The Gambia government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports on Tuesday hosted the Gambia Senior National Team Scorpions to a dinner in honour of their first ever Africa Cup of Nations qualification.
The dinner which was held at the Tamala Beach Hotel was organised in partnership with the hotel to celebrate the team.
The Gambia booked its place into the Afcon tournament after defeating Angola 1-0, thanks to Assan Ceesay's strike in the 62nd minute on Thursday 25th March in Bakau.
Speaking at the ceremony, Fatou Bah-Barrow, the first Lady of The Gambia, expressed delight over the historic Afcon qualification, while praying for the team to continue to win all the matches they would be playing in the future.
"I was so happy on Monday after watching our final Group D match against DR Congo and I was grumbling about the way the Egyptian referee was officiating the game. I even said that the referee had to be fined because we had clear penalty and scored a goal and he denied us," she said.
"This has been a very long journey over many decades of Gambia trying under different governments, ministers, football associations (now federation), under different generation of players. But the most important thing is that we recognised the efforts of those who have been there before us," said Bakary Y. Badjie, Minister of Youth and Sports
According to him, the government is very much committed to the development of sports and youth empowerment in general, noting that they understand that sports is not just for leisure but a business as well.
President of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF), Lamin Kaba Bajo, said that they are lucky to have completed the dreams and wishes of the past generation of leaders of the country including football managers, technicians and players of the country.
"We at the GFF have really appreciated the efforts and sacrifices that both the current and past generation of players put in this direction. The current crop of players that we have since we started putting them together some six years ago have shown some level of consistency in their ambition to make us reach where we are today," he said.
Pap Saine, former Press Officer of The Gambia Football Association now called Federation and Confederation of African Football (CAF) has hailed the Gambia senior national team Coach Tom Saintfiet, coaching staff and the players for guiding the country to their first- ever Africa Cup of Nations.
Mr. Saine stated that The Gambia first participated in the Afcon preliminary rounds in 1975 but were eliminated by Morocco 2-0 defeat in the first-leg fixture played in Banjul and 3-0 defeat in the second-leg tie played in Rabat.
"We participated in the qualifiers 14 times but failed, we withdrew twice due to financial reasons in 1996 and 2000 respectively," Saine recalled.
Scorpions Coach Tom Saintfiet, said that they had a dream before the qualification tournament, noting that has been achieved.
"We are ambitious and we want to make the country and everyone proud. We will go and defend the beautiful colour flag of the Gambia in Cameroon. We would fight for every chance and see where we can reach. Let this be our first Afcon and not our last."
Pa Modou Jagne, the Scorpions captain, expressed delight; they would continue to work hard to represent the country in Cameroon next year.
He finally thanked the Gambia Football federation and government for their support in achieving such historic moment.