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 Rebuild, rebrand and restructure, the watchwords in Gambian Football but are Gambians patient enough


By Sang Mendy




Is there any reason not to believe that Sang Ndong and representatives of The Gambia Football Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports are all committed to rebuilding, restructuring and rebranding Gambian football after listening to the three parties made verbal commitments on the three words, rebuild, restructure and rebrand, words that have now become clichés within the cycles of sports.

In terms of support, Sang Ndong has the backing of the president of the Gambia Football Federation, Lamin Kaba Bajo and the executive director of the National Sports Council, Marcel Mendy who on that faithful day assured Sang of their resolve to support him all the way.

Even if some journalists were skeptical about going local, especially with Sang Ndong whose team at the time of signing the contract, wasn’t doing well, six out of ten journalists, thought that appointing the only Gambian with an A-License coaching certificate was long overdue.

Not only were the authorities and journalists convinced that the decision to bring back Sang was a step in the right direction, fans, pundits and football followers also had their say on the issue. And most contributors on most sports programmes during that week, supported the move, though a fraction weren’t convince that Sang is the right choice, giving his past record with the national team. This is what makes his job an interesting and a demanding one.

Speaking confidently on that memorable day, Sang Ndong said one of the reasons why he took the job at that crucial point was because he is a Gambian, and a coach who wants to help set standards for Gambian coaches to be recognized, respected, given opportunities and be supported. He went on to say that it is up to local coaches to show their federation and the government that they are fit to take up the national team.

“I hope everybody involved in the process will come onboard and work towards achieving our objective, which is to rebuild and rebrand the national team,” he said. 

The paragraph above contains food for thought statements. Sang has agreed to take up the task in a bid to proving skeptics wrong but he is fully aware that everybody must come in handy for him; the GFF, the ministry and the nation to achieve their set objective of rebuilding and rebranding the national team. Thus he called on everyone to play their roles effectively.

The former Hawks gaffer quickly pointed out that when Gambians plan or discuss football, there are no problems but once the ball starts rolling, problems are abound. This statement is undoubtedly true as it has been proven immediately Sang Ndong and his team revealed the list of players invited to take on Mauritania in a double legged tie on Friday, March 25, and Tuesday, March 29, 2016 in Nouakchott and Banjul respectively.

Sang had earlier stated that they will give a fair chance to both local and foreign players, adding that anyone who is active and playing well, “will be given the opportunity to represent the country”. He also added that they will be looking for the quality in players during this rebuilding and rebranding process. He called on people not to be carried away by results, but instead focus on the rebuilding and rebranding process of the national team. This though doesn’t mean Gambians must condone mediocre performance from Sang and his team.

He also noted confidently that, coaching the national team is the easiest job one can do, but looking into the problems of the national team, this is where experience, knowledge, support, motivation and everything matters adding that he and the GFF are committed to changing the face of the national team to an accepted brand.

Among some of the things Sang Ndong has to do is to rebrand the national team. This is something he and the stakeholders have agree on. Wherever you hear rebrand, it means the present brand isn’t attracting the consumers or customers thus requires rebranding. This is the most difficult task one can take. In the cooperate world, they employ specialists with a great knowledge of human psychology to help rebrand. In this case, Sang must use his skills to create a product that will be appreciated by all in the next two years. This though could come quicker than 2019. 

One of the most difficult things for Sang is to rebrand. This means establishing a code of conduct for players, which players themselves can always refer to as a guide.  It is an open secret that recently our national team has been divided with new and young players accusing the seniors of been responsible for them being relegated to the bench. In fact some players even openly blamed team captain, Abdou Jammeh for being the one picking the team for coach Raoul Savoy.

While in South Africa, it was captured on journalists Facebook and Twitter feeds that Raoul Savoy has changed his starting eleven three times because of the interference of some of the senior players. These kind of information isn’t expected, as it disrupts and disunites a team meant to be a unit supporting each other. It is true that where human beings are, gossips and blame games will always come into play but it is Sang and the team manager’s responsibility to ensure there is unity and decorum during camp. Egos must be managed.

Working with players is like teaching in a nursery or primary school. When you establish rules and make sure no one goes around doing what they like in class or in school, you are called a wicked teacher or principal. It is without doubt that when you introduce a code of conduct to establish decorum and sanity in the team, some party-liked players will vilify you but never must the coach allow players coming in for national duty think they are coming for holidays. A word for the wise is enough.

Lamin Kaba Bajo at the time of unveiling Sang Ndong to Gambians through the media, said among all the candidates who passed through the corridors of the GFF, Sang was the most fit for the job thus they have to settle for him. He said Sang Ndong has been there before as a coach and even as the technical director, “So there cannot be a better option than him,” especially when it comes to understanding their rebuilding process. 

”We have come to the conclusion to hand the post to a local qualified coach,” Mr Bajo said while describing Sang Ndong as the most qualified academically and professionally.

“Sang is a Gambian and knows what it takes to lead the team – he knows the in and out of Gambian football, and we will be behind him all the way,” the GFF president continued.

He pointed out that their bigger objective is the rebuilding process of formidable national teams.

Marcel Mendy, Executive Director of the National Sports Council, who also represented the Minister of Youth and Sports, at that time also said it was difficult to have a replacement for Savoy as there were so many options on whether to appoint a foreign or local coach, but recommendations and consultations were made to appoint a local coach who they believe can help the country achieve its goals.

He said: “The best thing for the future of Gambian football, as of now, is to work on rebuilding the national team, and in doing that we needed someone who can do it and understands what we want to achieve and do.”

Mendy stated that Ndong’s qualifications and achievements made him the best and most suited candidate they can afford for now. He however, assured Sang Ndong and the GFF of the government’s support, and for the development of football and the youths and sports in general.

Going by the words of the Lamin Kaba Bajo and Marcel Mendy, Sang Ndong assured of been supported throughout his rebuilding process. The tone was unanimous that what Gambia need today and tomorrow is a national team that will put up a respectable performance in Africa and the world at large in two years’ time or beyond. This though is no child’s play and cannot be achieved without proper planning and proper investment. It is an open secret that rebuilding a national team requires real money for training, allowances, salaries and training camps both home and abroad. This is what Mauritania did and today, their team is gaining the recognition they deserved.

Mauritania has rebuilt her national team in two years, so why not The Gambia? The question though is, are Gambians patient enough and are ready to invest?

Sang Mendy is a Student, UTG,School of Journalism and Digital Media

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