Barely less than three weeks to the double-legged Gabon 2017 AFCON qualifier tie between the Scorpions of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia and Mourabitones of Islamic Republic of Mauritania, head Coach Sang Ndong has spoken to Observer Sports about the level of preparation ahead of the encounter.
The Scorpions will play away to Mauritania in Nouakchott on the 25th March before hosting the return leg on 29th March at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
Gambia are in Group M together with South Africa, Cameroon and Mauritania. According to the CAF regulations, the group winners and two best second placed teams will join the hosts for the finals.
“I think we have come far because we started with 18 local-based players that are training three times a week at the FIFA Goal Project for the past two weeks. We are getting ready and we played our first test game against GPA last Wednesday which we won 3-2. We are now looking forward to playing our second test game,” he told Observer Sports.
The preparations for this all important double-legged tie, he told this paper, are in high gear and Sang is upbeat for a positive result in the first leg in Nouakchott.
Of the 18 local-based players invited for pre-selection training, the Scorpion’s Coach said over 80% of them are from the CHAN team. “I think everybody is hungry and they are all eager to show what they can do and that is the most encouraging thing in this local team.”
As to what were the selection criteria for the local-based, the former Gambian international explained that the national team is a composition of the elite players playing in the national league and performing week in, week out. “The criteria used [include] most of them were playing in the CHAN team and are doing well with their teams in the league.”
Sang Ndong, who is being assisted by U-17 Coach Matarr Mboge, is also being supported by domestic league leaders GPA Coach Alhagie Sarr; and Alhagie Marong, as goalkeeper trainer.
On the availability of foreign-based players for the game, the former Hawks Coach said he is expecting some players playing in Europe and Senegal to join the squad. “Maybe by the end of this week or next week, we will come out with a list of players that we have identified. After my unveiling, I did send letters to all the players that I have found their email addresses in the office, introducing myself and showing them what I am up to. Over 90% replied positively assuring me of their support,” he told Observer Sports.
Though not finalised at the time of the interview, the Scorpions gaffer revealed that plans are underway to have a training camp before travelling to Mauritania.
He finally called for the support of the general public in rebranding and changing the face of Gambian football.
by Alieu Ceesay