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AFCON 2021: 6 Gambian Players Likely to Create Problems For Opponents

Scorpions AFCON 2021 squad

By Landing Ceesay 

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations kicked off on January 9th 2022 in Cameroon and The Scorpions of The Gambia will participate for the first time in the country’s history.

As the Scorpions gear-up for their maiden AFCON match against Mauritania on 12th January 2022, Kerr Fatou brings you six (6) stars of the Gambian squad who could create problems for any opponents in the competition.

Assan Ceesay (FC Zurich, Switzerland)

The first player in our list is the Gambia’s all time goal scorer and FC Zurich goal poacher Assan Ceesay.

Assan Ceesay was born on 17 March 1994 in the Gambia’s capital Banjul. Ceesay is a Gambian professional footballer who plays as a forward for FC Zürich and the Gambia national team.

In January 2020, Ceesay joined 2 Bundesliga side VfL Osnabrück, on loan from Swiss Super League club FC Zürich.

Ceesay was featured 8 times for the Gambia U-20 National Team and scored 3 goals in the process. He also played for the Gambia U-23 National Team 5 times and 2 goals.

Ceesay made his debut for the Gambia National in 2016 at the age of 22. He became the country’s all-time top goal scorer with 11 goals.

Ceesay scored Gambia’s only goal against Angola that sent the Scorpions to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Assan Ceesay is one of the Scorpions stars that could create problems for any team in the AFCON 2021.

Musa Barrow (Bologna, Italy)

The second Gambian player in our list whom we think could create problems for any team he faces in the Africa Cup of Nations is Bologna’s mask man Musa Barrow.

Musa Barrow was born on 14 November 1998. Barrow is a Gambian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Serie A club Bologna and the Gambia national team.

Barrow joined Atalanta in 2016 from The Gambia where he played football locally and in the street, and in his first appearance for the youth squad scored two goals from midfield. He joined the first team squad in 2018 after scoring 19 goals in 15 games for the youth side.

Musa made his professional debut for Atalanta in a 1–0 Coppa Italia loss to Juventus on 30 January 2018. He made his Serie A debut for Atalanta in a 1–1 tie with Crotone on 10 February 2018.

He had his first start on 13 April 2018 in a 0–0 home draw against Inter Milan. On 18 September 2019, Barrow made his Champions League debut against Dinamo Zagreb.

On 17 January 2020, Barrow moved from Atalanta to Bologna on loan with an obligation to buy for a fee reported to be around €13 million. Soon after his transfer, Barrow became the starting striker under Siniša Mihajlović and became one of their top scorers of the season despite only arriving in January. On 2 July 2021, Bologna purchased his rights.

Musa Barrow in action for Bologna FC
Photo: Musa’s profile

Since his move to Bologna, Barrow established himself as one of the best forwards in Serie A by scoring stunning goals against the big boys in the competition.

On 1 June 2018, Barrow scored the only goal for the Gambia U23s in a 1–0 friendly win over the Morocco U23s.

Barrow made his debut for the senior Gambia national football team in a 1–1 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification draw with Algeria on 8 September 2018.

Musa Barrow is one of Gambian fans’ favourite players as he continued to be a regular starter for Tom Sanfeit side.

Barrow played an integral part in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers which handed Gambia their first ever appearance in the continent’s biggest football competition.

Bubacarr Steve Trawally (Ajman Club, UAE)

The third Gambian player in our list whom we think could create problems for any team is Ajman Club wing wizard Bubacarr Steve Trawally.

Steve Bubacarr Trawally a Gambian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Ajman, was born on 10 November 1994.

On 12 January 2015, Trawally transferred to Chinese Super League side Hangzhou Greentown. He was then loaned to China League One side Yanbian Changbaishan until the end of the season.

 On 14 March 2015, Trawally made his debut for Yanbian in the first round of the season against Jiangxi Liansheng. He scored his first goal for the Chinese side in the 52nd minute, which ensured Yanbian’s 1–0 victory.

 On 23 May 2015, he was sent off by waving the finger towards an opponent in a league match against Tianjin Songjiang, which resulted in a 4 match-ban and a ¥20,000 fine for him. Trawally scored his first hat trick in China on 18 July 2015, in a 4–2 win against Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng.

Steve scored another hat trick on 8 August 2015, in a 6–1 victory against Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard. Trawally scored 17 goals in 26 appearances in the 2015 season, as Yanbian Changbaishan won the league title and gained promotion to the first tier.

Then he made a permanent transfer to Yanbian Fude on 13 February 2016. On 11 March 2016, he made his Super League debut in the second match of 2016 season against Jiangsu Suning, coming on as a substitute for Nikola Petković in the 88th minute.

Trawally scored eight goals in 26 appearances in the 2016 season which secured Yanbian’s stay in the top flight for the next season. He extended his contract for another two years in February 2017. 

The Gambian international continued his promising performances in the 2017 season, scoring 18 goals for the club, including two hat-tricks against Beijing Sinobo Guoan and Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao.

He left for another top-tier club Guizhou Hengfeng on a free transfer via Danish club Vejle Boldklub following Yanbian’s relegation in the 2017 season.

On 9 February 2018, Yanbian made an official statement that Trawally was under contract with the club and disapproved of his transfer. The disagreement eventually solved on 28 February 2018, the final day of 2018 Chinese football transfer winter window, after Guizhou Hengfeng paid his transfer fee.

Trawally made his debut and scored his first goal for the club on 4 March 2018 in a 3–1 loss against Jiangsu Suning.

In February 2019, he moved to Saudi club Al-Shabab. And loaned to Emirati side Ajman Club in September the same year.

Trawally has been a regular starter for the Emirati club since his move and has been scoring important goals for the club in the Gulf League.

On 6 September 2015, Trawally made his debut for Gambia in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Cameroon coming on as a substitute for Pa Amat Dibba in the 64th minute.

Since his debut for the Scorpions in 2015, Trawally proved to be one of the stars the Gambia National Team can rely on. 

Like Musa Barrow, Trawally played an integral part in 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers which handed the Gambia their maiden appearance in the continent’s biggest football showpiece.

Saidy Janko (Real Valladolid, Spain)

The fourth player on our list is former Manchester United player and current Real Valladolid star Saidy Janko.

Saidy Janko was born on 22 October 1995. Janko is a professional footballer who plays for the Spanish club, Real Valladolid. Although Janko was primarily recognised as a right back, he is equally capable of playing on the right wing.

Born in Switzerland, he played international football for Switzerland up to under-21 level, before switching to play for the Gambia national team at senior level.

Janko began his career at FC Zürich. He joined Manchester United on a summer transfer deadline in 2013. He was one of the only three signings by David Moyes during the 2013 summer transfer window. 

In his first season, he was voted the Reserve Player of the Year. On 26 August 2014, he made his first-team debut in a League Cup match against Milton Keynes Dons, playing the first half before being substituted for fellow debutant Andreas Pereira as United lost 4–0.

On 2 February 2015, transfer deadline day, Janko joined Championship club Bolton Wanderers on loan for the rest of the season, with Andy Kellett going in the opposite direction for the same period.

He made his debut for the club on 10 February, starting in a 3–1 league win over Fulham at the Macron Stadium. He crossed to assist Eiður Guðjohnsen’s equaliser before half time, before scoring himself in the 80th minute from 25 yards out.

On 1 July 2015, Celtic announced that they had signed Janko on a four-year contract. He made his debut nine days later, coming on as a substitute for Gary Mackay-Steven 75 minutes into Celtic’s 1–0 win over Real Sociedad in a pre-season friendly at St. Mirren Park.

Janko made his competitive debut on 1 August, coming on as a second-half substitute during Celtic’s 2–0 win over Ross County in the opening league match of the Scottish Premiership season.

On 31 August 2016, he joined Championship club Barnsley on a one-year loan deal. He scored on his debut in a 4–0 away win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on 13 September.

 On 7 July 2017, Janko left Celtic for French Ligue 1 club Saint-Étienne, signing a four-year contract.

Saidy  Janko for Real Valladolid, Spain
Photo: Saidy’s profile

And Janko moved to the Portuguese club FC Porto on a five-year contract on 17 June 2018. He returned to the EFL Championship on 31 August that year, joining Nottingham Forest on loan for the 2018–19 season.

On 1 July 2019, Janko entered football in his native country for the first time in his career, being loaned to Young Boys for the Swiss Super League season. He scored his first goal on 14 September in the second round of the Swiss Cup, in an 11–2 win at fifth-tier FC Freienbach. In total Saidy played 46 official matches, starting 38 of them, as they won the double Super League and Cup.

On 1 October 2020, Real Valladolid signed Janko on a four-year contract ending in 2024, for an undisclosed fee. He made his debut in La Liga 24 days later in a 2–0 home loss to Deportivo Alavés.

Janko was born in Zürich to a Gambian father and an Italian mother. He was a youth international for Switzerland from 2012 to 2015, before opting to represent the Gambia in 2021. He made his debut for the Gambia national team in a 2–0 friendly loss to Sierra Leone on 9 October 2021.

Although Janko has never played a competitive match for the Scorpions, he is expected to play an integral part for Tom Sanfeit side in their debut AFCON games, because of his experience of playing in one the best leagues in the world.

Ablie Jallow (RFC Seraing, Belgium)

The fifth player on our list is former Gambia U-20 captain and RFC Seraing wing wizard Ablie Jallow.

Ablie Jallow was born on 14 November 1998. Jallow is a Gambian professional footballer who plays as a winger for Belgian First Division A club Seraing, on loan from Ligue 1 club Metz.

He was born in Bundung and spent his early career with Real de Banjul and Génération Foot in Senegal.

In July 2017, Jallow signed a five-year contract with Ligue 1 side Metz. In September 2019 he moved on loan to Ajaccio.

In August 2020, Jallow again left Metz on loan, joining Belgian RFC Seraing along with five other Metz loanees.

Ablie made his international debut for Gambia in 2015. Since then, he established himself as one of the best players for the Scorpions.

He was instrumental in Gambia’s road to Cameroon AFCON 2021 by creating goal-scoring chances for his teammates.

Jallow’s dribbling ability and shooting accuracy could create problems for any team the Scorpions face in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. 

Omar Colley (U.C. Sampdoria, Italy)

The sixth player in our list is the U.C Sampdoria centre back and the Scorpions Vice Captain Omar Colley.

Omar Colley was born on 24 October 1992. Colley is a Gambian professional footballer who plays as a defender for the U.C. Sampdoria in Italy.

Colley started out playing youth football with Wallidan FC, one of Gambia’s top flight teams in the GFF First Division League. After he started playing for the first team, he trialled with Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City on two occasions in 2010 and 2011.

Omar Colley in action for Sampdoria
Photo: Omar’s profile

The Americans wanted to sign Colley but refused to pay any form of transfer fee or training compensation to his Gambian club. Wallidans founder called their offer “out of touch with modern football” and “an insult to the local clubs”. So Colley instead moved to Real de Banjul where he helped the team become Gambian champions in 2012.

In January 2013, he signed a two-year contract with KuPS. During the time between his two seasons in Finland, he trialled with a couple of 2 Bundesliga clubs and Arminia Bielefeld made an offer to buy him. An agreement was not reached however as they could not agree on the transfer fee.

 As his contract with the Finnish club was nearing the end, Colley was described by the KuPS club President as perhaps their “best foreign signing ever”.

In August 2014, Colley signed a three-year contract with Swedish side Djurgårdens IF, starting the first of January 2015. He played his debut game for the club on 22 February 2015 against Ängelholms FF in the Swedish Cup.

 On 12 August 2016, Colley travelled to Belgium to complete a medical with top-tier club K.R.C. Genk, and missed the training session ahead of the match versus IF Elfsborg which was against the will of Djurgården.

Later that day, the Director of Sport of Djurgården Bo Andersson told the football site that Djurgården were prepared to take the case to FIFA due to the fact that K.R.C Genk without the permission and knowledge of Djurgården booked a flight and hotel for Colley which violated the contract between Colley and Djurgården. Andersson stated that Djurgården would refuse to sell Colley to Genk after that incident. 

On 14 August, Colley started the match against IF Elfsborg on the bench due to the recent event. The following day, Colley was sold to Genk despite the promise not to sell him to the club. 

The transfer sum was reported by the Swedish newspaper Expressen to be €2 million and a resale clause, which would make Colley the third most expensive defender ever sold by an Allsvenskan team after former Djurgården player Daniel Amartey and IF Elfsborg player Jon Jönsson.

On 19 June 2018, Omar Colley signed for Sampdoria in the Italian Serie A, where he established himself as one of the best defenders in the Italian top flight.

Colley was part of the Gambia national under-17 football team that won the 2009 African U-17 Championship as well as the Gambia national under-20 football team that played in the 2011 African Youth Championship.

In 2012, he made his debut for the senior Gambia national team in a friendly game against Angola. Hence, Colley became an important player for the Gambia National Team helping the team to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon for the first time in the country’s history.

The Gambia will make its debut in the Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Mauritania on Wednesday 12 January 2022.

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