FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England forward Kenny Mansally traveled halfway across the world to link up with his Gambian teammates for this past Saturday's African Cup of Nations qualifier with Burkina Faso.
The long journey did not turn out as he had planned.
Mansally remained rooted to the bench as the Scorpions conceded an equalizer in second-half stoppage time to the eventual Group F winners and squandered the advantage gained by Futty Danso's headed opener.
After returning to New England earlier this week, Mansally said he featured in the first team during Gambia's training sessions prior to the game and expressed his surprise that he did not feature at all in the 1-1 draw.
That shock and the absence of the playing time, however, doesn’t diminish Mansally's desire to join his international teammates in the future.
“I was a little bit surprised, but, for me, it's my country, Gambia,” Mansally told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “Any time they call me, I want to go and I have to go and represent my country.”
The draw and the overall performance prompted plaudits from a federation official in the local papers after the match, but it left the Gambians out of the reckoning for next year's tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and raised questions about the future of coach Paul Put as the national team manager.
It may take some time to sort out Put's future with the side, but the Gambians will soon turn their focus to qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Mansally said that this Cup of Nations campaign may not have ended with a cherished berth in the tournament, but it did help prepare the squad for the challenges Ivory Coast, Morocco and either Chad or Tanzania will pose when the second round of World Cup qualifying starts next year.
“At least we got more experience this year,” Mansally said. “We hope next year that we will prevail [in World Cup qualifying].”