This news was announced by the President of the GFF, Mr. Lamin Kaba Bajo at a signing ceremony held at the Scorpions Team Hotel in Kinshasa this morning. The signing was held between the Federation and the Belgian, who turned 48 today, after which Tom described himself as the ‘Smiling Coach of The Gambia’.
Mr. Saintfiet has been Scorpions Coach since 2018, and his
contract extension came after he turned the fortunes of the team from
underachievers to ending a near 70-year-old wait for a first AFCON finals spot
with qualification to Cameroon 2022 secured in Banjul on Thursday.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr. Bajo said qualifying to
Cameroon was one of the main obligations on the side of the Coach, describing
last week’s success as a significant achievement for Gambian football. He noted
that it is the right moment to extend the union.
“He has proven his worth and the whole football family is
satisfied with him. This new contract will avail us the opportunity for
continuity and he will lead us to the 2022 AFCON Finals, the 2023 and 2025
editions as well as the 2026 World Cup qualifiers,” Mr. Bajo affirmed.
The GFF boss also thanked the
Government of The Gambia, through the Ministry of Youth & Sports, for the
collaboration and support. He further noted that they’ve all agreed on the
terms and conditions of the Coach’s latest contract. He added that the GFF is
very much aware and appreciative of the government’s commitment and
collaboration, especially in terms of senior national team matters.
The Minister of Youth & Sports, Honourable Bakary Y. Badjie,
for his part, said his Ministry is very glad to be part of what he described as
marking the end of a very successful tenure to the beginning of another. He
said Tom Saintfiet is the best Coach that The Gambia ever had in recent times.
The Minister added that the recent developments came out of the
Coach’s ability to prove to every Gambian that he is worth his salt to qualify
us to our maiden AFCON. He further noted that though there were lots of doubts
about the Belgian, when he was appointed for the first time three years ago,
the leadership at Football House and MOYS always had confidence and believe in
“He has a lot of qualities and the competence to transform the
team to be in par with the big footballing nations, whom he has beaten both
home and away. We’re still celebrating and this is the best time to continue
having fulfilled a cardinal condition of his contract in completing the task,”
Honourable Badjie said, adding that Tom Saintfiet’s name will remain in Gambian
He also hailed the GFF for the efforts they’ve put in place by
putting in the funds at the right times in footing the bills of the Coach.
Minister Badjie further described the Senior National Team as a priority and
assured his Ministry’s collaboration to further improve the working relations
with Football House.
Saintfiet began by thanking the GFF boss for believing in him
and giving him the initial contract in the first place and supporting him
irrespective of the environment or circumstances, without which, he added, the
collective success registered wouldn’t have been possible. He also attributed
the success as a team effort with his coaching staff, describing Team Manager
Ousman Drammeh as the best in the world.
“There is also an impressive input from the Ministry. We
couldn’t do it alone so everyone was part of the success, most especially all
the players, who were the reason I came here. The Gambia is the smiling coast
of Africa and I’m honoured to be the smiling coach of The Gambia,” he added,
disclosing that this is the third time he has ever extended a contract, two of
which came with The Gambia. “Our dream is to go further after achieving this
AFCON. We want to be regulars in the AFCON and be successful and we have a good
team that has beaten big boys and we’re never afraid of anyone.”
He concluded by stating that his biggest dream would be to
deliver a 2026 FIFA World Cup spot for The Gambia and with the expansion of the
tournament to 48 teams, nine of which will come from Africa, he added, it is
indeed a realistic target.