by Baboucarr Camara & Alieu Ceesay
A selection of local based Scorpions arrived in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on Saturday where they would hold a mini training camp ahead of Friday’s Afconqualifiers against Mauritania in Nouakchott.
The six players and coaching staff are already joined by the four selected players playing in the domestic Senegalese league. 10 European based players, who will link up with the team today, completes the 20-man squad.
The team is expected to hold three training sessions in Mbour before they finally leave for Mauritania on Wednesday. The game is Friday March 25. The team is expected in Banjul 24 hours later for the second leg on March 29.
The Gambia is sitting third in Group M with a solitary point from two games, five adrift of leaders Cameroon and two behind Friday’s opponent. The return of Swansea City forward Modou Barrow, who is in a rich vein of form, and Leeds United’s Mustapha Carayol could boost the Scorpions chances of finishing at least second, considering the fact that the two group favourites, Cameroon and South Africa, will also play each other over two legs.
Edrissa Sonko is an ex-Scorpion whose National Team career spanned more than a decade; speaking in a Daily Observer interview yesterday, he said Gambians shouldn’t expect much from the game. He said the team is young, and with Sang Ndong being recently appointed, it’s going to take a while to rebuild.
“If we want to expect results it won’t work and we should be patient and allow the players to adapt to his style and gel as a team. The team, unlike us where we spent many years playing together even before travelling to Europe, is a new one. So we should give the team the maximum support and with time they will start to get results,” Edi said.
Biri Biri who played with The Gambia at Nouakchott’s Olympic Stadium said the players should expect a hostile reception but was quick to observe that with determination, dedication and hard work, the team can get a result ahead of the second leg.
He described the Maurabitones as a team in the same standard with The Gambia whom we have beaten on several occasions, adding that despite their recent performances in the international stage, The Gambia has what it takes to win the game if the players give it everything they have.
“We have been beating them numerous times and in the few occasions they defeated us, I remember I took and lost a crucial penalty in Nouakchott because all my teammates refused to take it. Even the captain, Saihou Sarr, was afraid but as the eldest player I decided to take it,” Biri said, as he relived that moment. “It was a big pressure for us but with Carayol and Barrow back in the team, there will be a lot of positive changes for us.”
Aziz Corr Nyang also had his stay on the game. “Let them just listen to the coach and play as he tells them. They have to respect Mauritania because they are a good team and it is not going to be an easy match. But I know they can do it. I know the whole nation is behind them 100% praying and supporting,” he said.