Crying foul over the outcome of a football match almost equates to doing same for an already spilled milk. Truth be told, had the Young Scorpios not squandered some decent chances here on some soil, the story would have been a different ballgame altogether. The game could have been home and dry even by the time they played Guinea in Conakry.
However, it was the man who presided over proceedings in Conakry who earned the fury of most Gambians for what many described as two blatant decisions that became the undoing of the national U-20 more than our performance itself. Those who followed the live commentary on GRTS Radio Sunday evening alluded to a very respectable show put up by Coach Omar Sise’s charges. By all indications, even The Gambian journalist doing the commentaries appeared shocked by the performance of the referee, as he fittingly qualified our lads as fighters.
Playing football away from home has proven to be a daunting challenge time and again even for the biggest of nations. The psychological demands alone can take their toll on the players by way of the hostile environment that host nations tend to subject visiting national teams to. Having had to contend with that, the last thing a visiting team needs is being robbed openly by those that are tasked to ensure that the game flows without a modicum of partiality.
Where national pride and qualification were so much at stake, it was incumbent on the referee from Benin to conduct his duties with the highest degree of professionalism devoid of fear, bias or affection towards the other party. Having disqualified a goal widely seen as clean and clear, just moments after the host nation Guinea first opened the scoring, it was no surprise that the U-20 players and their officials were left disappointed. As a further kick in the mouth, the disqualifying of the second goal and the subsequent penalty which was equally nullified only to have it being repeated could have been even more costly if the brave striker Pa Omar Jobe fluffed his lines. In the end, even that was too little too late as the Young Scorpions could not overturn the deficit.
The side’s elimination from the qualifiers of the Africa Youth Championship to be staged in Zambia next year, attributable mainly to the man officiating the game was naturally met with indignation here in Banjul and beyond our shores as Gambians elsewhere could not help but manifest their disappointment on social media.
Referees by their very nature remain some sort of untouchables in footballing terms, but where an umpire is found to have acted in a manner that contravenes his core values, the body overseeing a particular competition in this case CAF must work towards ensuring that those they pay and train do their job within the dictates of the rules of the game. African football cannot afford to wallow in mediocrity at a time when the rest of the world is moving forward. This is the beautiful game. It should be putting smiles on our faces both in times of victory and defeat. In doing so, it must be said, the letter and spirit of the game must be applied accordingly. Anything other than that only leaves a bad taste in the mouth.