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A Good Start

Mar 20, 2009, 8:36 AM

The 8th Edition of the U-17 African Championship got off to an exhilarating start yesterday in Algeria with The Gambia defeating Guinea Conakry 1-0. By all accounts, it was a great game that signposted the quality matches that the tournament has to offer.

The Gambia hosted and won the tournament in 2005 but failed to defend the title two years later. So this year's tournament is an opportunity for the Baby Scorpions to prove themselves as title contenders.

Bookmakers have interpreted the absence of regional football giants Nigeria and Ghana as a godsend for other less known teams to make their marks. But even then, The Gambia emerged African champions four years ago with Nigeria and Ghana taking part in the tournament. It is on record that The Gambia inflicted a humiliating defeat on Ghana in the final to win the coveted trophy. But that was four years ago. That was the year of the Ous Jallow, the TwinTowers (Sainey and Sanna Nyassi), Modou Ceesay, Ken Mansary, etc.

There are now fresh legs raising the Gambian flag high in Algeria. Of the lot Ebrima Bojang is already standing out as the goal poacher of his generation. His lone goal has earned The Gambia three precious points and placed the country in pole position to advance further in the tournament.

For the 90 minutes or so that the boys locked horns with their Guinean counterparts, they showed grit, guts and gallantry. The Guineans were equally good. Both teams have quality and cohesion, which made the match worth watching. For most of the match, both teams threatened each other with such relentlessness that left the fans gasping. The Guineans were always deadly in their penetrative thrust into The Gambia's vital area. One of such memorable moments in the second half was when their Number 9 left the Gambian defence flat-footed.

By contrast, the Baby Scorpions were cool and collected, always rattling the Guineans with their short, quick and accurate passes. It was the rhythmic control of the Baby Scorpions that not only provided much of the entertainment, but also left the Guineans bemused on the pitch. A combination of a creative midfield and a solid defence was the nemesis of the Guineans. But the Gambian attack was a little timid, twisting and turning without purpose in front of the goalpost.

But the boys are sure to grow in confidence as the tournament progresses, especially now that they have got the better of Guinea Conakry. And the technical crew is expected to work on the observed deficiencies of the team for better performance against their next opponent. Ideally, the team should regard each match as the final and give it their all. There should be no room for complacency.

Good luck, boys!