In a gripping tale of resilience and dedication to their nation, Gambia’s captain, Omar Colley, shared his harrowing experience of being caught up in the devastating earthquake in Morocco just before The Gambia’s crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville.
The Gambian national team had traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco, for their final Afcon qualifier since there was no suitable stadium in The Gambia to host international football. However, fate had a different plan. A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck nearby, claiming nearly 3,000 lives, and leaving Colley and his teammates in a state of shock and disbelief.
Colley, a 30-year-old defender who had recently joined Turkish side Besiktas, described the terrifying moments as he experienced the earthquake. “I was deep asleep when it happened – it was like I was having a nightmare – and I woke instantly without knowing what was happening,” he recounted. Colley’s instinct to escape to safety led him on a frantic journey within the hotel as concrete and glass fell around him.
The traumatic experience took a toll on Colley, causing him to suffer a panic attack, which he had never experienced before in his life. Despite the devastation all around them, The Gambia had to play their crucial qualifier within 48 hours, which required immense mental and emotional strength.
Colley expressed his sadness at the situation, questioning the decision to proceed with the match while the country was still reeling from the earthquake’s aftermath. The coach, Tom Saintfiet, also raised ethical concerns about deploying medical staff to the match when there were more pressing priorities.
In the midst of this turmoil, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) accepted Morocco’s request to postpone their tie against Liberia, acknowledging the direct impact of the tragedy on the hosts. However, the Gambian delegation did not propose a similar delay.
Colley expressed his disappointment, emphasizing the human aspect of the situation. “I think people sometimes forget that we are human beings,” he said, highlighting the emotional strain on the players who had to hide their emotions and feelings before playing a challenging game.
Despite these challenges, The Gambia’s national team displayed remarkable resilience and determination on the field. Down by two goals with only 11 minutes remaining, they executed a stunning comeback, securing their spot in the Afcon finals with a 90th-minute equalizer.
Muhammed Badamosi, a key player in this remarkable comeback, described the emotions surrounding the achievement. “It was emotional, made me feel proud, and I understood what qualifying for the Nations Cup means for people back home,” he said.
While Gambians celebrated their team’s qualification, they did so with a sense of restraint and respect for the Moroccan people who were mourning their losses. The Gambian delegation contributed by participating in blood donation drives and offering financial support for the earthquake victims, showcasing their solidarity in the face of adversity.
Captain Omar Colley’s story is a testament to the resilience and determination of athletes who, even in the most challenging circumstances, find the strength to represent their nation with honor and pride. The Gambia’s qualification for the Afcon finals will forever be intertwined with the memory of the Morocco earthquake, a story of triumph amid tragedy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about earthquake ordeal
Q: What was the magnitude of the earthquake that struck Morocco before Gambia’s Afcon qualification match?
A: The earthquake that struck Morocco before Gambia’s Afcon qualification match had a magnitude of 6.8.
Q: How did Captain Omar Colley react when the earthquake occurred?
A: Captain Omar Colley described the moment as a “nightmare.” He woke up abruptly, and the experience left him in a state of shock. He also suffered a panic attack, which was the first of his life.
Q: Why did The Gambia have to play their Afcon qualifier so soon after the earthquake?
A: Despite the earthquake’s devastating impact, The Gambia had to play their crucial Afcon qualifier within 48 hours due to scheduling constraints.
Q: Did The Gambia’s national team win their Afcon qualifier despite the challenging circumstances?
A: Yes, despite being down by two goals with only 11 minutes remaining, The Gambia’s national team executed a remarkable comeback and secured their spot in the Afcon finals with a 90th-minute equalizer.
Q: How did the Gambian delegation show support for the earthquake victims in Morocco?
A: The Gambian delegation showed their support by participating in blood donation drives and offering financial contributions to assist the earthquake victims, demonstrating their solidarity and compassion.
Q: Who raised concerns about the ethics of deploying medical staff to the football match in the wake of the earthquake?
A: The Gambia’s coach, Tom Saintfiet, raised ethical concerns about deploying medical staff to the football match given the more pressing priorities in the aftermath of the earthquake.
More about earthquake ordeal
- [Morocco earthquake: What we know](insert link here)
- [Gambia qualify for Afcon in earthquake-hit Marrakesh](insert link here)
- [‘It was total chaos’: Voices from the earthquake](insert link here)
- [When scorpions sting – how The Gambia reached Afcon last eight](insert link here)