#Article (Archive)

The Shape of Things to Come

Oct 15, 2008, 6:05 AM

The presidential promise to retain Coach Paul Put represents official endorsement of the coach's sterling performance ever since he took charge of the team. Before him, the team was notorious for its lacklustre performance. Coach Put has turned things around for the team, guiding the boys to outshine some of the big names in African football. Last Saturday's breath-taking performance against the once majestic Teranga Lions signposts the indomitable spirit that now pervades the team.

This is not to say that Coach Put discovered the boys; he never did. But to his credit, he was able to polish the raw talents that he met and infused them with a positive mindset that brooks no defeat. This is the magic of Coach Paul Put.

So despite not taking The Gambia to the Nations Cup or the World Cup, President Jammeh has decided to get Coach Put to carry on with his job. What the President seems to say is that it is not Coach Put's fault that The Gambia lost an opportunity to put itself on the map of African football. At least, Coach Put did something that none of his immediate predecessors ever did - he made Senegal bite the dust for the first time in over four decades. Getting the better of a forty-or-so-year adversary is worth celebrating.

We disagree with cynics who say that the Scorpions' last Saturday gallantry was a pyrrhic victory in the sense neither them nor Senegal have qualified for the next stage of the joint qualifying series for the Nations Cup/World Cup in 2010. What we are celebrating is the breakthrough of Gambian football from being underdogs to a new beginning of an emerging superpower in African football.

That is why it is crucial that Coach Put who shares the same wavelength with the boys is kept at his job until 2012 when the team shall make its first ever appearance in the Nations Cup. We are optimistic because these boys will have matured in skills and temperament by then to be a dominant force in African football. Nigeria adopted the same approach under Clemens Westerholf, likewise Senegal under Metsu Bruno. The fruits of the labour of both Westerholf and Bruno are clear enough even for the blind to see. (Westerholf: Nations' Cup 1994; debut World Cup appearance, etc., Bruno: 2002 Nations' Cup Finalists; first time 2002 World Cup appearance and reaching the quarter final stage) Coach Put needs time and co-operation and goodwill to harness the world-class team that we all desire. When the results start coming out, say, in three years' time, it will be seen as magic. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is all a matter of foresight, hard work and a spirit of oneness. So, if we have to build on this foundation, the presidential promise has to be made good as quickly as possible in order for the man to hit the ground running.

"Where there's life, there's hope".