The Scorpions of The Gambia will be back on the pitch this Wednesday in the the preliminary tie of the 2023 TotalEnergies AFCON against The Sao of Chad in Yaounde.
The 2021 TotalEnergies AFCON ride to the quarter-final as debutants is sufficient motivation.
A few years ago, few across the continent knew the likes of strikers Ablie Jallow (Seraing, Belgium) and Musa Barrow (Bologna, Italy). Fast track to January 2022, their two goals at the 33rd edition of the AFCON and the run to the last eight, helped this generation of players ink their names in the annals of African football by reaching the quarter-finals in their first appearance.
The journey to AFCON 2021 as a source of inspiration
Few observers could or should have placed a bet on this West African team which had difficulties getting the better of Djibouti (1-1 and 1-1 and 3:2 after post match penalties) in the preliminaries, but they humbled the Palancas Negras of Angola and the Leopards of the DR Congo, two previous world cup participants and eventually got to the tournament.
The Scorpions made extensive use of their sting denying these regulars the chance to be in final phase of the African Cup of Nations.
In Cameroon, coached by the Belgian Tom Saintfiet who has being around the continent and who had warned of the quality of his group and the ambitions of his players to want to distort the status quo didn’t dissapoint.
At the AFCON finals proper and in a zonal derby in their opening game they edged Mauritania who had played in the previous edition.
The Mourabitounes were beaten 0-1 thanks to a thunderbolt from Jallow, the FC Seraing striker who came from the rangs of Génération Foot in Senegal.
The Scorpions refused to bow against the Eagles of Mali, one of the heavy weights in West Africa; they shared the spoils (1-1) during their second outing in Limbé.
Musa Barrow’s defeated AFCON 2004 winners the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia (1:0) to cap the group stage of the competition.
When the Bologna striker scored the winning goal (1-0) of the eight-final against the Syli national of Guinea (1-0), the world of football began to take notice of this small country in size but represented by men with big football hearts.
Unlike its neighbors Senegal who was chasing a first continental crown, The Gambia had already won an AFCON title in the U17 category in 2005 spearheaded by Pa Modou Jagne.
Left-back Pa Modou Jagne, apponted captain by Tom Saintfiet for this generation which introduced the senior AFCON to The Gambia, had the right with his teammates after this qualification to challenge to face the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
The match proved to be too tough at the Japoma stadium in Douala, the Scorpions only being able to resist in the first half, the host and five time AFCON winners decided the fate of the encounter in the second half thanks to two goals from Karl Toko-Ekambi.
But this exit from the competition did not dampen the spirit of the Gambians who were a heroic welcome back home.
The New Dream
The Scorpions will kick start the road to Côte d’Ivoire 2023 this Wednesday against the Sao of Chad.
For this fixture The Gambia will be without Pa Modou Jagne who decided to retire from international football. Their Belgian technician has to do without their defense powerhouse Omar Colley (Sampdoria, Italy), winger Kalifa Manneh (Taranto, Italy) and Sulayman Bojang the native of Norway who decided to represent the Gambia in international duty, his parents’ country of origin.
Chad and The Gambia have shown enough in their preparations to make this tie a reference.