AFCON 2023: Super Eagles-linked Tom Saintfiet resigns as Gambia’s coach after Nations Cup exit

Tom Saintfiet in the dugout for The Gambia || Image credit: Imago

AFCON 2023: Super Eagles-linked Tom Saintfiet resigns as Gambia’s coach after Nations Cup exit

Faruq Ibrahim 19:01 - 24.01.2024

Belgian manager Tom Saintfiet, who has previously expressed his desire to coach the Super Eagles, has left his role as Gambia boss following the AFCON exit.

Tom Saintfiet, the head coach of The Gambia's national football team, has announced his resignation following the team's group-stage exit from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. 

The Scorpions, as they are popularly known, finished at the bottom of Group C after facing three consecutive defeats, the last being a 3-2 loss to Cameroon.

End of an Era for The Gambia

Saintfiet's tenure, which began in 2018, was marked by significant achievements, including leading the team to the quarterfinals of the 2021 Afcon on their debut. This remarkable feat was a highlight for the West African team, but replicating this success in Ivory Coast proved elusive for the Belgian coach.

Under Saintfiet's guidance, The Gambia rose in the world rankings from 168th to 126th, a testament to his impact on the team. His last match against Cameroon was his 100th as an international coach. 

Despite their heroic run in the previous Afcon, where they beat notable teams like Mauritania, Tunisia, and Guinea, The Gambia faced a challenging 2023 campaign. They started with a 3-0 loss to Senegal and then a 1-0 defeat against Guinea.

Belgian manager Tom Saintfiet || Image credit: Imago
Belgian manager Tom Saintfiet || Image credit: Imago

Saintfiet's coaching journey is extensive, with experience across four different Fifa confederations and several African nations, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Togo. 

The Gambia's preparation for this year's Afcon was fraught with difficulties, including being caught in the devastating earthquake in Marrakesh last September and dealing with internal team issues like the squad boycotting training over bonus payments.

The Gambia Football Federation acknowledged Saintfiet's contribution, stating, "Thank you for your service, gaffer. Gambia will indeed miss a great tactician." 

Saintfiet has previously stated his desire to coach Nigeria, stating that the Super Eagles job is his dream. An early exit from the AFCON could see the NFF look towards the Belgian tactician.

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