The Scorpions of The Gambia will begin a double header friendly football international against the Maurabitones of Mauritaniatoday with the second encounter to be played on Saturday. Both games will be played at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
The firendly will act as a preparatory game for the Scorpions Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifier against star studded Ivory Coast at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan on the 23rd March. Mauritania is not in any active competition after being knocked out at the preliminary stages of the World Cup qualifiers, but the game will serve as a preparation for their campaign in the 2014 CHAN competition. And ahead of tonight's game, the Gambia Football Association (GFA) Monday held a joint press conference with its Mauritanian counterpart at the Bamboo Hotel in Kololi.
Speaking at the press conference, the head coach of Mauritania, Patrice Nouvou, expressed his gratitude to the GFA for creating a conducive atmosphere for them. He said that the test game is very important for his team since it will create a room for him to know how competitive his players are. Coach Patrice further stated that four members of his squad are from the Mauritanian U-19 team, and have never appeared in the senior squad before.
For his part, the senior coach of the Scorpions, Lucio Mancini, said the game is very important for The Gambia because the team have many local players he will like to test. He disclosed that he will invite three or four foreign-based players in the likes of Dawda Bah and Tijan Jaiteh who are currently in town.
Saturday will see a double header international fixture played at the Independence Stadium. Real de Banjul will set the ball rolling, hoping to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit against FUS Rabat with an early kickoff at 3:00pm local time to be followed by the Scorpions game.
The last time the two sides met at senior level saw the Mauritanians knock Gambia out in the peliminary stages of the CHAN competition on the away goals rule almost five years ago. The first leg in Banjul ended in a 1-1 stalemate in March 2008 and was followed by a goalless stalemate at the Stade Olympique de Nouakchott (Nouakchott, Mauritania) in April.
Gambia also secured an 8-1 aggregate win over Mauritania in the qualifiers for the 2011 African Youth Championship. The first led ended in a 4-1 win before a 4-0 triumph in Nouakchott completed the rout.
Though the core of the team that will make the squad for the Elephants encounter next month will be made up of foreign-based players, this friendly game will be dominated by home-based players. This was revealed by the vice chairman and spokesperson of the Normalisation Committee of the Gambia Football Association, Alhaji Omar Sey, who was speaking at the sidelines of a press conference held at the GFA Football House in Kanifing last week.
Assistant Coach Peter Bonu Johnson said that the game is a challenge for the home-based players and that it will act as a great opportunity for them to prove that they have what it takes to dislodge the foreign-based stars.
His words were echoed by Omar Sey who last week said Gambia has foreign-based players who have been giving their all to the country over the years, "but we have to accept the fact that they are not at the same level with other countries that have big players playing across the top leagues in Europe".