By Sulayman Bah
Gambia may not have qualified for the events in Moscow but there certainly is connection which comes through Bakary Papa Gassama.
Papa is the man flying the flag high up the skies where Gambian footballers failed to reach.
He took charge of proceedings as incumbent on him from start to finishing, dictating events in the last weekend fixture that saw Denmark sashay over Peru by a solitary goal.
In Saturday’s Group C opening encounter, the record Confederation of African Football best whistle-man effected a decision that the watching football-mad world and fans of either side would remember.
It followed a 45th minute penalty ruling. Denmark’s striker Yussuf Poulsen bundled Peru’s striker Christian Cueva in the box to which the Gambian initially waved play-on before reversing the decision to point to the spot-kick after consulting the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
It was the first time the controversial VAR was being used twice in a day in the World Cup after Argentinian arbiter Andres Cunha also gave France a 58th minute opening penalty call.
This is not Gassama’s first time in a global event of this magnitude after the first came four years ago in Brazil.
The 39-year-old is one of 36 elite referees drawn from six continents and will be $70,000 richer by end of the tournament, an increase of $20,000 from the $50,000 paid referees in the 2014 WC edition in Rio.