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Assan Ceesay: The Gambia striker’s learning curve in Switzerland

Assan Ceesay in action for FC Zurich
Assan Ceesay joined FC Zurich from Lugano in 2018

Gambia striker Assan Ceesay believes a trial loan in Germany helped him become a title winner with FC Zürich in Switzerland.

The 28-year-old played a key role in FC Zurich’s triumph this season that ended their 12-year wait for a league title.

He scored 20 goals and provided 10 assists in 33 games to help the club to their 13th Swiss Super League crown.

“We played a lot of good games and were consistent and personally it was my best season as a professional,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“So it’s an unforgettable season that I will never forget. It’s my first professional title.”

He admits that success was not easy to achieve.

The forward has been loaned out to German Bundesliga club Vfl Osnabrück for the second half of the 2019/20 season but thinks it’s a good thing after struggling to get playing time at FC Zurich.

“Sometimes it’s important as a player when things don’t go well [well] On your side, you need to change a bit and maybe borrow and come back or try something new,” Ceesay said.

“It was good for me that I went to VfL Osnabrück during the pandemic. It wasn’t easy there, but I tried to find my way and adapt.

“We played without fans, so it was a bit boring, but it helped me a lot this season when I returned to FC Zurich.

“I learned a lot of things in Germany. Their style of play is more physical than in Switzerland. When I came back it helped me a lot and I have no regrets going to Germany.”

Looking to the future with confidence

Gambia and Assan Ceesay from FC Zurich celebrate
Ceesay is without a contract at the end of June – but could stay with FC Zurich

On his return to Zurich, Ceesay enjoyed more playing time but found it harder to score – he finished the 2020-21 season with four goals in 33 games.

“As a striker you need confidence, you have to work hard and try to work on your weaknesses and everything clicked for me this season,” he explained.

“We got a new coach (Germany’s Andre Breitenreiter) who was a striker. He helped me a lot with my graduation, but not only me – [on] the whole team he has improved many players.

“We had a nice run this season. It was good that I scored a lot of goals and he taught me a lot. He always tells me: ‘Whatever you need, come and tell me’.

“People always expect me to score and I did it and helped the team win the league.”

The Gambier’s contract will expire at the end of June but he is in no rush to decide his future.

FC Zurich has offered him a new contract, and overseas clubs are also after his signature.

“They (FC Zurich) want me to extend and they are thinking about it,” he added.

“I get other offers from other leagues and other countries in Europe and outside of Europe, but what’s more important is to focus on the club you have a contract with.

“My agent is doing the work and at the end of the season I’m going to see what’s best for me because I have to look at what’s best for me and what’s best for my family and discuss it with them.

“I want to achieve many things. I want a challenge and everyone wants to play in the big leagues, but you have to figure out what’s best for you first.

“At the end of the season I’ll see what’s best for me and we’ll see.”

Targeting the Nations Cup again

Assan Ceesay in action for The Gambia
Ceesay has scored 13 goals in 29 caps for The Gambia

Ceesay is his country’s top scorer and he played like them qualified for the first finals of the Africa Cup of Nations last year.

He scored three goals in Nations Cup qualifiers, all against Angola. He scored twice in Luanda to give Gambia their first competitive away win before securing Cameroon’s place at home with the only goal.

However, the FC Zurich ace couldn’t score as well as they did during his side’s historic run at the finals in Cameroon reached the quarterfinals.

Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet and Scorpions fans are hoping Ceesay can repeat his club form as the Nations Cup 2023 qualifying campaign resumes.

The Scorpions, who defeated Chad in the preliminary round, now play as The Gambia in a home game against South Sudan in the Senegalese city of Thies on 4 June currently do not have a stadium where international matches can be played.

Four days later they travel to Brazzaville to play Congo and in September they play back-to-back Mali.

“These are the most important games in qualifying so far, because you need points in the first two games,” emphasized Ceesay

“You don’t have to lose because it can damage you mentally and take away your confidence.

“The first two or three games are the most important and the most difficult games. We’ll do our best and try to get six or four points, but we can’t think about losing.”

“We enjoyed Afcon last time and don’t want to miss it again. We know what it feels like to be at Afcon and we want to be there every time.”

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