Ahead of the Sene-gambia derby, Alkamba Times invited guests to talk about the crucial match as Gambia and Senegal face each other for the first time since 2008.
Former U20 coach Matar Mbooge, ex-Gambia international goalkeeper Wande Njie, together with Yamai, were all heavy on the crunch match in Group C.
Gambia has stood thrice against Senegal, achieving three draws that all had significant implications for their football blueprint, the latter leading to a total overhaul of the system, which gave them the success they are thriving at, whereas the first in 2003 led to a brutal breakdown of the two countries where properties, houses, and shops were burned down. The Gambia bruised the egos of the Senegalese when they returned from the 2002 World Cup with the famous 0-0 draw in Bakau. History is set to repeat itself as the two countries meet again: Senegal, the defending champions, and The Gambia Quarterfinalist in the 2021 edition.
Former Gambia U20 coach Matar Mboge says the Gambia should play without fear against Senegal.
“It’s a big game; it’s the biggest game in the football history of these two countries. It would be even bigger if it were a knockout match or a final itself. The stakes would have been higher between the two countries. It’s a game where a lot is on the line. The thing to remember is that there is far more pressure on the Senegalese team than the Gambian team, because if the Gambian team wins, everyone involved in the game, including the coach, would probably not be welcome back in their own country.” Mboge emphasized
“One thing I take from the experience is that we may not be able to walk off the field comfortably after the match, no matter what happens. We should know that Gambians are the ones who need to be doing all the running and movement, trying to control the game. We should be the ones trying to take the initiative. Scoring the first goal is important. Senegal is a difficult team to play against if they get the goal first.”
“Because of the way Senegal has history and everything they have done in football. We should never be worried or fear them, but rather make sure we are the ones on top of them, putting them under pressure—that’s the message I had against them.”
“We have a history; we have always been the underdogs, but there are some matches that, you know, we dominate, but at the end they end up winning. Senegal has never outplayed the Gambia.
“Tension is high on match day; I remember back in 2003, the provocation started at the airport. The draw led them to believe that Gambian football has improved. They don’t understand us right now.*
“The intimidation started; they dropped all our water bottles; Pa Sulay Jallow was denied entry; they told him his face didn’t match the one attached to the passport. We didn’t have time to go to the hotel; we went straight to the stadium. The police rounded us up with guns, and in the dressing room, they poured their holy water everywhere. During our warm-up, the fight broke up. This psychology unsettles your mind, and you end up losing concentration.”
The last time Gambia played Senegal;
• Eliminated them from AFCON and World Cup
• Made them sack their Coach
• Angry fans attacked the federation house
• Made them to destroy their own stadium
— Jollof Football Bantaba (@JFBantaba) January 10, 2024
“In 1986, the Trawally goal was enough for Ivory Coast. Senegal had one of their best squads, 1-0. They came in that match, provoking Ivorians saying; ‘we don’t play against beggers’.
“Let them prepare for that again. There are 90 minutes at stake, not family; they are our rivals. Let them have the self-belief and become dirtier than them.”
“Provocation has been long there; I could recall Zone II 1988, when they were coming and saying Koki was coming; they used to have a huge advantage on that. “
Yamai insists the boys have the nation’s pride.
“It’s a sibling rivalry between us; the derby is the most important match of our campaign. If we could get a positive result, like a draw, that would be a win in my eyes. A defeat will be down to a lack of preparation, and Senegal is the bigger team. It’s not hatred for most people; it’s just jokes and taunting, just like big and small brothers; however, we have a few that do go overboard and do things that aren’t necessary. Senegalese always feel bigger than the Gambia and better in all aspects, but in reality, that’s not the case.”
“The rivalry between Senegal and Gambia is evident in all aspects. The players are having the nation’s pride; I know they know its importance, but I don’t want them to put it over their heads, and it has become a pressure. “
“That’s the topic of the conversation; everyone will be on the edge; nobody wants to lose to your opponent. On a tense day, there are big games in our group, but the Senegal vs. Gambia match has been the talk of the group.” Yamai added