The watchwords in Gambian Football of late are: rebuild, rebrand and restructure, slogans used to set the tone for the rebirth of the nation's football, but are The Gambians patient enough to see this become a reality?
Is there any reason not to believe that those charged with the running of our national game are not committed to their call on rebuilding, rebranding and restructuring, this includes the team coach Sang Ndong, the representatives of the Gambia Football Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. After listening to the both parties thrust the new catchphrases into the fray, the three words that have now become biggest clichés within the nation’s football cycle.
Upon his appointment as the new national team coach, Sang Ndong said one of the reasons he took the job at such a crucial time was because he is a Gambian, and a coach who wants to help set standards for Gambian coaches to be recognized, respected, be given opportunities and to be supported. He went on to say it is up to the local coaches to show their federation and the government that they are fit to take up the national team. But he also acknowledged that coaching the national team is not the easiest job one can do, and looking into the problems of the team is where the experience, knowledge, support, motivation and everything matters. He added that both he and the GFF are committed to changing the face of the national team to an accepted brand.
“I hope everybody involved in the process will come on-board and work towards achieving our objective, which is to rebuild and rebrand the national team,” said Sang.
However he had also called for everyone to play their roles effectively and also for the support and backing of the Gambian fans, saying : “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 proven immediately after Sang unveiled his team to face Mauritania in a double legged AFCON 2017 tie, which kicks-off on Friday, March 25, in Nouakchott and the return leg in Banjul on Tuesday, March 29, when some section of the fans started questioning the exclusion of certain names.
This is despite the fact that Sang had earlier stated that he will give a fair chance to both local and foreign players as long as they are active and playing well, “Everyone will be given the opportunity to represent the country.” he said. Adding that they will be looking for the quality in players during this rebuilding and rebranding process. He also called on people not to be carried away by results, but instead focus on the rebuilding and rebranding process of the national team. This by no means mean Gambians must condone mediocre performance from his team, but to be patient.
However, the former Hawks gaffer has the backing of the Football Federation, it’s president Lamin Kaba Bajo and the executive director of the National Sports Council, Marcel Mendy, who on the day of his unveiling after his appointment as Raoul Savoy’s replacement, assured Sang of their resolve to support him all the way in the rebuilding and rebranding process.
He also noted confidently that, coaching the national team is the easiest job one can do, but looking into the problems of the team, this is where experience, knowledge, support, motivation and everything matters. He added that he and the GFF are committed to changing the face of the national team to an accepted brand.
The GFF president, 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 suitable candidate, adding that the former Hawks coach has been there before as a coach and even as the technical director for the national team, so there could not be a better option, especially when it comes to understanding their rebuilding plans.
“We have come to the conclusion to hand the post to a local qualified coach,” Mr Bajo said and also described Sang as the most qualified candidate, both academically and professionally.
“Sang is a Gambian and knows what it takes to lead the team – he knows the Gambian football inside out." Adding: “We will be behind him all the way.” Also pointing out that the their bigger objective is the rebuilding process of formidable national team.
The Executive Director of the National Sports Council, Mr Marcel Mendy, who also represented the Minister of Youth and Sports at the unveiling, 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.
Saying: “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.”
He went on to add 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 for the development of football, the youths and sports in general.
The former national team shot stopper received the backing of most Gambians, including journalists, football pundits and fans alike and he was believed to be the rightful choice as the only Gambian with an A License coaching certificate. It must be said some section of the media were skeptical about going local to appoint Savoy’s replacement and the fact that Sang’s previous tenure did not yield the desired outcome but in the end his appointments proved a popular one.
It has been unanimously agreed that what The Gambia needs today and tomorrow is a national team that can put up respectable performances within 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?
THE REBRANDING PROCESS:
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 is not attracting the required consumers or customers thus the call for a rebranding. But this is one of the most difficult task one could undertake.
In the cooperate world, they employ specialists with a great knowledge of human psychology to help rebrand. However, in the case of the national team, coach Sang must use his best skills to create a product in his rebranding that will be appreciated by all in the next two years. This though could come quicker than 2019.
This may be achieved by firstly establishing a code of conduct (in other words guidelines) for players, which they can always refer to as their guide. He has to ensure that team selections and decisions are not influenced by third parties.
It is an open secret that in the recent past our national team has been divided by allegations of rift between the new younger players and the senior ones in the team, with the young ones accusing the seniors for been responsible for them being relegated to the bench. In fact some players even openly alleged that the team captain, Abdou Jammeh was the one picking the team for coach Raoul Savoy.
At the game in South Africa, it was captured on journalist’s Facebook and Twitter feeds that Raoul Savoy has changed his starting eleven three times because of the interference of some of the senior players. Well it’s hard to verify this however these sort of information are not helpful, as it disrupts and breed disunity in the team.
Unfortunately, as human beings, it is true that our presence always provokes, gossips and blame games especially when in groups. But it will have to be Sang as the team manager’s responsibility to ensure there is unity and decorum during camp and must ensure egos are carefully managed.
Working with players is like teaching at a nursery or primary school. When you establish rules and made sure no one goes around it, doing whatever 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 players will vilify you but the coach must never allow players coming in for national duty with the believe they are coming on a holiday.
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 was assured that he will be supported throughout his rebuilding process, so Gambians need not worry.