By Sulayman Bah
It’s hours until the ball is set rolling in Lome, Togo’s administrative capital whom they’re set to face in what can only be a make or break outing for Gambia.
So much lies at stake: the fate of newly appointed coach Tom Saintfiet whose chances of being offered an improved deal is dependent on outcome of the qualifiers. Then there is desire to show the Scorpions can punch above their weight mass and are no longer West African football minnows.
Flipping the coin, today’s game is also a battle for pride for the man given nine months to qualify Gambia or risk having the axe wielded on him.
Tom spurred Togo to the Nations Cup three years ago on an interim basis but moments later headed towards the exit on what grounds, remains a mystery. Septuagenarian Claude Le Roy, Togo’s current coach, is the French gaffer appointed to fill the vacancy created by Saintfiet’s departure.
The Belgian comes basking in confidence hoping to teach Togo a lesson or two to prove his sacking was a regrettable schoolboy howler using Gambia as a ladder to that.
However, the ego-massaging aside, there is more to the game than has been mentioned in the press –the part that enabled Gambia pick a point off Algeria even though the Scorpions’ backline was the busiest on the night.
Enter Mamadou ‘Futty’ Danso and Bubacarr Sanneh.
Weeks in the build-up to the tussle against the Desert Foxes, centre-back Futty Danso was a forgotten man.
A class act on his day, Futty was a faded portion in the picture of national team before his resurrection to the scenes. He was a regular at the back from the first time he made his international debut against Burkina Faso in 2010. Eight years on and clocking 33, he wears the demeanours of a figure little bothered by age.
Bubacarr Sanneh has always being paired with Omar Colley, one of Africa’s best defenders in the Serie A presently. However, owing to a row over selection choices –precisely the snubbing of Steve Trawally – his relevance in matches began to wane. For how long, remains unclear.
Player-power is influential but to the extent of dictating to a coach who goes in and out of the team, in Tom and his backroom staff’s world, is past the limits. Futty Danso’s rebirth in the big times began this way and prior to this he’d been integral in the Scorpions 2-1 win over Morocco months back.
Before, he’d merely been a contingency in the event of injuries. To think he could fit in and marshall Gambia’s defence along with Bubacarr Sanneh with tenacity is close to unfathomable. But the he did it, keeping Riyad Mahrez and Algeria at bay in the first-leg.
The former Portland Timber’s rock man performance against Algeria has had fans cool-headed over any worries popping up from the defence. Different teams however pose different sort of a threat and in this case former Arsenal, Real Madrid, Tottenham and Manchester City’s striker Adebayor lies in wait.
So will the defence pairing of Futty and Sanneh have Emmanuel Adebayor in their pockets too? It won’t be long until we find out.
Danso plays his football in Malaysia’s Super League – a division levels way below where Omar Colley –the man he replaces – crafts his trade.