Africa: AFCON Resumption Like a Birthday Present - Saintfiet

Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet has welcomed the resumption of the Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021 qualifiers, set for this November.

The Match Days 3 and 4 of the qualifiers, originally scheduled for March 2020, were postponed due to the global Coronavirus pandemic which halted many sporting activities across the globe.

Scorpions were to play Gabon in a double header in March before the pandemic forced for the postponement of the qualifying campaign, but the Belgian could not hide his excitement with the resumption date confirmed.

"I'm happy like a child who got his birthday present," Saintfiet told CAFOnline. "It was a long period; it was in November of last year that we had our last games. We were really preparing everything for March and COVID-19 came.

"It was a period of lots of insecurity, then getting the news that there will be qualifiers in November was fantastic news we are looking forward to that."

The Gambia were hoping to build on their fine start to the 2021 Total AFCON qualifying campaign, only for the pandemic to halt their run, but Saintfiet is setting his sights on the future.

"We prepared while having to take care of the COVID-19 security of players and staff. How to travel and so on but at least we have started with that job and naturally looking forward to November's matches against Gabon, which could be very special for all Gambians, so I am a very happy man."

The Scorpions top their Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021 Group D with four points leveled with November's opponents Gabon, two more than DR Congo whilst Angola are rooted at the bottom with zero points.

COVID-19 Situation

The COVID-19 situation across the world is one major concern for Saintfiet ahead of November's return to competitive action.

"It's not easy because we will have players coming from three different continents. The majority play in Europe we have players in Asia and few players in the African continent, so it will be very complex to get everyone together.

"Let's hope that the peaks are over, and everything goes downwards the health situation returns to almost normal, otherwise it would be very negative if teams cannot use their major players to play the games."

Missing star man

When the Scorpions take on Gabon, Saintfiet will be without midfield maestro Hamza Barry due to a knee injury.

The 25-year old playmaker who is currently a free agent following the expiry of his contract with Croatia's Hajduk Split underwent a cruciate ligament surgery in July and will be out for at least six months.

"The biggest problem for now is Hamza Barry. His cruciate ligament injury will take at least six months to recover. He got his surgery in July so maybe in February or March he will be returning. t is very sad because against Angola and DR Congo he proved how important he's in the midfield role.

"On the other side in the previous year we had several other players who could perform on that position and it's an opportunity for others, but am naturally sad that Hamza is not there so we have to find solutions," concluded Saintfiet.

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