By Sulayman Bah
The task at hand is a daunting undertaking– an away fixture in what also is a make or break show for Gambia. The opposition, in Djamel Belmadi’s Algeria, have nothing to gain in this tie having been assured of qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations as table-toppers. Of an added plus, the North Africans will be playing at home with zero pressure hovering over them.
Expectations to deliver will be weighing heavily on Gambia who must secure all points against arch rivals the Desert Foxes and hope the qualifier between Togo and Benin go their way to be guaranteed of reaching the Cairo finals for the first time.
Players know what’s at stake and one such is Nigeria-based goalkeeper Alagie Jobe who’s likely to start between the sticks on March 222nd.
‘Is a game that we already know we must have to win and pray the other results go our way. Mentally, we are ready to face Algeria and defend our national colours. We will do anything possible to make history by getting the three points in Algeria,’ he tells Foroyaa Sport with resounding confidence.
The one-all stalemate against Algeria along with a similar score in Lome away to Togo, had many believing as Gambia appeared in charge of its destiny. Then a hush fell, vanishing along with it the tin glimmer of hope that lit up the team. The end result means the Scorpions would still be reliant on how events unfold between the Sparrow Hawks and The Squirrels even if they get to surprise a strong-looking Algeria at home. Couldn’t this have been avoided? Modou chooses to be optimistic, dismissing this setback down to the unpredictability of the sport.
‘No I don’t think so because that’s football sometimes things will not go your way but we’re playing good football. Now our focus is the Algeria game, how to get the three points. What has happened has gone we can’t turn it back. We will focus on our next game,’ he says.
Over four decades of being a member of the football fraternity, the West African side have never reached the World Cup or Afcon. The closest they’ve come close was in 2008, drawing the final match against Senegal. Gambia Football Association wrong calculations of the rules led many including the players and the coach into assuming passage to the African Cup is sorted.
Ten years on, coaches have come and passed. Five have had their try at the managerial seat from the time Paul Put headed out namely Luciano Mancini, Bonu Johnson, Raoul Savoy and Sang Ndong. Each one’s story has been a static cliché. The failures is commonly attributed to coaches having little time to impress and stamp a mark on the team or rendered handicapped by funds shortage to organise international exhibition games arranged for testing the country’s myriad of players scattered across the globe.
Asked of his assessment of the evolution of the squad and its catalogue of previous fiascos to qualify, Jobe’s response, as expected of a player part of the setup, was still of optimism.
‘As for that I just think we’re on the right track now. The only problem is I believe luck is not just on our side because everyone knows the team is performing very well. Now we just hope everything goes well and the good performances continue. We just have to believe we can do it that’s all.
‘About 2008, that’s history, it has passed. That year, going to that game, everyone thought a draw would be enough to take us at the Nations Cup unfortunately Caf just have to come enough with a formula of changing which really cost us,’ he elucidates to Foroyaa Sport from Nigeria, his base.
Last November the Scorpions left the stadium to cacophonous roars, slaloming past Benin comprehensively 3-1.
The triumvirate of Lamin Jallow, Ablie Jallow and debutant Babucarr Jobe combined to inflict the wreck. The delight etched on faces on the night of the triumph gave birth to a wave of belief at last in a team whose fans will correctly tip to lose a game even before its start. This new aura is perhaps source of Jobe’s confidence hence the emerging conviction that a near 33-year search for an away win could be answered in Algiers against Algeria.
‘Yeah is true it’s been a long time the country last won an away game. We know we have a difficult task ahead but we’re ready to face the Algerians to give out everything we had just to make history. The players and the coaching staff are well ready as it now we give our best to make history. Nothing is impossible we will break the hoodoo for that away record,’ Modou concludes.