On the eve of the kick-off of the GFF First Division League 2017/2018, gff.gm previews the teams involved in a season that will go down in history as the final time that 12 teams will participate.
Already confirmed as part of our football development strategy, the GFF 2018/2019 season will feature 14 teams, with 2017/2018 featuring two automatic places for relegation and four automatic promotion places for the Second Division.
League champions Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) have made their intentions clear in their quest to retain their crown, making a number of signings to bolster their squad for their dual assault on the league title along with their continental commitments in the Total CAF Champions League. Already featuring a squad with several junior internationals including captain and goalkeeper Baboucarr Ceesay, energetic midfielder Matarr Ceesay and versatile forward Adama Jammeh, they have managed to make significant additions, most notably defenders Julaba Sawaneh, Sheikh Omar Saho and goalkeeper Baka Ceesay, all who have vast experience of the league. The reinforcements are added to young players such as the sparkling midfield talent, Bai Sonko and the tricky goal-scoring winger Saikouba Ceesay which ensure that the battle for places in the starting line-up will be strong indeed.
The champions were overcome however in the Super Cup final that took place last weekend, losing 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw to FF Cup holders Hawks FC, who continue to make giant strides in their quest to maintain high standards of professionalism across the club. With a Total CAF Confederations Cup campaign looming, the Super Cup is a timely boost to the Hawks trophy cabinet and will give them confidence in their opening game against Gamtel. Hawks Head Coach Ansu Fatty will be relying on the majority of the squad that guided the team to victory in the FF Cup last season with national team players such as Mass Manga, Lamin Charty and the experienced Pierre Gomez, leading their quest to improve on their fifth place league finish from last season.
League runners-up Marimoo FC, in their first ever season in the top flight, are the relative newcomers in Gambian football but are making their mark and can present a squad with a family bond and with plenty of talent, they will be confident of improving on last season, knowing full well that any improvement will mean that they will be the champions. Head Coach Modou Jallow has retained many of the players that won the Second Division title in 2015/2016, which provided the platform for the Manjai team to take the league by storm last season as an unknown quantity. No doubt this season, opposition teams will be fully aware of the threat that Marimoo poses.
Gamtel are under new leadership with Sulayman Kulayteh, former Head Coach at Brikama United, taking the reins with clear objectives to return the club to the summit of Gambian football and put their struggles of last season behind them where they finished 9th. Such was Kuyateh’s impact at Brikama that when he returns to the stadium with his new club, it will be an emotion filled day for both himself and the fans, who fully appreciate his efforts during his time there.
Modou Lamin Nyassi is the man that is tasked to follow Kuyateh at Brikama but will no doubt be positive of the chances of the team considering that Brikama has always been a factory that produces talented footballers. A season of rebuilding is expected but they will also look to improve on their fourth place finish from last season. Rivals Bombada were the best value for goals last season, able to score at will but also shipping goals at the other end too often (30 goals scored, 31 conceded) and will have worked on these deficiencies during their pre-season. Dubbed relegation certainties after the opening round of last season, they staged a remarkable recovery to finish 8th and clear of the relegation zone.
Perennial title challengers Real de Banjul are also under a new coach with Majorr Saine eager to build on their impressive pre-season form in two tournaments held in Senegal, with Real claiming the title in St. Louis to go along with a third place finish in Ziguinchor. With Pa Modou Sohna, Ebrima Jatta and Foday Manneh impressing in pre-season, the squad is brimming with talent and Saine will have a major headache in keeping all his players happy. They will be eager to improve on their third place finish in 2016/2017 and to win trophies at domestic level.
Gambia Ports Authority (GPA FC) under the guidance of the most successful coach in Gambian football history, six-time league winner Alagie Sarr, will be keen to recover from a poor finish last season owing to their continental exploits and re-establish themselves as a force with ambitions on winning the league once again. An exhausting season produced a 6th place finish and the team will be looking to use their freshness this season to make significant improvements.
Tallingding United did well to survive relegation last season along with Steve Biko and both teams will be looking to push further up the table and stay away from another relegation scrap.
Promoted teams Fortune FC and Banjul United will be hoping to use the element of surprise this season and then build from there in order to secure their status in the elite league. Both teams will present vibrant and youthful players but will pose a danger to any of the traditional powerhouses if they are taken lightly.
The 2017-2018 League Season opens this Saturday 18th November with the full fixture list as follows:-
(all games kick-off at 4pm)
Saturday 18th November
Marimoo vs Real de Banjul @ The Stadium
GAF vs GPA @ Brikama
Gamtel vs Hawks @ SK East
Sunday 19th November
Banjul Utd vs Bombada @ The Stadium
Brikama Utd vs Fortune @ Brikama
Steve Biko vs Tallinding Utd @ SK East