By Landing Ceesay
The Gambia National U20 team Monday night received a heroic reception after their successful outing at the U20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
The Gambia finished second at the just concluded U20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt after losing 2-0 to Senegal in the final. It is noteworthy that prior to the final against Senegal, Coach Abdoulie Bojang’s team went five matches without conceding a single goal. The young scorpions began the journey defeating Tunisia by a lone goal, courtesy of the team captain, Alhagie Saine, who went on to score another goal in their two – zero defeat of team Zambia to secure a quarterfinal spot for the team. Kajally Drammeh was the other goal scorer in that endeavor.
The Gambia rounded up their group stage matches with a 1-zero win against Benin to lead their group with a 100%-win record. The only goal of that game was scored by Salifou Colley, setting them up for a quarter-final debut with a South Sudanese team that took a 5-nil beating from them, paving the young Scorpion’s way to the semi-finals, courtesy of beautiful goals from striker Adama Bojang, who registered the Gambia’s first hat trick in the Africa Cup of Nations after scoring 3 goals, Midfielder Mahmud Bajo, and Defender Moses Jarju both scored a goal as well.
The Gambia was drawn against Nigeria, the African giants who have won the competition on numerous occasions, in the Semi-Final. The two Nations were not strangers on the international stage since they met in the 2007 Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final in Pretoria, South Africa. In that encounter, Nigeria came on top after their narrow 1-0 win, although the Gambia dominated the game throughout the 90 minutes but could not find an equalizer.
The Nigerians were hoping for a repeat of that previous encounter over the Gambia in Cairo, Egypt. But the match turned out to be a revenge from the Gambia in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, with Coach Abdoulie Bojang’s boys defeating Nigeria 1-0 to book a place in the final, which is the Gambia’s first-ever Africa Cup of Nations U20 final.
The young scorpions’ 1-0 win over Nigeria was their 5th straight win in the 2023 U20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, scoring 10 goals without conceding a single goal in the process, earning them a berth to meet Senegal, a team with a similar stellar winning record in the tournament in the final.
Senegal came out on top in the final after defeating Gambia 2-0 to clinch the trophy. The two goals scored by Senegal in the final were the only goals conceded by the young scorpions.
Speaking to the media shortly upon their arrival at the Banjul International Airport, Coach Abdoulie Bojang thanked the Gambians for the rousing reception.
“This is one of the most joyous moments I have had since I started playing football. I’m very much pleased with the welcome and knowing that the Gambia means a lot to the Gambians. We are thankful to the government and the Gambia Football Federation (GFF) with the entire Gambian population at large.
“We have an objective that we want to move Gambian football to another level, and definitely we have achieved that. The only unfortunate thing is, for us not to present the trophy to the Gambian people. We are very thankful to the Minister, the government, the Gambia Football Federation, and the whole of the Gambia at large, and we still need your support. As the second Vice President (of GFF) said, we now shift our attention to the World Cup. We want to do even better than the one we did at the AFCON,” Coach Abdoulie Bojang said.