Wednesday, February 8, 2023



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By Sulayman Bah

Hamza harbours the tough dream of one day getting Gambia to the continent’s most senior competition, The hamzaAfrica Cup of Nations.

54-years since getting recruited to the world’s football family, Gambia is yet to reach the highly sought prestigious position of qualifying to a major senior championship such as the Africa Nations Cup Championship.

The closest the nation came to reaching the Afcon group stages was in 2008. However, for a CAF change of rules and the authorities’ misinterpretation of the regulations meant another heart break to already bruised Gambian fans.

Eight years from that debacle, catalogue of disappointments have become the senior scorpions hallmark. This continuous heart-wrenching trend, known even to the man in the street who is  most disinterested in football is the result of poor preparation and fund shortage to foot the monstrous bills of the scorpions.

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But Hamza remains convinced, in the face of these permanent-like hitches that the Gambia will one day move on from its current state of football limbo to march on and qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations. The 21-year-old, who could be dismissed by doomsayers for daring to be too over ambitious, is entitled to his opinion – a conviction he dreams will materialise.

“It’s my dream to play in the Nations Cup with my national team. We are a young team, inexperienced, but I believe that we will one day get there,” he says brimming with confidence, far from air of exaggeration.

At 17, the lad got summoned to the national team. He will attribute that milestone to luck dose being on his side considering many his age would have by then be shuttling between youth teams of local clubs trying to carve a career or being unfinished products in the production line of academies.

‘I was very young when I debuted for Gambia, I was lucky, but I want to play more for Gambia. I am proud anytime I play for my country’

The season he made his senior debut Barry was conferred with the best athlete of the year gong, accorded to him by the country’s sports journalists’ association. A year on he turned professional signing the dotted lines with Valleta whom he guided to the Maltese title and FA Cup.

‘Association of Sports Journalists of Gambia chose me for the award. That season I played for Valletta scoring 12 goals. We were excellent in the domestic championship. I am very proud of it,’ the former Gambia Ports Authority man says, in a near tell-all interview chronicling his career.

Barry, now prefers his forename Hamza on back of his vest recently switched to Croatian giants Hajduk on a 9-month loan deal from Cyprus’s Appollon Limassol. Prior to moving he knew nothing about his new club and watched them play only once from the stands when Split faced Maccabi Haifa in the Europa League final play-offs.

However a conversation with compatriot Lamin Basmen-Samateh offered him tips regarding Croatian football before later searches on the internet persuaded him to seal a move there.

Barely a week after he joined the Gambia international sparked a light controversy in a post match interview in the aftermath of an audition game he had for Hajduk. Barry is alleged to have said he knew nothing about Croatian football including the eastern European country’s star football names namely Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Rakitic. The attacking player insists his comments were misconstrued.

‘I said that I do not know the Croatian league. I do not know the Croatian players, in the sense that I have not played with them and I have never met one previously. But the media transmitted as though I said I don’t know any of them. Players like Modric are top players, world-class. How could I not know about Modric and others. Everyone knows about them”.

The erstwhile Gambia U-17 and U-19 star man has been featured thrice –scoring a goal yesterday at press– for Split.

Yesterday’s goal, scored against Jalžabet in a cup competition, will serve to boast confidence of a man hoping to rubberstamp his way to his club’s line up.

In a loan deal ending June 30th next year, Hamza has already taken to football in Croatia and is ardent on penning revised terms at elapse of his current contract.

He continued: ‘I hope to stay longer. I hope to be here to develop further as a player. I am fully focused exclusively on Hajduk, which has a bright future’

October 2nd, Hajduk will face nemesis Dinamo Zagreb – a crowd-puller and thrill-never-lacking duel and the Gambian can’t wait to get involved.

‘These are meetings that I cannot wait to get to play in or against Dinamo Rijeka (current league leaders). I like to play in big games; they are loved most by fans. I enjoy playing before a full stadium.

‘I don’t know the league much or the other teams but we want to be among the three best team in the league, if possible and win the championship or cup and fight to reach the Champions League fight or Europa. I will do my best to fulfill the goals. I hope there is something to celebrate over at end of the season’, he tells Slobondan publication.

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