The Gambia yesterday missed out on a place in the African Youth Championship following a 2-1 defeat to Guinea in Conakry with the home side advancing to Zambia 2017 on that same aggregate score.
The two sides played a goalless stalemate in Banjul a fortnight ago, leaving the tie evenly poised in the balance. When Dauoda Camara put Guinea ahead after just 16 minutes, a situation that was always going to be a hostile and difficult environment for the Young Scorpions, became even harder but they refused to budge and soon produced a goal of their own as striker Pa Omar Jobe looked to have equalised for The Gambia but the goal was ruled out by the referee from Benin in what GRTS commentator Essa Sowe called “reasons best known to the official.”
“I have never wept in football until today and for me there is no reason to go the extreme by saying something that isn’t true or sully my reputation but The Gambia was robbed there is no doubt about that,” Sowe told the Daily Observer after the game.
“The first disallowed goal for The Gambia is something that I cannot explain because there was a back pass by the Guinean defender and Pa Omar picked it to score and in football rules, that was a legitimate goal. The second disallowed goal as well, the referee gave a goal which was scored on the counter attack but after few seconds the assistant flagged for something I don’t know and the referee changed his decision afterwards.”
The Gambia again thought they had finally secured the much needed away goal in the second half, that would’ve seen them through to Zambia, but again the Francophone referee disallowed the goal to further infuriate the Gambian team and the match commentator on the state broadcaster. Almost immediately, Guinea increased the tally to 2-0, making the task look insurmountable for Omar Sise’s charges.
Gambia was handed a lifeline in the closing stages when it was awarded a penalty. Pa Omar Jobe stepped forward and converted the resulting kick but the referee again ordered for a retake and it was after a second successful penalty kick that the goal was allowed to stand. The hosts endured a nervy final minute but the Gambians couldn’t muster an equaliser and as a result, it is the Guineans that would be participating in Zambia next year, leaving Gambians to rue the perceived shambolic officiating of the Benin referee.
After the game, Gambians took to social media to vent their frustrations based on the ball-to-ball commentary offered by Sowe. Veteran journalist Tijan Masaneh Ceesay was the first to express his views to sum up the game, reliving his days as a football commentator.
“Here at the September 28th Stadium in Conakry, our motherland has been robbed of a well deserved victory. The kids are heartbroken, but yes, they can take solace in the fact that they represented the stripes with every ounce of Gambian sweat and for that they should be proud. A heroic welcome will await them at the Banjul International Airport,” he posted on Facebook.
Another Facebook user, Adi Mastermind Jarjou wrote: “Our football governing body, GFF, [The Gambia Football Federation] should do something now, enough is enough. Last December it happened in Senegal [in the WAFU Cup], Morocco and now Guinea. How long are we going to be victims of bad refereeing?”
Siez Jojo Tarrus Jammeh added: “Is all over in Guinea; The Gambia U-20’s hope of making it to AFCON U-20 to be held in Zambia have come to a dramatic end after losing 2 goals to 1 to Guinea Conakry in an unbelievable fashion. The Darling Scorpions suffered two bad officiating decisions after two clear goals were ruled out by the Benin referee according to Essa Sowe of state radio, who was commenting live from Conakry. Kudos to Head Coach Omar Sise and the boys; it is a shame that it has to end this way. Is football and this is not the end of everything but I think CAF should really have a reality check on some of their referees. We are out but I’m sure our heads are high: # CongratsU20.”
Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, a reporter with West Coast Radio, also tried to make an analysis of the game and what the future holds for Gambian football.
“Today I stand to be right as we walk the streets of Conakry so proud in the sense that we had gone through hurdles and had gone this far to the last minute. Losing honourably to a country in Guinea, I salute Coach Omar Sise for the efforts and the boys for the sacrifice,” he wrote.
by Baboucarr Camara