U-17 FEMALE SCORPIONS SET FOR AZERBAIJAN
Friday, September 21, 2012
In Peru 2005 in a late October evening, an unknown nation in world football, The Gambia stunned the globe by securing a comprehensive 3-1 defeat of fancy favourites Brazil at the U-17 world cup in its first ever game at any FIFA organised finals.
The Gambian team led by Ghanaian born caoch Fred Osam Dudu went onto secure a similar scoreline win over Qatar before a 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands cruelly knocked them out of the championship despite securing the same number of points with the latter and the South Americans. But that team graduated to the U-20 level and two years later the bulk of those players returned by to the global stage when they were knocked out in the second round of the Canada 2007 World Youth Championship.
Now another set of U-17 players will take to the field on Saturday when a first ever female Gambian team entertain Korea DPR in its first game at Azerbaijan 2012 when the third edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup kicked off. The game will kickoff at 8:00am Gambian time.
is not the only newcomer in the third edition of the championship as three
other nations in Uruguay, China PR and hosts Azerbaijan are both making their
debuts in the three-week global showpiece event and the quartet will be focused
on gaining experience in Odlar Yurdu (the Land of Fire) and springing a few
Gambia have never qualified a women’s team for a major championship before, and they had never even entered a team in the U-17 preliminaries before. So the success of coach Buba Jallow’s team earlier this year was a pleasant surprise for our small west African nation. The female Scorpions held on for an aggregate win over Sierra Leone in the opening round, despite struggling through the away leg. In the second head-to-head tie, they were underdogs against Tunisia, but they triumphed in both legs, most impressively 2-1 in Tunis.
Although they will no doubt be considered outsiders at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, the Gambian team will be buoyed by the win over Tunisia, particularly after they came from a goal behind in the away leg. “The manner in which the players came back from the early goal to win on foreign soil is very encouraging,” assistant coach and former international Chorro Mbenga, who was on Gambia’s first-ever women’s team in 2006 was quoted as saying in Baku. “[In Azerbaijan], we hope to have a respectable tournament. Hopefully it will be good exposure for our girls and perhaps provide them the opportunity to get to more advanced leagues.”
With a clutch of skilful attacking players and an aggressive mentality, Gambia could cause problems for any rivals that underestimate them. Given the emerging nature of women’s football in the country of under two million, the debutants will also be helping to increase the profile of the sport. “The team can encourage more women to play football, which can attract investment as well as change society’s perception,” said Mbenga about the bigger picture. “Women’s football in Gambia is emerging. It may not be as organised as desired, but efforts towards developing it are encouraging.”
Despite their participation in the championship being in doubt for several months after the team’s failure to start training since securing qualification, there is no lack of motivation in the team as an allowance of $1,000 (one thousand dollars) paid to each member of the squad ahead of their departure to Azerbaijan remained the highest allowance paid to any Gambian football team in all categories. The team will rely heavily on its best three players in Penda Bah, Fatou Darboe and Adama Tamba with the trio proving time and again that they can dig deep anytime the team needed a result.
After beating Sierra Leone 3-0 at home to open the first round, Gambia showed some fatigue in falling 3-1 in the return after a very lengthy travel. However, they managed to recover a month later to win both matches against the Tunisians: 1-0 at home and 2-1 away. Gambia, drawn in Group B, will be hoping their youthful line-up can make an impact in the Land of Fire. More than a quarter of the squad were born in 1998, among them the competition’s youngest player Sainey Sissoho, well ahead of the eligibility cut-off date of 1 January 1995.
Gambia, Group D rivals China PR and Uruguay are appearing in the tournament for
the first time, as are Azerbaijan, who line up in Group A. Dauntingly, all four
debutants will have to cross swords with at least one side that has been an
ever-present at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup since its inception in 2008,
namely Korea DPR, who join Gambia in Group B; Germany and Ghana, who are both
in Group D; and Nigeria, who take on the host nation in Group A. Only one
section, Group C, is made up entirely of teams that have all played in the
competition before: Mexico, New Zealand, Japan and Brazil.
The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 kicks off with the meeting between Colombia and Azerbaijan in Baku, with the hosts in action again three days later against the Nigerians in Lankaran.
Author: Baboucarr Camara