The Gambia National Team, dubbed the Scorpions, has on Thursday made history after qualifying for the African Cup of Nations for the first time in the country’s football history.
The Scorpions beat Angola (who are sitting bottom of Group D) 1-nil victory on Thursday to progress to the continent’s most prestigious football competition.
Assan Ceesay’s 62nd minute goal decided the match in favour of the home team before a closed-door Stadium in Bakau.
The Gambia came in the match with a mindset to win knowing that a win will give them the greatest chances of qualifying for Afcon. During the first half, the visitors played more offensive football while the Scorpions stayed back keeping possession with little urgency in the attack relying on goal-getter Assan Ceesay’s pace for running.
The Scorpions, all in their national colours of red, white, blue and green, were determined to win the match. It took Scorpions 62 minutes to punish the visitors from a pass by playmaker Abdoulie Jallow which was punched back by the Angolan goalkeeper. Ceesay, who was well positioned, capitalized on the opportunity and slotted the ball into the goal net.
Scorpions coach Tom Saintfiet hailed his boys for what he described as team work.
Coach Tom said at the time of his appointment, he promised to qualify the team to the African Nations Cup, but people doubted him
He said he knew the Gambia has quality players to qualify.
“This a team that the whole Gambia should be proud of,” Sainfiet mentioned.
He cited the record making strikers’ performance scoring 7 goals in the past 2 years.
“These boys are determined. We should be supporting them rather than criticise them,” he said, in response to his player selection method.
He said when doing his selections of players, he does not attach emotions, but rely on facts. He pointed out that since taking over the Scorpions about two years ago, the boys’ performances against some giant countries in terms of football in Africa, including Algeria and Gabon have improved.
Gambia’s Captain Pa Modou Jagne said they have made history collectively as a team, but recalled former Gambian star, the late Biri Biri Njie, who used to come to their training grounds and give them words of encouragement.
“He used to call me every match and give me words of encouragement. Today we have made history, but he is not around to witness that. How I wish he was here to witness this,” the tearful Jagne said.
Assan Ceesay, the goal scorer said the goal was very important, adding he did what he was supposed to do as a striker.
“I am surrounded by quality players. I just have to do the movements because they are good at laying the ball,” Ceesay said.
The Gambia has one match to play, irrespective of the result; The Gambia has now booked their place in the AFCON finals to be played in Cameroon in 2022. The Scorpions will play Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday. However, the Scorpions are sitting second place in the grouping which is topped by Gabon on goal difference.