Thursday, November 30, 2023

Senegambia Final? Not Quite! It’s The Gambia vs Senegal

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By: Bully Sowe

The only thing that matters in sports is winning, and winning has no nationality. The “Senegambia Final” myth is like a sandwich with no filling – it may look tasty on the outside, but it’s empty on the inside. It’s time for us to stop buying into this overhyped idea and recognize that the real competition lies between two independent and sovereign nations, each with its own unique identity and desire to succeed. It’s like trying to merge a lion and a crocodile into one ferocious creature and expecting it to win the jungle games. The Senegambia final myth is just a wild dream, a chimera that only exists in the minds of those who refuse to see reality. Let’s ditch the Senegambia myth and focus on what truly matters: the Gambia against Senegal, a rivalry that deserves to stand on its own.

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As a Gambian, I take immense pride in my country’s rich history, culture, and identity. However, there’s a persistent misconception that needs to be addressed. The notion that we share a common identity with our neighbour, Senegal, is simply not true. While we may have certain similarities, the Gambia and Senegal are two distinct countries with unique histories, cultures, and traditions. This is especially true when it comes to sports, and I firmly believe that there’s no such thing as “Senegambia” or a “Senegambia Final.” It’s the Gambia against Senegal, each independent and sovereign country wanting to rise to the occasion with an identity different from the other.

For centuries, the Gambia and Senegal have been intertwined in many ways, including culture, politics, and trade. However, these historical ties should not be mistaken for a shared identity or a lack of sovereignty. The Gambia has its own unique history, which is closely tied to its geography, economy, and political structure. Similarly, Senegal has its own distinct history, which has been shaped by its unique cultural heritage, political struggles, and economic realities. The idea of a “Senegambia” identity erases these differences and implies that we are one and the same, which is not the case.

In the realm of sports, this deception is particularly evident. Senegal often boasts of its international soccer stars, while simultaneously dismissing the skill and potential of Gambian players. This is a clear attempt to assert dominance and reinforce the idea that Senegal is superior to Gambia. However, these tactics have not always worked. In 2003, during a World Cup qualifier match in Dakar, Gambian player Ebou Sillah revealed how he talked down Senegalese player El Hadji Diouf, who had been insulting him and his team by pouring urine and holy water on them. Sillah’s bravery and sportsmanship helped his team secure a draw.

“Upon our arrival at the airport, the fans shamefully poured urine upon us. As FIFA mandated, I proceeded to inspect their passports within the confines of their dressing room. However, during the process, Diouf abruptly rose from his seat, barking at me. Unfazed, I calmly retorted, “Please, sit down. Your mouth appears to be leaking.”Incensed by my response, Diouf unleashed a volley of insults directed towards me” Sillah recalled.

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It’s true that the Gambia and Senegal have a longstanding sporting rivalry, with football being the most popular sport in both countries. However, this rivalry should not be misconstrued as a shared identity. Each country has its own unique football culture, style of play, and identity. The Gambia’s football culture is different from Senegal’s, and this is reflected in the way we play the game, the players we produce, and the way we support our teams.

The idea of a “Senegambia final” is a relic of the past, a remnant of a time when borders were blurred and national identities were muddled. But today, both countries have come into their own, each with its own distinct character and ambitions. To continue to perpetuate this myth is to deny the unique identities of both nations and to disrespect the athletes who represent them.

Furthermore, the idea of a “Senegambia” identity undermines the sovereignty of both countries. It implies that we are not capable of standing on our own and that we need to rely on each other to achieve success. This is a dangerous misconception that can have serious geopolitical implications. We need to recognize that the Gambia and Senegal are independent and sovereign nations, each with its own unique strengths and challenges. By acknowledging this, we can work together as equals to achieve common goals, rather than being subsumed under a false sense of shared identity.

The upcoming Africa U20 championship final between The Gambia and Senegal is yet another opportunity for these two countries to demonstrate their individual strengths and rise to the occasion. It is not a “Senegambia final”, but rather a match between two sovereign nations with distinct identities and histories. This is not just about sports, but about pride and prejudice. Senegal’s hostility towards Gambia is not limited to sports, but extends to politics and other areas of life as well. It is time to reject the notion of Senegambia and acknowledge The Gambia and Senegal as independent nations with their own unique identities and aspirations.

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It is time for the Gambia and Senegal to shed the labels of “Senegambia” and “Senegambia Final” and embrace their own identities as sovereign and independent countries.
The myth of a unified Senegambia on the sports field perpetuates a false narrative that undermines the unique histories and cultures of each nation. It is time to recognize that the sporting rivalry between these two countries is not just about the game, but about national pride, individuality and the struggle for recognition on a global stage.

The truth is that there is no such thing as a ”Senegambia Final” when it comes to football. It’s the Gambia against Senegal, each independent and sovereign country wanting to rise to the occasion with an identity different from the other. We must now embrace this truth, no matter how painful it may be, and move forward with a clear understanding of our place in the football world. The so-called “Senegambia final” is nothing more than a fanciful figment of the imagination. It’s The Gambia vs Senegal, Period!!!

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