#Article (Archive)

Commentary, Analysis of the 2009/10 season

Jun 15, 2010, 2:10 PM

The 2009/10 season began with the GFA usual razzmatazz by releasing the fixtures without even the First Division clubs starting their pre-season training. This has caused controversy from the clubs and they pressured the FA to postpone the commencement of the league until January 2010. All this uncertainty is due to the non-existence of a football calendar which clubs, pundits, experts and the public have been demanding from the FA for so long. As usual, the FA continues not to listen to these voices as they are not answerable to them.

The league started in January and ended at the beginning of June 2010, which is only six months of football. We hope and pray that the FA will heed to public opinion and commence the 2010/11 season in 2010 rather than 2011. As usual, the ineptitude and inefficiency of the FA was exposed during the season with some inept and late decisions taking against the clubs they are supposed to administer. Seaview appealed against Bakau United during the 1st round for using a player who was not properly transferred and was decided at the end of the season; Wallidan points was controversially awarded to Interior F C, because of jersey colours classed when the FA accepted Wallidan to register blue for all their colours; Real De Banjul match against GPA was postponed by the FA and were poorly informed a day before when the FA had identified and registered GPA FC to compete in the WAFU Championship and also knew when the match was scheduled to be played; Hawks appealed against GPA FC for using an illegal player who was supposed to be suspended for two matches even though the Seaview player who was sent off with the GPA player was suspended for 2 matches. The FA was found wanting and culpable in all these cases, but rather than accepting responsibility of their ineptitude, they decided to shift the blame, and either dismiss or punish the clubs genuine appeals.   

The formation utilised by most of the clubs were 4:4:2, 5:3:2 and 4:5:1 cum 4:3:3 and were able to score 200 goals in 132 matches. This indicates more than a goal per match and slightly dismisses the notions of goals scoring problems. The problem I believe for not scoring enough goals is the lack of patience and discipline in the attacking third.

GPA deservedly won the league after just being promoted to First Division, even though they were not the most dominant team in terms of performance and good football. What they possessed was strength, courage and patience which gave them the grit to grind out results by building a tight defense (5 man defense). Bringing back Jikata who marshaled the midfield with gusto and immense work rate gave the team solidity and industry in midfield together with their five-man defense. This enables them to defend their lead without conceding too many goals apart from some goalkeeping errors. Conceding only 9 goals truly demonstrated their tightness in defense, but on the other hand were only able to score 18 goals in 22 matches.

Abdou Njie as the right wing back gave them the opening and contributed immensely on attack. The rock solid defense enables Coach Bono Johnson to alternate with two young attacking midfielders in David Sambou and Hamza together with three strikers.

Coach Bono John and his coaching staff together with the management deserve commendation for winning the league after just being promoted to the First Division. The objective of the club was to gather enough points to maintain themselves in the First Division. The club should now concentrate on building the structure of the club and ensure that they qualify to the group stage of the Champions league.

The WAFU Championship which they were eliminated by Cassa Port of Senegal is a good yardstick to measure the standard of the team. Winning the domestic league is absolutely different from competing in the Champion league, which there will be seasoned coaches who will exploit any tactical deficiency and indiscipline.

Wallidan FC
Wallidan season can be described by going through different extreme faces. The team started poorly for their failure to score a goal and was at one time on the foot of the table, but the performance improved to the standard of a champion and then dropped again like a ton of bricks.

Even though at the beginning of the season, Wallidan started at the bottom of the league by failing to win their first five consecutive matches, the performance was very impressive as they were able to dominate teams but could not score goals. It could be seen at that time that if they could capitalise on their chances they would have been a formidable side who had the potential to be champion.

 When Coach Foday Bah?s team began to gel they were able to win seven consecutive matches which in Gambian standard should have enabled them to win the league. And, they manifested championship qualities in their second round match against the GPA who were leading them with four points. They showed what Wallidan was all about by not only winning by a lone goal, but dominated the match too.

I believe and most people did at that time that Wallidan will just go on and win the league but what followed after the GPA match was unprecedented in the clubs history, in which they lost three consecutive matches in addition to their disputed match against Interior, which the FA controversially awarded Interior the points. This handed GPA the title without even kicking the ball. The Wallidan players should be asking searching questions of themselves of their shameful performance in the last part of league that was an insult to the club?s good name and grand tradition. Nothing can explain the utter lack of spirit, resistance and willingness of the players to compete when they were just a point behind the would-be champions.

Samger FC
They are one of the best footballing clubs in the league. Coach Jane Joof?s style of possession football enables every player revelling in the freedom of their system. The speed and precision of their passing moves and their guile and understanding is sublime. They are good team that will always do well, but seems to lack that extra bit to win the league title. Even though they produce the league top scorer in Lamin Sarjo Samateh with 10 goals, they were unable to capitalise from his prolific goal scoring form.

The problem with Samger is keeping a clean sheet which Coach Jane Joof should ensure that next season certain games must be won by a single goal and not to concede should be a paramount importance. Good teams do not concede bad goals and it's a habit that Samger must stop. With a strong defensive unit without comprising their style of play, Coach Jane Joof can mount a serious challenge of winning the league title.

Armed Forces
The defending champions started poorly as usual, but failed to improve their performance as the season progressive. Even though Coach Alhagi Sey tried to change the playing style of the team to possession football, the lack of physical and aggressiveness which the Khaki Boys were known for, is affecting the team. The Khaki boys were feared because all teams knew what they will get when playing against them, but now it's more of possession football without a bite. If you go into battle waving your hand, when the other side has got knives, you are bound to get hurt. And that is what the Khaki boys are currently doing with their brand of football possession.

The team was inconsistent throughout the season to defend their crown which they won in 2008/9 season with style. 6 wins and 12 draws are not good enough to defend their crown. Coach Alhagi Sey must ensure that his team is able to mix it up with both silk and steel. The Armed forces must bear in mind the physical nature that has brought them success and if they cannot find the kind of athletic giants that once terrorise opponents, then they must supplement this current team with a couple of 'minders' who will make opponents think twice about dishing it out. Conceding 17 goals and scoring 19 goals is not worthy of a defending champions. 

Steve Biko
Biko are also one of best footballing teams in the league and started as championship pretenders. With Bierhoff and Diarra they had probably the fiercest strike force in the league. Biko's defense was also rock solid with the fighting spirit and industry of Bassment. He is a colossus defender and a rock at the heart of Biko's backline and always made "tackle after tackle". His interventions, strength, challenges stood out as he continues to develop to be a very good defender.

Coach Lie Bojang's team just crumbled in the 2nd round together with their title aspirations. With the absence of Bierhoff and the disappearance of Diarra the goals dried up and they failed to win many of their matches in the 2nd round. A look at Biko's 2nd round results tells the story of a team too inconsistence to be champions. 3 wins 3 draws and 5 defeats is not a record worthy of top dogs. As one of the powerhouses of the league, Biko should be challenging for the league title and to not only add up the numbers every season.

Gamtel started the league with full gear by being the early pace-setters. They led the 1st round of league and look like they will go on and win their first league title but the lack of Plan B had affected the team to maintain their top spot. When they are leading they could always secure their win, but the problem comes when they needed a goal in which Coach Saul Corr's team was always at a loss to break the stalemate or overturn the results.

Coach Saul Corr has the players capable of leading a title charge but they lack the experience of lifting a trophy to help them through the difficulties of an entire season. In other words, no player in the team knows how to win. No one can step forward and lead the team when they need it most. That was never more apparent than in the 2nd round when they needed to maintain their top spot; rather they end up chasing from behind and try to catch up with those in front. 4 draws, 6 defeats and 1 win in the 2nd round, is not good enough for a team with immense potential to be one of the best teams in the country. The Gamtel management should take ownership of the club and learn from GPA management by providing the necessary resources to establish the club as one of the big clubs. At the moment, Gamtel is a small club with immense potential competing with the big clubs. 

Bakau United

The team conceded 23 goals more than any other team in the top flight. The team which was built around their talisman Daddy Gai always struggle when he is absent. They started fairly but began to struggle as soon as Daddy Gai was absent. Having being defeated 8 times which is one of the highest in the league is not worthy of First Division status.

The GFA President should concentrate on his team and provide the needed funds to enable Coach Jesper and his technical team to rebuild and recruit worthy players for the team. Bakau United over the years has been fighting relegation and if nothing is urgently done the dream will be dead and only the harsh reality that were found wanting when it mattered most remains. However, magnificent the obsession of being the mastery of avoiding relegation, nothing matters except the ability to win games at the highest level and Bakau United had not been just good enough over years. Coach Jesper proved in his last match against Seaview, in which they needed to win to avoid relegation and they did that convincingly.  It indicates that if supported with the necessary funds and players, he has the potential to do a very good job.

Interior FC
Coach Ebrima Manneh's objective was to gather enough points to maintain themselves in the First Division. He did that by being tagged the draw specialist with 13 draws. Interior was very tight and organised and worked their socks off to put their opponents under immense pressure. Even though they lacked skills and panacea, they substituted it with good work rate and a never-say-die-attitude which enables them to collect the points needed to stay up. They kept it simple, worked hard and what they lacked in quality they more than made it up with their commitment.

Coach Ebrima Manneh has built a team well-suited to chiseling out results, free from the creative onus. It is hardly a team in his own image, more a combative unit, strong on discipline, organisation and work ethic. The challenge next season is how to improve the team to ensure that they will not be struggling to stay up.

Brikama United
The only community team in the First Division just deserved better but they pressed the destruction bottom by sacking their coach during the 1st round. There is need to realise that clubs are only successful when stable. Success goes hand- in-hand with continuity of coaching staff. 5 wins, 10 draws, 7 defeats and conceding 21 goals just tell the story of an unstable team. Also, only 2 wins at home in Brikama and their fervent and marvelous fans with 7 draws and 4 defeats was just not good enough. At least, they managed to avoid relegation on the last day by getting the needed win to stay up, but without the injection of more quality players with hunger and also using their home advantage by making the Brikama ground a fortress, the team will struggle next season.

Real De Banjul
Real started at the bottom of league struggling to win their first 5 consecutive matches and collecting only 6 points in 9 consecutive matches.  This ended their challenge of the title. Losing 8 matches and 6 draws is not championship material. Nobody can say they didn?t see it coming.

Coach Pa Samba Mbenga had attempted to get wine from water. But a team that has needed strengthening for sometime now clearly needs restructuring. There is enough spirit about the side and they work hard for each other, but that is not what the legend of the club was being based on. Over the years they have been big spenders on big talent, that of course has dried up now and recent acquisitions are to only plug the gap.

No longer is there any class about the side or real quality, just a well organised side, well coached and prepared but not carrying the swagger and strut anymore. The players went down fighting and didn't let the club down, but you have to wonder when the good old days will be back for them. Not this season, not next until the team is rebuild.

The league table doesn?t lie. The point's total of 24 points shows that Hawks were not good enough. Over 22 matches they didn't do enough to stay in the First Division. End of story. In all honesty, Hawks cannot have too many complaints. Any team with a record of just 4 wins and 12 draws cannot hope for too much in a league where competition is now honed to cut-throat proportions.

You cannot be a good team without a good striker. Hawks have all the technique and style, but if there is nobody to finish in the final third, what is the point. Scoring only 10 goals in 22 matches clearly indicates a lack of cutting edge.

The Hawks players just did not have the bottle for it this season. One would have thought they would have gone out with a bit of more blood and thunder, a bit more guts to challenge for the title. I don?t know why the players didn't respond. They didn't show enough character, commitment and determination. It doesn't matter who was in charge if the players as they did could not get anything out of them. The players must want to do it and a few of them looked as if they weren't with the rest of the team. And we are not talking about junior players but some of the most senior players in the league.

They are a team that is lucky to have an experience like like Alhaji Sarr, one of the most experience and successful local coaches. The facts do not lie. Seaview were not quite good enough. Good in parts, ragged in others, lacking consistency and conviction. The players assemble are just not First Division material. 5 wins, 9 draws, 7 defeats and conceding 21 goals, which is a goal per match is not sustainable. The trend seems too had pointed down for their failure to inject the necessary funds and recruit quality players. Even the experience and skills of Coach Alhaji Sarr could not save them from being relegated as they needed only a point against Bakau United in their last game to stay up, but they still could not manage not to concede. The big question is what next for Seaview?
Ebou Faye
Secretary General
Banjul Sports Committee