The Gambia National Team

From a narrow escape in the preliminaries to a defiant campaign in the AFCON qualifier that saw the Scorpions of the Gambia finish ahead of familiar faces (Gabon, Congo, Angola) during the qualifying rounds, since then all has not been right for the once formidable side.

The journey has been extremely rough for coach Tom Saintfiet and his pool of talented players. And things have been moving from bad to worst.

Scorpions in Doha training session ahead of Afcon games in Cameroon

They only managed a narrow 2 – 1 win over a highly-inexperienced South Sudan side and lost 1 – 0 to Kosovo in June, 2 – 0 to New Zealand in November and a recent humiliating 7 – 2 defeat, inexplicably to a Moroccan CHAN team in their recent friendly games.

This is extremely poor statistics for a side that beat Congo, Gabon and Angola during the qualifiers.

And now with only seven days to the continental showpiece, the Scorpions are hit with the heaviest of blows.

One would have expected Tom and his technicians to use the two-week training camp in Qatar to strengthen their weaknesses in time before the AFCON; ironically, the team has been hit with the worst of disasters.

Out of the selected 28 players for the Cameroon AFCON, only 17 players are attending the training camp.

As if that was not enough bewilderment for the coach, four of his players were tested positive for Covid and four other members of the team’s delegation, including a trainer and the team manager were also tested positive.

This unfortunate situation forced the Gambia to cancel their proposed test games with the defending champions, Algeria, and Syria that would have helped them to have a clue of what they are capable of technically and tactically.

Coach Tom directing the Doha Camp

“We’re missing so many key players at the moment, some of whom are here in Doha, but are not available to train. Some of them are not even here, so it’s a very complex situation. It’s very sad because I was looking forward to playing Algeria and Syria”, Tom Saintfiet said.

Now that the Scorpions don’t have any proper preparation, neither are they able to test their strength or weakness, will they have it any easy in Cameroon?

Perhaps the right answer is a NO! Judging by the recent poor run of form that compounds with the test match woes, and the camp crisis with some key players in isolation due to Covid; while some are still in negotiations with their clubs to release them for national duties, the Scorpions will no doubt need a miracle to match the standard of the rest.

Good or bad, there will always be one positive for the team. Their names will be included in the AFCON appearance list.

In the meantime, is there a need to hope in a hopeless situation?

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