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Gambia eye qualification Berth

Dec 20, 2010, 3:05 PM | Article By: Lamin Drammeh

The Gambia have intensified preparations ahead of the upcoming U-23 Olympic Games and the Africa Nations Cup qualifiers as the national teams have set their sight firmly on a qualification berth.

Belgian tactician Paul Put, who chooses training in The Gambia at the expense of spending the Christmas in his homeland, has confirmed the participation of some players including talismanic forward Momodou Ceesay, Pa Saikou Kujabi, impressive Ousman Jallow, the Nyassi brothers - Sainey and Sanna, and other local-based players.

The Gambia Olympic team will open the Olympic qualifiers against Benin in March in Cotonou as part of preparations for the Olympic tournament in the UK in 2012.

The team, which is also made up of the cream of the senior national team players, started training on Wednesday at the Brikama Box Bar Mini- stadium. They will serve their first-ever qualification to the international showdown.

The head coach of the Gambia senior national team, Paul Put, gave a strong warning to his players calling on them to be consistent in training so that they can continue to work together to achieve the desired result as a team.

He also outlined his aims and objectives as he has vowed to put in place a formidable team to bring the best out of the senior national team players when the Nations Cup and the Olympic Games qualifiers take centre stage soon.

“I took this opportunity during this Christmas holiday to try to get the players who are also in town for the holiday together in training so that we can prepare for the proposed training camp in February, the Olympic Games qualifiers in March and the Africa Nations Cup qualifiers,” said the Belgian tactician, who has expressed his desire to guide the Scorpions to the continent’s biggest showdown.

Paul, who led The Gambia to a historic 1-1 draw with the Teranga Lions of Senegal during the qualifying rounds of the last Africa Nations Cup and the World Cup qualifiers in Dakar, added: “If we (The Gambia) want to qualify, we have to make extra effort and sacrifice collectively to get where we want to get.”

He also spoke about the need for the team to be involved in as many test matches as possible to prepare the boys ahead of the international outings.  He was however quick to admit that financial constraint has always been a stumbling block at the GFA.

Paul, who is becoming increasingly frustrated with the meagre preparations of the Scorpions, says that a lot of Gambian players are not in real competitions abroad, which makes things difficult for them to be in a good form to achieve the national team’s desired results.

“There are a lot of Gambian players who are not in real competitions in their respective clubs overseas, and that makes things difficult for the team to compete with other top teams like Burkina Faso and other well established teams across the continent despite the fact that you can see some willingness, motivation and talents in the Gambian team,” he said.

“If you don’t play active football in Europe it is not possible to complete the 90 minutes because you will experience tired legs, and the typical example to this fact is the game against Burkina Faso in the Nations Cup qualifiers. The goals we conceded during that game could have been avoided.”

The Belgian tactician, however, remains upbeat about the Gambia’s qualification to the Africa Nations Cup final though he is aware of the big task that lies ahead of the Gambian team.

Paul Put also revealed to Pointsport that he has received an offer for The Gambia to play a friendly in Europe next year against the Democratic Republic of Congo. He added that he has also got offers for The Gambia to play against Guinea Bissau and Morocco, which is undeniably the biggest challenge for the Scorpions, but the GFA, according to him, has to give the green light for the team to honour these offers.

“I have a complete offer from Congo in February, as well as from Guinea Bissau and Morocco, which are my most preferred opponents but the decision has to be made by the GFA,” he said.