunity to be scouted by FIFA Football agents.
I was indeed very excited about my appointment and was of the view that this time round the GFF has got it right to build a team for the future because my belief was the fact that unlike the past the GFF, this time wanted to build a solid foundation for our CHAN National team to be given adequate time to prepare a competitive team since we had not played at International level for a considerable long time. I surely have no doubt that there were high expectations and I did commit myself and that of my team to give it our best. However I hope in the future that no Coach and his technical team will be expected to give great results and perform miracles with so short a time to preparation.
Notwithstanding the above introduction, it was an honor for me again to continue building the CHAN “Playing in these events is the only way to improve your game.” For it gives you the opportunity to have a better knowledge of the selected players and be able to instill discipline in them and thus have a good team ready to deliver anytime it is called upon. So I made some suggestions on how we can have a good preparation, starting with a training program, ref. letter dated 6th April, 2015 captioned “TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR CHAN NATIONAL TEAM” followed with another letter on the same date captioned, “NOTIFICATION TO CLUBS OF PLAYERS SELECTED FOR CHAN “PLAYERS TRIAL” to be arranged after our CHAN qualifiers 1st stage. Unfortunately our request to start training on the 14th April, 2015 was not granted by the Technical and Development Committee which was mandated to approve our selection and decide on when we were to start.
In addition, immediately the GFF Second Rounds Fixtures were circulated, I appealed to the Secretary General of GFF for the cancellation of the mid-week matches as that will affect our selected National team players with ref: letter dated 27th April, 2015 captioned “GFF SECOND ROUNDS FIXTURES” Again nothing was done to avert the situation. Privileged to meet the Technical and Development Committee (T.D.C.) on 28th April, 2015 with my coaching staff, we again raised our concern of cancelling the mid-week matches and it was well received with promises to change it after consulting the GFF Organizing Committee but that same day barely three hours after our meeting we were informed that mid-week matches could not be cancelled. Not giving up hope, on 29th April, 2015, we again wrote another appeal letter, ref: letter dated 29th April, 2015 in which we appealed that it is better to prolong the National league in the interest of our National teams than fast-track it which neither help the teams nor our selected players, as fatigue would take its toll on them which might lead to injuries.
Though the preparation phase was short with signs of fatigue from the National league, the players gave it all they have and shrugged this off like true sportsmen. As the expectations were high among the players and time not enough, we decided to concentrate on the following areas of training:
⦁ Technical and Tactical elements of the game
⦁ Game intelligence (i.e. performance in a match given situation)
⦁ Conditioning and physical fitness
Late commencement of training of home-based players as a team due to the mid-week matches took its toll on the players. We were directed by the Technical and Development Committee of GFF to train on Mondays and Tuesdays with effect from 4th May 2015. It was only from June 1 – 4th, 2015 when we started training as a team, we realized that the players were fatigue because most clubs were either fighting for the National League titles or avoiding relegation.
SELECTION AND TRAINING
Thirty-six (36) players from the first and second divisions were selected for screening and pruning down exercise to have the final Squad of 24 players:
Unfortunately we trained two days a week (i.e. Mondays and Tuesdays) for four good weeks without having all the players on the same day due to mid-week matches. All players who attended were given chance to prove themselves. We only started training as one team from the 1st – 4th June, 2015 and was thus able to select a squad of 24 players. We were privileged to have only one test game and this helped us to select the 24 players for the training camp in Morocco.
Team selection should always be based on sound and defendable criteria. To argue that a consistent performing player for his local club may not perform at the International Stage and to select a player who is not performing for his local club is indeed a bad criterion and should be discouraged.
a. It was agreed that the criteria for selection would be based on performance in a club but this was slightly flawed by the T.D.C. on the basis that a player who performs extremely well in the Gambian First Division, may not be able to translate that performance at the International level.
b. Squad selection was done with the involvement of the T.D.C. as some players identified by them were included.
c. Though a player could be technically good his tactical and psychological orientation on the field of play is paramount as both our games as well as the tactical analysis including videos, highlighted the tactical shortcomings of the majority of the players.
Going forward…we should work harder to analyze the competition or category that is being competed for and to clarify the appropriate base for selecting a player. By now, the CHAN U23 should be made up of players that have previously competed at U17, U20 level and have been exposed to the demands of international football rather than those who have not been involved with a national team at any level. More so the organizing committee should work harder to give priority to co-ordinate the training schedule for all national teams as requested by coaches, with the flexibility to schedule the fixtures in the interest of our National teams rather than a setting Mondays and Tuesdays of every week which are not good days as players are from weekend matches.
We were camped at the Independence stadium on Saturday evening, had our dinner met with the GFF Executive and Officials of the Ministry who wished us well then rested and by 02.00am Sunday departed for Banjul International Airport then to Morocco and arrived on Sunday early morning in Casablanca, then three hours bus drive to Rabat. Lodging in Morocco…The accommodation at the hotel in Morocco was excellent including food and all other requests made, all staff were fully co-operative with us. However, the players upon our arrival in Morocco immediately raised the amount of allowance issued for ten (10) days away, we simply urged them to carry on with their work and when we return we would make follow up. Ebou Faye then gave us US$ 1000 (one thousand dollars) which was shared between 24 players & 7 officials. The Moroccans wanted us to play Sunday evening and we said that could not be, we propose Tuesday morning, however Sunday evening we were told that if we didn’t play Monday morning we would not be able to have any Test game as their National League had already close and this Olympic team is from a tournament in Toulon France and were supposed to de-camp and have their break. So we had no option but to comply and accept their terms.
Morocco U23 Olympic team vs The Gambia Scores: 3-1
We played this International test match at 11.00 am and it was extremely useful for this game to be arranged for it provided us with a very stern test and allowed us to see the weaknesses of the team. It also gave us opportunity to know that our players can also play good possession football under pressure.
There was some uncertainty when we arrived and it seemed that the fixture had been arranged at the last minute as we were told that it would take place at the training centre on the artificial turf. However, on the day of the game we were taken to the stadium of FUS Rabat, a grass surface. The first half was tough before the players could adapt to the grass surface and the Moroccans changed all their players for the start of second half and we made two changes then gradually the rest. Though the performance started to improve fatigue took its toll and we conceded two late goals.
Going forward…, in future it would be better to have all arrangements finalized before a team departs to allow coaches to plan appropriately and to consider alternative opponents to the North Africans, considering that we were playing our near neighbors Senegal, who represent different tactical, technical, physical and psychological challenges.
We concentrated on our short comings in Morocco, ball possession and quick recovery if we lose ball possession more especially in defending and also making the best use of our goal scoring opportunities especially with set-pieces.
Styles and system of play:
We played the 4-2-3-1 system with a good tactical approach in defense, with a well balanced unit both in the midfield and attack. Each player worked for the other and the team spirit was good. Though we had capable forwards they did not have enough opportunity to penetrate. Our goal was the result of an attacking build-up starting from the central defense and end up winning a free-kick. Offensive moves usually start in the center of the defense using the full backs and flank midfielders who were capable of providing good services from the wings to the strikers. Some players worked unselfishly for the team. Our weakness was scoring in the attack.
CAMPING IN DAKAR
We arrived late night Thursday early hours of Fridays morning and we were lodged at the ALAFIFA Hotel at the centre of Dakar. Unfortunately all our players could not be in one block.
Lodging in Senegal
The accommodation at the hotel in Senegal was also excellent, however we arrived in the early hours of the morning and unfortunately there was no food provided for us which resulted in two officials searching the streets of Dakar for our late dinner. However, for the rest of our stay all the staff was fully co-operative with us. We only had Friday to recover and free up for our game on Saturday.
We started well lost our rhythm came back and at the tail end of first half lost concentration. Started well in the second half, missed our chances and again at the tail end lost concentration and conceded another goal.
The lack of playing together for some time took its toll in the better understanding of the players and though the team spirit was present, our fitness went down and it hampered our style and system of play in the attacking third to score more goals, as support on time was late and recovery slow.
Fasting . It was clear that the fasting took its toll on the fitness of the players, in future games, there needs to be a clear plan so that there isn’t any confusion
On Sunday 21st June, 2015 at Mid-day we left the ALAFIFA Hotel and departed from Dakar with the Gambia Transport Service Bus for home sweet home. We arrived at the Barra terminal by 7.00pm and were lucky to board the last ferry without the GTS Bus and upon arrival in Banjul terminal we boarded public transport to our various homes.
RETURN HOME LEG MATCH
We resume training Wednesday afternoon 24th June, 2015, with one session and Thursday we had two sessions and an appeal was made to have one session until we get into camp. We camped on Sunday evening 28th June, 2015, at the Paradise Suite Hotel. Lodging in Gambia…The accommodation at the hotel in Gambia was at an excellent standard, however there was a concern that players were sharing beds – in order for players to be as comfortable as possible they are required to have a bed of their own in order to sleep as well as possible (and as is stipulated in the rules for all CAF competitions). It was also difficult to co-ordinate meal times as the hotel was short-staffed which meant that often some staff was late to come and run the kitchen.
Notwithstanding the fact that we were to keep a clean sheet at home, we used our Professionals who were around to give us good test games. Though the first game was below expectations and we lost, the players adjusted themselves and won the next test match against the Professionals was by 4 goals to 1 which was very much encouraging. We continued to work on making the best use of our goal scoring opportunities especially with set-pieces and concentrate on our shortcomings in quick recovery if we lose ball possession more especially in the defending and work also in defending set-pieces.
Though we won the professionals 4 – 1 as two goals were scored late in the game as some of them were fasting and that took its toll on them. The lack of playing test games or competitive matches made our players to easily lose concentration and so our reaction to put pressure on the opponent when we lose ball possession was slow. The good fighting spirit was average and it hampered our style and system of play. Camping allowances were paid Thursday night after a lot of murmuring by players.
We thanked the Ministry of Youth & Sports & GFF Executive in forming a Task Force Committee to coordinate all the team logistics during our preparation. In the face of difficulties, which were not only limited to those mentioned above, the GFF did what they could.
I will do no justice if I finish this report without thanking the GFA Secretariat and other committees/people behind the scene; more especially my Technical team (I. e. Joseph K. Sambou, MatarrAlieuMboge, Abdoulie B. Njie, Kalifa Manneh, Pa Matarr Ndow, Amadou L. S. Jaiteh, Pa Ousman Manneh, Omar Ceesay and AlhagieMarong) for their support, encouragement, dedication and tireless efforts in ensuring that everything was under control. All I can say to them all is thank you very much for a job well done.
Another emotion is that of Gratitude to H. E. Sheikh Professor Alh. Dr. Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, who had recommended and supported me as the Head Coach of the Senior National team despite public calls for a Foreign Coach, his devotion to sports and his unflinching support to the development of football in this country may continue and serve as an abiding example to future generations.
I was taken aback with the performance of the players, there was much at stake in this match I was very happy to see them contest the match keenly with discipline, loyalty and sportsmanship. Though the spirit of FAIR PLAY prevailed throughout the match nearly everyone present left sad and disappointed. I on behalf of my Technical team say sorry to all our best wishers more especially our fans for not winning this game due to the internal problems mentioned in this report.
Moreover if the range and complexities of the structures pertaining to our sport (football) and the degree of protection enjoyed by our Coaches and players are improved, we will start to realize that throughout all the sporting disciplines in the Gambia our sport will continue to grow and generate great enthusiasm.
This will show that much should be done to create conditions favourable to the training, and monitoring of our home-based players because the development of our teams through them should be in the eyes of each football enthusiast a matter of great and general interest.
Once again I wish to thank the GFF for according me the opportunity to serve and make my little contribution to Football development in our beloved Country, and I do hope that the constrains mentioned in this report will be seen as positive comments and hopefully in the evaluation of the CHAN campaign take note of them for preparation of our teams in the future
We wish to conclude this report with this final prayer to the Executive Committee of The Gambia Football Federation: The game of football does not have quick fix solutions, neither does it have instant fixing. It is common knowledge that a football team is built over a period of time, and to be given 4 (four) months to build a team (in our case nine days training as a team) to International standard given the state of our National League, with an empowered Technical and Development Committee who decides when you train or not to train, an organizing Committee not willing to synchronize the National league with the International fixture calendar but fast track it to finish early together with all the challenges mentioned in this report and then expected to perform miracles is just not possible. It would be a good idea if the G F F would devise a method of managing expectations, Sports authorities and indeed football lovers should be guided towards realistic expectations. We wish therefore to pray that the Federation in the future not to put any coach and his technical team in such a situation like we have experienced because it is important that once a competition is scheduled, adequate preparations should begin.
Please accept the assurance of our highest consideration