Forty years ago, this 1979 Gambian national team roared

Friday, March 01, 2019

In January 1979, the trio of Coaches Maccoumba Kabba Jallow (RIP), Kebba Njie Master (RIP) and Mass Axi Gai assembled the greatest of Gambian football talents ever put together and set out for the Portuguese Colony of Guinea Bissau for the Amilca Cabral football tournament, then an annual West African football festival.

This certainly was the advent of the evolution of Gambian football after crushing defeats at the hands of the Ghana Black Stars at Accra Sports Stadium and in Conakry at the hands of Sylli National.

In 1977, a new Football Association was ushered in to fix Gambian football and renowned and celebrated Gambian Surgeon, Dr. Ebrima Malick Samba (RIP) was at the helm with the calm and smart Anthony LR Blain (RIP); his Secretary General.

Theirs was to fix the football mess in the shortest period and return the game to a permanent executive.

In a year, they turned a terrible football programme to decent and handed over to a tall Hausa Man, Boukarry Fofana as president and the late Momodou M Dibba as Secretary General, a man that I regard as the best football administrator of Gambian football ever.

It was certainly not business as usual. They came in with a team that included the likes of Mustapha M Ngum, the late Babou Cisse, Uncle Hassan Jallow, Mr. Alieu Mboge and others I may not remember at this time.

Thereat, their first goal was to put Gambia’s name in the respected column of African football for that was the first ‘must’ attain objective laid before them by Gambia’s best known and most respected international Sports Personality in Alhagie Omar Barrou Sey, the Sports Director and who is now passed.

Maccoumba Kabba Jallow (MI) who by the way, I have always regarded as the best Gambian football brain was assigned to be the Head Coach with Mass Axi Gai and Kebba Njie Master as his Assistants.

Their first task was to put together the best squad and I would be told later that 1979 Squad was the first ever team assembled without interference. If that was the case, it showed for the team headed into Bissau roaring like the trucks descending the hills of Sankoli Kunda.

The newest discoveries of that season were from the other side of Denton Bridge, precisely Serrekunda and they were Goalkeeper Babou Saho (RIP) and Lamin Jah, aka Lamin Owens Lor Def Bahna courtesy of Radio Gambia’s great Saul Njie. AC Conteh, Commy Owens, Bill Badjie, Garba Touray, Bladder Sibi, Baboucarr Bah Edakarr and Ayo Jobe were selected to man the back line.

The midfielders were led by team Captain Abdoulie “Star” Jallow who to this day is hailed and adored for his leadership qualities which may have been adopted from the High level playing ground just outside the main road in that beautiful and culturally rich Basse Metropolis.

Baboucarr Sowe Laos, Amat “Taan” Joof, Sheriff Jobe, Saihou Sarr, Ebou Kah ( EK) made up a formidable midfield that the likes of Boy Bandit and Mbaye Fall of Senegal were intimidated by upfront; the King himself, Alhagie Njie Biri, Ndow Njie, Salimong Nyassi Dalasi, Tony Joiner, Charlie Boy, MaLamin Badjie, Essa faye, Alagie Nyan , Modou Musa and the young Saul Samba aka Pitty Baba Ndeysan!

Author: Tijan Masanneh Ceesay
Source: Picture: Gambia national team 1979