Feature: Gambian football fans growing in confidence

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 26, 2021
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BANJUL, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Gambian national football team, the Scorpions, has qualified for the first time in history for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) which will kick off in January 2022.

The fans have expressed excitement as they are confident that the West African nation will be the surprise in the tournament after learning about group opponents Tunisia, Mauritania, and Mali.

"As a Gambian, our first-ever qualification of our national team for AFCON 2022 is historic, and one of the most amazing and joyful moments of my life," says Ousainou Gambia, a Scorpions fan.

Ousainou is a popular youth in the country, having legally changed his last name to Gambia, and always being among the spectators to cheer the team.

"Those who know me would attest to the fact that almost every national game that has to do with Gambia's qualification into AFCON whether the preliminary and actual qualification at the stadium you will see me there with my Gambian flag joining other nationals supporting the national team," he said.

He added that "with all those years of struggle, years of going to the stadium and buying tickets, it is a dream that came through. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, fans were not allowed in the stadium the day we book our place. However, I was part of the people who were standing outside the stadium following the radio commentary of the game."

He told Xinhua that he was excited to be part of the history. Ousainou said he is not a fan of European football despite being a game fanatic. But Gambian games rarely pass him by.

"It has been a long trial and failure until this moment came. Sometimes, I would pray at night for us to qualify, and I would try my best to get a ticket to watch the tournament live in Cameroon. I do not doubt that the boys will make it," he said.

Lamin Fadera, a Gambian radio journalist was on commentary duty when Gambia defeated Gabon at the Independence Stadium in Banjul to book their place in the AFCON tournament. He described the moment as joyous and emotional.

"As a journalist, I was happy that The Gambia managed to qualify for the first time in history in a major competition. It was a great moment and a sigh of relief for me as a journalist who has covered the Gambia national team matches over the last decade," he said.

Fadera recalled moments when he would be covering matches at the stadium with no hope that the country will make it due to long failed attempts. He said it took five years between 2013 and 2018 before the Gambia was able to win a home tie.

"Qualifying to play the tournament in Cameroon is a great moment indeed for the country. As a journalist, I was happy to witness such a memorable day in the history of Gambian football," he noted.

The Gambia has been drawn in Group F in a tournament set to commence in January 2022. Fadera believes that The Gambia is in a tough but fair group.

"We should have been in Pot A, but our FIFA ranking was not that good and that's why we went into Pot F. But I think it is a fair draw because the pool of players we have now at our disposal is going to help the coach. I am hopeful."

Another Scorpions fan, Binta Ndow is optimistic about Gambia's progress in the tournament. She premised her confidence on the growing number of professional players the country has been endowed with recently, especially in the European leagues.

"We are going to be the surprise package in the tournament. If you look at our footballing progress over the years, you don't have to be too skeptical about how our team can perform. It has been coming," she said. Enditem

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