SEARCHING FOR AND RECOGNIZING SEVERAL FACES OF BASSE FOOTBALL
January 4th, 2011
During a recent trip to The Gambia, the author went on searching for individuals who brought name and recognition to Basse football. These individuals were some of Basse’s finest sportsmen and community leaders. They were an inspiration to many youths in Basse. He discussed the Basse Association with them and the way forward for a united front.
*By Ousainou Krubally
As you all know, we were taught during our youthful days that society flourished through the mutual existence and aid of human beings. Individualism has to be subjected to the collective will. It is the old saying that a house divided against itself shall not stand. And that is why the Basse Association is working hard towards uniting the Basse people and rendering service to the Basse community.
This is a story about some Basse brothers who can be called legends in Basse sports. It is important to bring to the attention of the present generation what the contributions of these brothers were. Precisely, what these people have done for Basse sports. I had the privilege to interview some of them and also to have their photos taken to help refresh the memories of those of you who knew them before. My search started in Mansajang Kunda with Peter “Blood” Baldeh. The history of Manju FC can’t be told in full without mentioning Blood. He was their anchor in the defense. He often wore an afro; this gave him a menacing look to the forwards that came his way. Blood is at home working for the government in the agricultural field. He can be spotted playing scrabble with folks in town.
Michael H. Secka Peter (Blood) Baldeh
I also met with Micheal H. Secka, Foday Manneh, Mamadi Nkrumah, Faburama Manneh also known as (SAMATOE), Sarjo Mendy and Abdou Jallow. These were important people in Basse football. Foday was a stellar player for Manneh Kunda’s Kuteh Jungbulu until a leg fracture ended his career. His fellow Manneh Kundanka Faburama was the “Njirri” man for Kuteh. He was well known in Basse football circles. He told me recently that his “Njirri” exploits were still available. He said he didn’t do them anymore because the passions for the sports and the collective attitudes have not been helpful. Michael was both a footballer and a manager. He had a huge following among the youths. He was a positive force for the continued growth and development of Basse United FC. Nkrumah also played at the High Level. He was well versed in the processes of Nawetaans.
Faburama Manneh Foday Manneh
In the Kombos, I met members of the former Jattas football club. They were often high schoolers in Banjul who would come home to Basse during summer vacations and play Nawetaan. They combined educational talents with football skills. They were sportsmen who knew how to use sports as a means to constructive camaraderie. After the end of matches, they would be seen strolling in town in groups. They would go about town in a spirit of dutiful companionship. They laid the foundation for the higher intellectual abilities of our youth and encouraged us to believe in education. These individuals were looked at as role models for the younger generation. They were the best students and best boys known in town, who are now some of the best in their professions.
Mamadi Nkrumah Haruna Jobe
We, the Basse Association, have already started giving something back to our community. But we could do more if we succeeded in bringing together more people particularly these brothers. To do good and that which must be permanent, we have to be open to public opinion. There is no better example of the price one has to pay in doing well for your own community. The character and the qualification of these brothers in those days in Basse must be recognized; it’s a duty upon me as a sport officer to bring the efforts of these brothers to light. My share of the work of the world may be limited, but it is a fact that the world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of heroes, but also by the combined efforts of each person. In talking to these brothers recently, I realized what a mass of talents and experience we have in our midst. We do not need to search for brainpower elsewhere. We have it right within ourselves. We should encourage each other.
Salifu Kamara Kindi (Boy) Jallow
My first contact was Salifu K. S. Kamara, the Chief Accountant at the (GTTI). He was a prominent member of the Jattas football club. He was a much feared defender, for he was a slasher. His boots had the rough edges of a cutlass. You couldn’t dribble past him. He was too slick for unsuspecting forwards. I had heard that he worked with the GTTI. So I paid him a visit, but unfortunately, he was in a meeting. I luckily asked a student in the institute who happened to have his telephone number. It is difficult to be creative about everything all the time especially in my case here since I was on vacation. I had to be quick with my feet in the interest of time. I phoned Mr. Kamara the next day to tell him who I was. Actually, he could not remember me for the simple fact that there are so many people of the same name in Basse. The old African tradition came to mind. I thought about just visiting him without an appointment, and believe me, it worked!
I had two important messages that I had loved to convey to him, but I was not sure whether my messages were good enough to walk into his office with that early morning. I knocked at his office and I heard him say ‘come in please’. Wow! I can’t express how happy I was when he looked at me with a big Kamara kunda killer smile. He was so surprised and started with, ‘Oh no Ous, how can I remember you through the phone?’ He was preparing the salaries of this institution at the time and he completely stopped just to hear my message from the Basse Association. I told him about what the BA has accomplished within its first year and the memorial trophy which was also in the name of his cousin Basiru Fofana. Mr. Kamara was looking at me directly in the eye. He was very impressed with all the information. When I asked him about football, he just smiled and said that when he played, he was always steady and he “destroyed” his opponents. I thanked Mr. Kamara and also apologized to him because it was inappropriate for me to walk in his office without an appointment. He just told me to consider it a brotherly issue and he was so much happy to see me. He suggested that I go to his brother Alfusainey Kamara relaying the same message from the Basse Association.
For people like Salifu Kamara and his colleagues, it was my impression that they had been inspired by brothers like Amat Jaw, Tombong Camara, Musa K Jallow, Momodou Selu Bah, Star Jallow and so many others. I took Salifu´s advice by calling Alfusainey Kamara. Alfu and Papa Keita were the duo that often went into the second half of matches for Jattas. They were the game-changer players. And their arrival in the game would often change the game’s dynamics in Jattas’s favor.
Alfusainey Kamara Yusu Keita
Alfusainey is now the manager of the Five Star Hotel OCEAN BAY in Bakau Cape Point. I tried to call him, but the phone was always busy and I kept trying until I got him. As soon as I explained to him how I got his number and gave him the details of my visit, he took a deep breath. "Who do you say you are?” He asked. I said my name once more and told him that his brother had directed me to him, but I told him I would understand his inability to meet with me because his brother Salifu had already told me how busy he was and that he had barely any time for social events. “Yes he is right, I do not have time at all especially today because I have so many visiting dignitaries in the hotel,” he said. I then apologized to him for any interruptions. I suspected, however, that he was being inquisitive to know who I was and what the Basse Association was about. A few minutes later, my phone rang; it was him. He said, "Ous where are you right now?” I had already arrived in Sukuta by then. He asked me to come by to meet him at the hotel at one o´clock. “I will see you then and no African time please,” he urged me.
It was as a dream-come true to have an appointment with the busiest man I have ever seen. As I came at the main entrance of the hotel, the security alone told me everything. I hesitated to approach the security, but I found the gentleman very businesslike. I told him of my appointment with the manager. I was escorted to the reception area, which was well decorated with African arts and adorned by heavy buffalo-leather couches. I felt privileged and honored. One of the things I discovered about Alfusainey was that he was a stickler for punctuality. Right on time, he appeared to tell me that he would be back to see me. He was attending to some government matters at the time. He ordered lemon juice for me while I waited in the receptionist’s balcony. I was having my drink when all of a sudden I saw a gentleman in his well-pressed suit walking towards my direction. I could not believe my eyes, because I was looking at one of the great football players from Basse. I called his name as younger people call the big brother, (Koto Kindi). It was wonderful to meet with Kindi “Boy” Jallow, the former Saint Augustine’s star and Brazil FC central defender. We talked about the Basse Association. He thanked me for letting him know about what is going on in Basse and assured me that he would be there at any time we may need his service. Kindi also works at the hotel.
Waiting for Alfusainey Kamara taught me a lot about the value of education and the idea that leadership is at its most fundamental when it is about moving people in a certain direction usually through changing the direction of their thinking and their actions. The way to do that is not necessarily by charging out front and saying, follow me, but by empowering or pushing others to move forward ahead of you. It is through empowering others that we impart our own leadership or ideas. I learned all this while waiting for this brother, because his staff kept coming in to talk to some of the delegates and they would just leave. I was the special one; and Alfusainey came by to say hello. We chatted about the Basse Association. He fired some questions. I gave him all the details about the Basse Association and our ongoing projects like the memorial trophy. He was moved by the BA-sponsored memorial trophy which was staked for deceased Basse footballers including his own cousin Basiru Fofana a.k.a. Captain Yiks. He was surprised that we were able to conduct such an important program within one year. I was pleasantly surprised when he made a call to someone telling him that he was on a special discussion about Basse. And, interestingly enough, the individual on the other line happened to be fellow Basserian Ousman Sidibeh, the former captain for Jattas. “I would like you to go to him,” Alfusainey suggested. Sidibeh works for NAWEC.
In my discussion with AK as he was fondly called, I realized he had a lot of interest in matters Basse. He was very positive in his criticisms about the failure of so many Basse associations and I could understand him. I assured him that it would be different this time because we have dedicated members who would do everything possible to keep the BA alive. He also thanked me for the information and said he would be very happy to be a part of every project we may want to execute in The Gambia. “You can go to Ousman Sidibeh, we are all in for Basse,” he said.
I drove to Sidibeh’s Westfield office. But because I didn’t have my ID card on me, I couldn’t be given security clearance to get into the premises. My passport wasn’t enough for the security officer. So I had to call Sidibeh to inform him about the security clearance. He came to the gate to clear the situation for me and I was allowed to drive in. As a mark of cordiality, the head of security asked why I did not tell them that I was visiting Ousman Sidibeh. I just smiled and said sorry and told him will do as suggested the next time. Sidibeh was very much happy to see me and he was exceptional in explaining the difficulties of their respective Basse Kombo societies of those days. He said, ‘well you can see that we are all married and also having a job like this one would not allow enough time.’ One story lead to the other and finally we both agreed that they had set the course for us to follow, and that we were happy that the time had come for Basse people to steer the ship together.
The link opened up towards Banjul, because I was sent to Yusu Keita through Sidibeh, who phoned to fix an appointment for me the next day. Yusu was a midfield player during his days at the High Level. He is now a Guarantee Trust Bank Manager in Banjul. I had the privilege to meet him at the Bank. I gave him the details of my visit and he showed his appreciation for the BA initiative. He said he felt a little bit bad because he had last called Sidibeh one year ago. “Can you image that we are all living here and you are coming all the way from Europe to inform me about the development of Basse. This way of thinking is demanding, even if we remain wedded to our point of view, it requires us to put ourselves in the shoes of those of whom we disagree with. And I am very happy that brothers like you are still out there thinking about initiating development programs for Basse. There is nothing that will make me happy than to join you in implementing some of these programs in The Gambia if I am informed at the right time.” I thanked Yusu for having the patience to listen to me despite the fact that he had a busy schedule. I assured him that because we are all one and our family ties in Basse run deep and wide, we just have to continue to work together for the community. I told him it was the nature of Basse brotherhood to keep on working together.
I also met brother Haruna Jobe, the co-founder of the Basse United football club. A native of Jobe Kunda, Haruna was also a teacher at the Saint George’s secondary technical school. He already knew about the BA because he did share very important ideas on the BA forum on the website. I met him in his office at the Gambia Environmental Agency where he welcomed me and, well as you would imagine, our conversation was all about Basse. Haruna is an important son and friend of Basse who has been very instrumental in the development of sports in the town. He, like others aforementioned, was looked on with awe and inspiration by the youths of Basse.
Ousman Sidibeh Pa Dodou Sarr
One of these men is Pa Dudu Sarr and I think most of you will remember this name. I visited him in Mansa Konko where he works for the Gambia fire service. During his days in Basse, he dedicated his time in preparing most of us in the game of football and he also played so many games for the Basse Eleven in those days. Pa Dudu was a towering defender for the much loved Bob Marley team in Basse. He was quick and skillful. And he endured because he was always fit. In the evenings at the High Level, he would lead group exercises in and around the field. His training schedules were rigorous. You had to be mentally prepared for his regimen. Pa Dudu loved the game and he was keen to train and teach young and upcoming football stars.
Finally, I wish to thank all of you for reading me and I would like to apologize for not completing my research because I have missed some very important people in this mission. There were some brothers recommended to me. They were members of the Jattas football club. I tried to reach them, but to no avail. These were the brothers I could not reach –Abdoulie cham, Cherno Jallow (Najo), Assan Jallow (Bapa Chana). I will be very grateful if anyone of us could reach out to them on behalf of the BA.
Fulladu FC of Basse (1980's)
Std from Left -R: Sellou Bah, X, Mohammed, X, Sarjo Mendy, Tijan Njie, Saidy Touray, Bademba Camara, X,
Inset: Abdou Kamara, Sitting Left - R: Pa Doudou Sarr, Bass Fofona (RIP), Solo, Boy Njie, Karo Baldeh (Bembeya) and Lie Cham
(Photo Credit/Lie Cham)
To my amazement and joy, all the brothers I met had one thing in mind, and that is to go back to Basse for a family reunion. It was a nice sort of surprise, the kind that makes one feel less lonely in this World. Collectively We Can Make A Difference.
*With additional information by Cherno Baba Jallow
Ousainou Krubally is the Sports Secretary of the Basse Association, Inc. He lives in Koln, Germany.