September 10th, 2010 | Published in Sports
|Timbers defender Mamadou “Futty” Danso traveled for 27 or 28 hours to join the Gambia national team in the Cup of African Nations.
Photo: Dustin Eppers/EnzymePDX
Timbers defender Mamadou “Futty” Danso, 27, suited up for the first time for his home nation of The Gambia in front of nearly 20,000 loyal fans last Sunday for a Cup of African Nations qualifying match against Namibia. Danso didn’t see any action as his side won easily, 3-1, on a rain-soaked pitch near the capital of Banjul, which like the rest of the tiny, narrow West African country, sits on the Gambia River. But Danso, in his second season with the Timbers, told EnzymePDX that for him and his teammates, just getting to the stadium was a feat.
Q. You’ve been on a whirlwind over the last week.
DANSO: Traveling for 27 or 28 hours is not fun. Still, I have to do it. As a professional soccer player you can expect stuff like this, especially if you’re on the other side of the world playing for Portland and you’re from Gambia.
Q. This was not your first call-up?
DANSO: I’ve suited up for U23, U20 and U17 sides. I’ve gotten called up a few times by the national team before, but I didn’t want to play. Either I’d just gotten out of school and travel wise it was going to be tough with my visa. That was until [the Timbers] came through with my visa. The last time I was home we had a test game and it was the first time I’d been home in four or five years. But I just wanted to dedicate my time to my family instead of going to Europe to play the match. So I just told the [national team] maybe next time. This was the time.
Q. Why have you guys never qualified for the Cup of African Nations?
DANSO: Before the biggest issue was finance. We have at least 26 pros playing abroad. They need a lot of money to fly everybody back and that used to be one of the issues. You used to pay for your own flight and then they will refund it to you, who knows when. Now they’ll pay for it. The president and the sport minister have all put in effort. So they have the chance to call up anybody they want to and that helps. This last team was basically foreign-based players.
Q. So if everybody is able to make it back to play, this campaign will be different?
DANSO: This was one of our biggest wins ever. Everybody’s thinking we’re going to qualify for [Cup of African Nations] this time. We have two more games in our group and the top two teams qualify. We only need a tie away and win one at home. We’re very good at home, though we don’t have good results away. So we play at Burkina Faso on the eighth of next month. If we have any kind of result, we’re likely going to qualify for the first time in our country’s history.