The Gambia. January 2012. Just six years after being part of her country’s first ever women’s football team, Chorro Mbenga, now a coach, is staring at a near impossible task.
She is the head coach at the Red Scorpions FC, Gambia’s most successful ladies team. But her new assignment is daunting.
She has been charged with helping Buba Jallow select the finest young female footballers the small West African nation has to offer, see them gel, tweak them and then enter the team in the CAF qualifiers for the 2012 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan later that year.
Buba and Chorro, a head tactician and his deputy respectively, get down to work. Due to the existence of very few ladies’ teams in the top flight and second division, their options are limited.
At a time when the women’s game is still in its infancy in the country, they have to make do with what is before them.
An initial pool of 49 eager teenagers is whittled down to a final 24. Chorro’s Red Scorpions have just won back-to-back premier league titles so it’s not surprising that they should form the backbone of their nation’s U-17 team.
Led by Adama Tamba, a 13-year-old, two-time golden boot winner, her twin sister Awa, and a skillful forward in Penda Bah, the final team roster looked satisfactory.
Now all that remained was two rounds of qualification and this group of players would be catapulted to stardom. In the process they would achieve a feat never before imagined.
The qualifying tournament was to produce the three CAF representatives at the global showpiece.
The Gambia were drawn against Sierra Leone in the first knockout round to be played over two legs on a home and away basis.
The first game played in Banjul later that month produced a perfect result for the hosts. A 3-0 scoreline, the result of attractive attacking football set the stage for a good campaign.
Adama Tamba marks her national team debut against Sierra Leone with a goal. Penda Bah and Fatou Darboe grabbed the others.
Read the rest of the article on Dennis Omolo’s Blog.