By Lamin Fadera
Less than sixteen days before the Gambia will make her second appearance in the FIFA U20 world cup in Argentina 2023, Coach Abdoulie Bojang and his gallant scorpions are preparing massively ahead of the global competition.
He spoke to TAT Sports about the Uphill Task, the final selection headache ahead of the U20 World Cup, the departure date, International Friendly, Yankuba Minteh, and Gambia’s Chances in Group F.
Gambia is among the four teams in Africa that will represent the continent in Argentina; this resulted from reaching the semifinals of the U20 Cup of Nations in Egypt. Winners of the U20 AFCON Senegal, Morocco, and Nigeria are the other nations that will participate in the competition.
The Gambia debuted at the U20 world cup on 2nd July 2007 when Canada hosted the competition.
In the competition’s opening game, the young Scorpions lost three goals to nil at the Toronto national stadium to Mexico. Goals from Giovanni Dos Santos in 57 minutes, Hector Moreno in 67 minutes, and Javier Hernandez in the 89 minutes were enough for the young scorpion to succumb to a massive defeat in match day one.
Going to the second game on 5th July 2007, the late Peter Bonu Johnson knew a win would keep his side’s dream to stay in the competition. Lethal forward Ousman Jallow’s 22nd-minute goal was enough for the Gambia U20 to score and win their first game in the world cup.
Next was Portugal U20 in the final group game in Group C; the Gambia conceded a 20th-minute goal following Feliciano Condesso’s goal for Portugal.
Ousman Jallow equalized for the Gambia in the 44th minute from the penalty spot before Abdoulie Ken Mansally put the icing on the cake with a 68th-minute strike to seal the qualifications for the Gambia into the round of sixteen. Mexico finished as winners of group C with nine points, while Gambia took second.
Austria shattered the young scorpion’s dream. Sebastian Proedl scored in the 46th minute, but former Hawks FC full-back Pierre Gomez equalized for the Gambia in the 69th minute to keep their hopes alive. Erwin Hoffer’s 81st-minute winner dumped Gambia U20 out of the World Cup in Canada in 2007.
The Uphill Task for Coach Bojang
Abdoulie Bojang successfully campaigned in the recently concluded TotalEnegries U20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Guiding the team to a second-place finish in the competition scoring ten goals and only two goals in the final against eventual winners of the competition Senegal.
Bojang was voted the best coach of the group stages in the group stages following three consecutive victories in the group, scoring nine goals without conceding any goal.
The former Steve Birko Coach has an uphill task to perform with the Gambia U20 in the World Cup in Argentina. This will be Coach Bojang’s debut appearance in the World as a head coach and Gambia’s second appearance in the competition since 2007.
“We know the world cup will be a difficult tournament; we will go there and give a respectable performance and make the country proud,” Bojang said.
During the TotalEnergies U20 Cup of Nations in Egypt, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) allowed 25 players to participate. But in the World Cup, FIFA only allows 21 players to participate in the championship. Therefore, the final list will select 18 infield players and three goalkeepers.
Coach Bojang said it would be challenging to select the final squad for the world cup in Argentina.
“Is the most difficult decision I have when you go with 25 good players, and almost all of them played and put up a respectable performance in the AFCON. We even thought the world cup would be 26 or more players. But, suddenly, it is 21 players, which is not an easy job. Nonetheless is our job. We have to check them; they are better than each other; we will select players who can play in different positions. We will continue to talk to the other players who can’t make it and show them how important they are to the nation. But, unfortunately, they can’t go,” Bojang Told TAT Sports.
Departure and International Friendly
Early preparation is essential for teams going to competition; Coach Abdoulie Bojang said they want to leave for Argentina around 12th May 2023. This will help the team arrive early in South America and acclimate to Argentina’s weather.
“Well, as I said, the preparation is in high gear. We want to leave Gambian soil on the 12th and arrive early in Argentina to acclimate ourselves to the weather. So we are working with other foreign players to come and join us here before we leave. Some tickets have already been sent; Balamin, Kajally Drammeh, and Mahmud Bajo will soon join us. So we will camp on the 9th of this month and travel to Argentina on the 11th or 12th. Then we want base there settle and acclimatize ourselves with the weather.”
Yankuba Minteh is one of the hottest young prodigies in Europe; Coach Abdoulie Bojang highlighted the importance of having him in the squad. The 18-year-old Odense Boldklub player is yet to be released by his club. Bojang said when he spoke to Minteh, the player was ready to play for the Gambia, but the club Odense Boldklub is still reluctant to release Minteh.
Gambia Chances in the Group
The Gambia U20 has been drawn with France, Honduras, and the Korean Republic in Group F. However, according to Abdoulie Bojang, Gambia has excellent chances of reaching the next stage.
‘We want to take it game by game; that is the most important thing; the first two games are crucial. If you win them, you can give the other players a chance,” the coach added.