By: Bubacarr Fallaboweh
The Falcons are leading the league with four points cushion, and there is a reason for the lead: their aggression and their style of play.
They have the best defense in the league, together with Real De Banjul, conceding only seven goals. Furthermore, they are clinical in front of goals, scoring 17 goals, the second-best in the competition.
Experience pioneers with league experience and international expertise are back at the club. Defensive midfielder Matar Ceesay and offensive midfielder Solomon Kanform have trained with the blue armies and are ready for the second round.
Hawks, Waa Banjul, and Brikama Utd needed to familiarize themselves with the defending champions suffering for many of the first matches. (losing seven games and only winning three). But why have the two defending champions struggled to defend their titles the following season, especially Fortune Hawks?
The Gambia Football Coaches Association acting president Kebba Jesper Touray said the lack of continuity and the long-term plan could be better.
“Football is continuity; the departure of players is the key. Because most teams play with a group of players. The expansion of some clubs is small. Not every player in the 30-man squad is keenly involved. When that happens, and you win a league and lose five key players, the team will collapse. Because if you took Fortune as a case study when they started the league, they had a good pace that season because of the continuity of training during the Covid. The players used in that campaign after the Estif game almost closed to six players move. (Bura Camara, Lamin Saidykhan, the goalkeeper, got injured) when these things happen, the team loses its flair, and the strength is gone. Because these were the people who were the pillars of the club,” Touray emphasized
“Hawks is repeating the same thing. Though they won’t want to hear this, it’s a hard fact. From my observation, this is what is on the table. They lose key players who turned professional,”
“Preparation and preseason can be a factor. One has to prepare, knowing that one will lose some key players. We say preseason usually is six weeks. Do they have the appropriate six weeks? The conditioning, ball technique, and playing time are all factors attributed,” He added.
Touray further highlighted that clubs in the Gambia do not wield power compared to other countries, which is also a bane.
“Again, clubs are less powerful here than in other countries. If first-division teams are hassling with second-division and third divisions to get players from Nawettan, it will be difficult to avoid this trend. Growing up in clubs like Wallidan and Real De Banjul, we saw they take players from Sait Matty, Steve Biko, and Flameins. Those are seasonal players. But top clubs are now taking players from the nawettan. That is something killing them. Bakau United picking players from the nawettan is suitable for them, but Real, Hawks, or Wallidan, if they go to that low and recruit from there, it will be tough for the player to cope in the division. We need to structure the system. Let’s go for the best players in the second division. The second division is difficult because of big clubs and coaches in the second division.”
Greater Tomorrow collected three wins, and club president Benjamin Eke is upbeat about their performance.
“I believe that we can turn things around in the second round. The performance is ok, just that the results are not coming. Some of our players came from the feeder team and the U15. But I’m targeting to bring in one or two experienced players that can help balance the team.”
Former GAF striker Saikouba Ceesay was the last Golden Boot winner in the 2020/2021 league with 13 goals. Saikouba is returning from a knee ligament injury and has been followed by several clubs.
Mustapha Drammeh Brikama Utd 7 goals, Adama Bojang – Steve Biko 6, Abdoulie Baldeh Greater Tommorow -7, Yankuba Jallow -Marimoo 5, Alieu Barry – Fortune 5-goals, Remi Mendy – Hawks -5 goals.
Greater Tomorrow striker Baldeh has been on a song with goals scoring 7 in the first round.
Known for his spectacular goals, Baldeh continued from where he left in the second division, finishing third with 14 goals when they got promoted to the First Division.
Baldeh’s goals came from the left side of the field and outside the 18 yards. “As a striker, you should always have a target, and of course, I’m yearning to win the Golden Boot,” Baldeh pointed out.
Baldeh agreed with the club president, saying Greater Tomorrow is a young team with most players coming from Nawettan.
” This is their first year. We will go a long way if we can score and defend it.” He explained
Many have predicted the title race between the Falcons and Wallidan this season. However, Habib Faal, a staunch supporter of the Whites, says some factors make Real de Banjul’s chances slim this season.
“The main reason for Real de Banjul not winning the league in the past season is the selling of players. I remember one year, Pa Modou Sohna was hot on fire, the best player in the league, and Real was in the top position to win. But, unfortunately, they allowed the boy to go to Morocco, and Brikama took advantage and won the league.”
“One season, we let go players like Kjallay Drammeh, Ebrima Jarju, Ebrima Singahteh.”
“This year, only Modou Lamin Demba left. To win the league, we must keep our players throughout the season. It isn’t easy because football is business. If a club comes to buy your player, and we all know Gambian football, there are no revenue, merchandise, or ticket sales. So it’s always tough to keep the player at that time of the year; a tricky situation.”
“Secondly, the number of chances is not being capitalized; they don’t have a bad match. They have chances, but they squander them. Brikama has consistently won, and Real De Banjul can also end their trophy drought,” Faal concluded.
Coach Lamin Sanneh says the league is for Real De Banjul and Wallidan.
“Actually, for us at Falcons, we did not target position, per se, in the first round. We looked at points that we wanted to grab in the first round. We have 32 points, two-thirds of the points in the good first half.”
“The points we want to ensure our safety in the league is not yet achieved. We will still look at our first ten matches in the second round. We must go per game and see what that will give us. For us, it’s too early to talk about the league or the title. The league is for the bigger boys, like Real De Banjul and Wallidan. For some couple of years, they haven’t won it. Looking at them this time, they are in a perfect position; they want the league, not the Falcons. We have just two years old in the league.” He stressed