Former Scorpions winger Ebou Sillah said Gambian professional footballers who refuse to honour call-up for national team duty should be punished.
In an Interview with The Chronicle, Sillah said every player should be available for national call-up at any time. “National team is not a club team where you decide to work out anytime and anyhow you want,” he says. “Nothing is bigger than playing for your country.”
Recently some national team players turned down an invitation by coach Tom Saintfeit for a 10-day training camp in Morocco where the Scorpions are expected to play two friendly matches with Guinea Conakry and the hosts.
On Saturday, The Belgian finalized his squad with big name absentees. Two top attackers; Hamza Barry and Modou Barrow said they have no interest to play for the national team, while Bubacarr Steve Trawally and Dadi Dodou Gaye never responded to the coach’s invitation. Others are said to have preferred to stay and concentrate on their club duties.
“Maybe they don’t know that if the player plainly refuses to honor national team duty, the football federation can ask FIFA to fine the player and suspend him,” Sillah said.
“It is with both Caf and FIFA’s interest to have the best players playing in its competitions.”
For Scorpions fan Famara Manneh, players shouldn’t be blamed for the problem. “We should not only blame the players, but also the coaches. All our key players cannot stay out of the team like that. There is something wrong and I am challenging the Sports Miniter and the Football Federation to sit over this issue.”
But Ebou Sillah maintained that playing for the national team is a national pride and shouldn’t be an option. “I remember nursing my injury just to come and represent my country. It was The Gambia against Guinea at the Independence Stadium. I had to come even though I was seriously injured. I did that for the love of my country.”
“If any player is not happy with anything, he has the right to express it but not to stay away. Remember you have fans in the country who wants to see wear the national colors anytime. Do it for them,” Sillah told the Chronicle.
Under FIFA rules, ‘a player is obliged to respond affirmatively when called up by the association or federation he is eligible to represent’.