The dreams of thousands of Gambians of the Scorpions qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time have been shattered following a 1-1 draw with Algeria’s Desert Foxes Friday.
The Gambia needed a win and hoped the Sunday fixture involving Benin and Togo ended in a draw for them to qualify. Disappointed fans have expressed their disgust at what many of them described as the team’s lackluster performance at the Mustapha Tchaker Stadium, while others largely blamed the Belgian head coach, Tom Saintfeit for opting for a defensive formation in a match many expected an attacking set-up.
Bunja Kebbeh, a football commentator said the formation was unbelievable, adding “this is a team that had to win and pin their hopes on the outcome of Togo versus Benin, but from the start it was a complete defensive position. Not even an out ball or corner kick in the first half. It was a disaster.”
“The formation of 541/451 was evident throughout the whole match and there was no urgency even when we were gifted an equalizer. The starting eleven was bad playing a lone striker who kept running all throughout without been fed from the back. The changes did make a difference and I don’t understand why the coach will leave them on the bench when they were seriously needed in the first eleven. It’s obvious that this coach is no brainer, not better than our local coaches and he has to be sacked upon the teams return,” Kebbeh told The Chronicle.
Former Scorpions goalkeeper, Pa Dembo Touray expressed similar sentiments. “The way forward is that the coach has to go. We have to bring all our good players and have the courage to give chance to our old players who deserve it.”
Ex-Scorpions winger, Ebou Sillah said The Gambia should learn lessons from neighboring Senegal on how their national team is progressing. “Senegal gave responsibilities to their ex-players and they are doing the job fine. So why can’t The Gambia do the same? What The Gambia needs now is to give chance to ex-professionals who have the qualifications to run the national side,” Sillah told The Chronicle. “There are notable ex-Scorpions who have the qualifications and are ready to do it for the nation. Let’s build our team with ourselves, by ourselves and for ourselves.”
Bubacarr Cham, a passionate Gambian football follower is also critical of Coach Tom Saintfeit. “He is not the right man for the job honestly. Yesterday I was asking myself whether this coach knew the right positions of his players because he was using some players out of position.”
Lamin Jaiteh described the Scorpions’ performance against Algeria their worst, adding “I just couldn’t understand what we wanted – a draw or a win. The intention wasn’t clear from the coach through his tactics. So I felt so frustrated.”
Meanwhile, The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) is hoping for a positive outcome at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) which hears the Gambia’s appeal over the eligibility of Togo international, James Adewale Olufade.
The GFF have contracted a Belgian Law firm to fight for their case at the Court of Arbitration for Sports. Meanwhile, The Chronicle has contacted the law firm for comments but it declined our request for an interview and instead sent us an email explaining why it couldn’t comment.
“In this respect, we regret having to inform you that considering the interests at stake as well as for confidentiality reasons, we are not in a position to comment on a pending dispute. However, we kindly inform you that once a final and binding decision will have been passed in the present matter, we will be happy to answer the questions you may have,” the email read.
Algeria who have already secured qualification, tops group D with 11 points, followed by Benin with 7 points. The Gambia sits third place with 6 points, a point ahead of Togo who plays Benin later today.