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U-20 Coach reflects on journey to qualification

Apr 18, 2011, 3:02 PM | Article By: Lamin Drammeh

Lamin Sarr, head coach of the Gambia national Under-20 team, has looked back to the crucial and hectic journey to success registered by the Darling Scorpions during an intensive qualifying campaign en route to the Caf African U-20 Youth Championship currently taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Gambia's coach, who is nowhere near satisfaction with the way and manner the U-20 team prepared for the continental youth championship, started the qualifiers with a convincing 4-1 victory against Sierra Leone in Banjul in July.

During that encounter, it was the visitors who took an early lead much to the dismay of a good number of Gambian people including the media who questioned coach Sarr’s tactical approach towards the Sierra Leone tie.

Sarr and his determined lads proved critics wrong and went on to win the tie for the Gambia thanks to a convincing 4-1 win at the expense of the visitors, which was followed by some fine tactical changes in the latter part of the second period of that game.

He completed his mission in Sierra Leone where his star-studded side held the home team to a goalless draw in Freetown at the return leg to berth a place in the final stage of the qualifiers mid-August of last year.

Next for Lamin Sarr and his charges was the biggest contest of the qualifiers, which came against one of the continent’s power houses in Ivory Coast, who were many pundits’ favourites to progress to the championship but this also was completely a different story at the end of the day with little but outstanding Gambia emerged winner on a 2-nil aggregate success over two legs.

The result of the Ivory Coast tie came as a mammoth surprise to many Gambian football followers who has since lost faith in the Darling Scorpions but they succeeded in turning things around thanks to a famous and decisive victory in the final day of an intensive qualifying campaign.

Sarr, who is the only local coach to have worked with all categories of the national football teams including the female team, said: "There were not much encouragement and support from the Gambian people who were of the view that the Darling Scorpions were going to suffer a massive defeat to Ivory Cost in Abidjan despite winning 1-nil in Banjul in the first leg," said Sarr, who completed a high level coaching course in Hungry last year.

He has however expressed disappointment over the treatment he and his team went through during the qualifiers but remained confident that despite all odds, The Gambia's U-20 will deliver a positive result in South Africa as they set to open their campaign with a crucial game against Cameroon today.

Sarr, who endured all sorts of criticisms when he unfortunately failed in his attempt to lead the U-20 to the Caf U-20 Youth championship after succumbing to an infamous 1-nil lost to Ghana in the final stage of the qualifiers in 2009, said: "I was able to resist all the pressure put on me with the help of God, my employers and fellow coaching staff during such a crucial period of the qualifiers."