By Lamin Fadera
Following the Gambia’s sterling performance in the Africa U20 Cup of Nations in Egypt, the young scorpions finished as runners-up in the final, losing 2-0 to arch-rival Senegal.
The Gambian gaffer Abdoulie Bojang had a chit-chat with the Alkamba Times sports as his side commences training ahead of the FIFA U20 World, which is set to be played from 20th May to 11th June 2023. FIFA has yet to disclose the tournament host after Indonesia was stripped of the right to host the tournament.
Bojang was named the coach of the best African XI of the AFCON U20; the former Steve Birko trainer guided the young Scorpions to the finals scoring ten goals and conceding only two.
Before taking charge of the team, the Gambia U20 was victorious under former coach Matar M’boge.
Previously Mboge’s side won the WAFU Zone A championship in Liberia in 2018 and Senegal in 2020, respectively.
The team also booked a place in the U20 FIFA world cup 2020, but the tournament was canceled due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Abdoulie Bojang is the third coach to qualify the Gambia for the FIFA U20 World Cup.
First was the late Peter Bonu Johnson in 2007 in Congo Brazzaville after finishing the championship with a bronze medal. After that, they won Zambia 3 goals to 1 in the third place and booked a place in Canada 2007 youth championship.
Pressure on delivering for the U20
Replacing a serial winner is daunting, but Coach Abdoulie Bojang has the pedigree and knows what it takes to succeed.
Bojang told Alkamba Times Sports that he has a unique strategy to overcome the challenge ahead of him.
“We tried to make sure we set our record because Matar has set something; we also tried to put our names in the history books of the Gambia both as a coach and players.”
“So that was a challenge to us before the AFCON in Egypt, but I work collectively with my technical staff. They were also efficient at the various positions with their experience. George Lobba and Yaya Manneh were with the previous team and knew what it took to win this competition.
My job was to make sure I stick to my principles and tactics and apply it with my team effectively,” Bojang told the Alkamba Times sports.
An animated figure on the touchline, the no-nonsense Coach Abdoulie Bojang received a barrage of criticism from some sections of the Scorpion fans about his team selection before the AFCON U20 tournament began in Egypt.
Bojang proved doubters wrong after his side reached the finals without conceding a goal.
The team will eventually lose to Senegal 2-0 in the final; not only did they reach the final, but his side’s performance was incredible. In addition, they won a couple of Player of the Match awards during the championship.
Lie Bojang said he respected the fans’ opinions and believed he and his side served the nation.
“No, that is their opinion, and their opinion should be respected because we are working for them; going to such competition is not only that “lie” is a good player and he should be selected. But when you are playing for my team, you should be on your feet for the entire 90 minutes. You cannot have specific contact; if you are out of the field, the opponent will have a numerical advantage. So I always tell my boys that we must prepare better than our opponent and do our best for the team.”
Losing the Final to Senegal
With Gambia’s vintage performance in the Egypt U20 Cup of Nations, Coach Lie Bojang’s side produced a great football that caught the continent’s attention.
Before the final, Bojang was optimistic about landing the coveted prize against Senegal.
But the Gambia conceded an early goal following an early goal from Sulaymane Faye in the 6th minute before Mamadou Camara wrapped up the tie in the 56th minute was enough for Malick Daf’s side won stun the Gambia’s hopes of winning the U20 title.
“We wanted to win the final, but it was unfortunate that we weren’t able me. However, the boys did well; going to the tournament, our objective was to reach the World Cup, and we achieved that, but when you get to the final, you want to win it,” the soft-spoken Bojang said.
“Senegal played and won the title. Our main goal was to qualify for the world cup, which we achieved. We are sad to lose the final,” said Bojang told TAT Sports.
Preparing for the World Cup
Less than 35 days before the world cup began, young scorpions started training ahead of the 24-team competition. The host of the tournament is yet to be disclosed by FIFA after Indonesia was stripped of the right to host the event in May 2023.
Abdoulie Bojang believes that early preparation is essential for the tournament.
“We need to prepare better than the AFCON because we are going to a bigger competition. So we have a technical meeting with the first vice president, and they are also preparing training camps and international friendlies. These are essential things going to the world cup,” Bojang said.
Despite booking qualification to the world cup, the Gambia and other nations that qualify for the tournament have yet to know their fate or opponent. This is because Indonesia was supposed to host the world youth sports showpiece.