By Momodou Jarju
The Gambia has been drawn against Chad in the preliminary round of qualifiers for AFCON 2023 in Cote d’Ivoire in a draw held on Friday afternoon in Douala, Cameroon.
“Gambia will play Chad in the preliminary rounds of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for a place in the qualification proper. Ranked amongst the 12 least teams in Africa as per the last FIFA rankings before the current tournament gets underway, the Scorpions match is one of six separate ties to be played in March 2022 with Tom Saintfiet’s charges first playing away to Chad and the return leg in Banjul,” the Gambia Football Federation wrote in its Facebook platform.
The federation further explained that the six preliminary round winners will join 42 others in the group stages to be paired into 12 groups of four teams each. And the top two in each group will qualify for the Ivory Coast edition to be played between June and July of 2023.
“With The Gambia set to make serious inroads in the next rankings to be released by the world football governing body following its blistering start to its maiden AFCON campaign, progress into the next stage could see the Scorpions get a more favourable draw with that edition also to take into consideration the most recent rankings as the time of the draw. However, the irony for many is that even after finishing levelled on seven points with Mali in Group F and having defeated both Mauritania and Tunisia, in its debut campaign in the competition, The Gambia will still be forced to start its assault on qualifying for back to back tournaments in the gruesome preliminaries even if they become African champions on February 2022,” GFF stated.
Gambia’s Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet is not a happy man about the draw. According to Gambian journalist Amadou Tamba who is in Cameroon covering the Afcon 2021 finals, the Gambian gaffer told him that it is a scandal that the Scorpions have to play pre-qualification.
”It is so unfair, so ridiculous, and now we have to play even Chad, a tough opponent, the best of the smallest teams. Difficult trip to go there, and really, it’s not fair. Even if we qualify against Chad, we will be the lowest ranked team in the group stages. We will play again against strong opponents,” Saintfiet said as quoted by journalist Tamba.