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Encounter with Tijan Massaneh Ceesay... Part 3

Dec 29, 2009, 1:32 PM | Article By: Lamin Cham

As promised the much anticipated Part Three, "Encounter with Tijan Massaneh Ceesay is ready and here we go. www.Gamsports.com is extremely pleased to announce that we received many positive feedbacks on Part one and two and as a matter of fact those series were amongst our most read pieces. The answers were factual and captivating to say the least; therefore here is part three as we speak to the man who covered almost every sporting discipline in The Gambia and sat next to the iconic broadcaster and legend, Saul Njie for many years. Please enjoy this latest lively interesting chat Tijan had with our Managing Editor, Lamin Cham.

Lamin Cham: Before we touch on other disciplines, can you comment on the ongoing issue regarding the Gambian Baby Scorpions and the GFA reaction?
Tijan: I guess I have already spoken on that and I believe mistakes were made in addressing the issue and that is not unusual in the administration of Gambian football. I hope this is a wake up call and they will do things differently. At the same time I do believe they wanted better results but with everything that went down before the team made it to Calabar, the results were inevitable. I just hope the fans and the FA will work hand in glove to resolve these issues and move on... there is a lot in front of Gambian football and great results are attainable if the approach is changed... paramount among which is preparation in a timely manner.

Lamin Cham: Do you think that the FA should resign or be fired?
Tijan: Cham Demba that question is really not for me to answer. I am just a fan... Gambian football has its stakeholders and they are in a better position to address this subject matter. All I can say is that the stakeholders created a precedence when they called for a congress and voted Gabbi Sosseh out, maybe the Calabar melt down could be another reason to call another congress to measure the confidence of the stakeholders and the clubs in the current FA.

Lamin Cham: Do you see a way out of the current dilemma?

Tijan: Absolutely, there's a way out of every predicament and my suggestion would center around the many veteran football administrators that the FA can reach out to and may be have them serve in an advisory capacity. You see, there are lots of seasoned football administrators and I know many, Axi Gai, Kabba Jallow, kebba Ceesay, Ebou Joof, Lie Corr, Charles Thomas, Augustus Prom, Ousman Saho (Brikama), Alieu Koroma, Tom King, Babou Cisse, Alhagi Omar Sey, MO Njie, Adama Hala Samba, Baboucarr Barrow, Sam Thorpe, Alagie Sillah, Silas Jones, Soggi Sock and the list can go on forever; mind you these are proven football administrators that have been quite successful in the game and I bet they can serve as another set of eyes for this FA or any other.

Lamin Cham: After the two series of interviews we did with you, many people wrote to us appreciating the memories and the interviews, some even say you are legend, what is your take on this?
Tijan: Humility of course but I am no LEGEND. The legends are the Lamin Owens's, Biris, Essa Fayes, Lie Ndures, Belai Proms, Saihou Sarrs, Yusupha Sibis, Ablie Jagnes, Dodou Saines, Yamide Aminata Sowes, Nana Aikinss, Haddy Jayes, Dodou Joofs, Kemo Fatajos, Mam Essa Gayes, Sunny Joiners, Bambo Fattys, Adiatou Cokers, Amie Burry Mbyes, Banana Jarjus, Ndow Njies, Jalang's; Sheikh Fayes, Aziz Corr (Original), Commy Owens's, Garba Tourays, Edith Jones's, Dinny Boys, Pa Mu Ndows, Peter Proms, Olufemi Moores, Assan Kujabis, Jumai Saidys, Paul Ogoos, Bill Badjies, EKs, Saihou Sarrs and many more that have suited up for The Gambia in  various sporting disciplines and brought their respective sports to what it is today only to be forgotten... what a shame... These are the legends. They were the newsmakers, we just covered them!

Lamin Cham: You covered athletics back in the day, what can you share with our readership?

Tijan: Track and Field was quite exciting back in the day. There were some great athletes in both the male and female categories who were just as good as their peers in the continent but had no facilities. I think Banana Jarju and Omar faye were as good as any sprinter in the continent and their results and timings were a testimony to this fact. Georgianna Freeman and Amie Ndow, along side Jabou Jawo, Dado Jah, Francess Aji Bammie Jatta, Victoria Decker, Marie Louise Mendy, Binta Daffeh were also phenomenal athletes in the womens field. Haddy Njie of

Lancaster Street
and from Nusrat High School was the 400 metre Queen. The Gambia Amateur Athletic Association, which I had an opportunity to serve as an announcer for many years had very dedicated people who were very committed to developing the sport and despite the lack of resources, they gave it their all... and I think most of them are still there today giving it their best.

Lamin Cham: Recently an athlete criticised these very people you talked about saying they were selfish and that they were only in the sport for themselves... what's your take on that?
Tijan: Lamin I did read the comments and I must say that is the beauty of Democracy, viz a viz freedom of expression and your right to an opinion. I think the said athlete was speaking based on his own opinion to which he has a right. I do disagree with him though. I know Dodou Joof and one thing I can say is there is no better person of integrity and decency that I had an oppurtunity to work with in sports during my time. This man's life has been athletics and no one worked harder than he did to advance the sport in Gambia... besides he and The GAAA have results to show for their work over the years. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with His Excellency, Mr Lamine Diack, President of the IAAF and he had nothing but praise for The GAAA and the work they were doing as far as developing track and field is concerned. I think we owe them a lot of gratitude for sticking around because really I don't see anything in Gambian track and field, if there is no money to even send the required number of athletes for an International engagement, I am baffled by the "themselves" label.

Lamin Cham: Which athletes would you say dominated their events?
Tijan: Banana Jarju dominated the 100 meters event and I think he held the national record at 10.03 seconds for many years. He had a lot of upper body strength and could get out of the blocks better than anybody I have seen. Omar Faye was the 200 Metre champion. This guy was just a rare breed, he could spark out of the blocks with power and held the same speed in the curve which really dictates a lot in the 200 metres. He was just a joy to watch do his thing... he had a lot of power and to date, I can still relive his upset over Banana Jarju in the 200 Metres in 1979. Bambo Fatty dominated the 400 Metres with his unique style of running, "the gallop", what a site... Georgiana Freeman and Amie Ndow gave us lots of great contests and Jabou Jawo and Binta Daffeh just added to it and if my memory serves me right, at one time, that was The Gambian relay team. How can one forget Ousman Jallow, 'Janni Gage’, the long distance champion for a long time until 1978 when Paul Ceesay beat him in Brikama. The current Secretary General of the GAA Dodou Joof also held the 200 metre record for a long time... He set it at a Commonwealth Games meet.

Lamin Cham: If you were asked to name the greatest Track and Field Athlete who would that be?
Tijan: I think it would be a tie, so I have to choose two. The two greatest Gambian Track and Field Athletes during my time are Banana Jarju and Omar Faye. Banana was a hard worker and preparation and training was a daily ritual. Omar Faye was just a natural talent. What people don't know about his career is that he was forced by Fr Joseph Gough to run for Green House at the St Augustine's High School Inter House Athletics Championship in 1977 and on that day the biggest upset in Gambian track and field history took place because Omar beat the best secondary schools 100 metre champion for many years, Sherrif Mboge and never looked back. Of course I'd have to say Georgiana Freeman is greatest female track athlete in The Gambia.

Lamin Cham: You also covered basketball, can you share something with us? Maybe the biggest thing in Gambian sports that is easily forgotten, Gambian Basketball under Mayor James Furmose Gomez as its President, won the first International Tournament for Gambia in collective sports in 1984 when we beat Mali in the Zone Two Finals in Banjul. I did spend a long time in basketball given that my family had a team back in the day... Masaneh. I was priviledged to see the likes of Mbath, Sengan, Daddy Gomez, Americaine, Luke Bangura, Mam Essa Gaye, Nana and Effuah Aikins, Mario Dupeh, Remi Joiner, Donald Sock, Yamide Aminata Sowe, Katty Wadda, Haddy Sillah, Haddy Jaye, Edith Jones, Yax Jobe, Sherrif Jobe, Mam John Tamba, Felix Ceesay, Lahbi, Bishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson, Olive Johnson, Mam Kumba Ndure, Mai Savage, Hassan Jeng, Malamin Badjie, John and Akoni Roberts, Zack Ceesay, Jim Wadda, Bai Malleh, Alagie Conteh (technical side), Falang Jobe, Ousman Jobe, Baboucarr Mbye, Momodou Sallah, Njoll Bass (RIP), this is way back then... even though it makes me look old, it really makes me want otake Biri's label of me back in the day "DA NGA GOG." You see all these peolple are really forgotten in sports today, but they made basketball what it is today and of course the greatest that ever played in Gambia, Alade Sunny Joiner.
It is also important to note that basketball was almost extinct following the folding of The Gambia Roundball Association. sometime in the mid 70's, Abdoulie Baks Touray, Ousman "Bosmone" Sabally, Sunny Joiner, Saul Samba, Donald Sock, Bai Mass Taal returned home and took over basketball and resurrected the game and a lot of new stars were born... Abi Corr, Neneh Bahoum, Bakoto Mboge, Mary Samba, Awa Jobarteh, Galai Ceesay, Mama Jeng, Binnet Marong, Oumie Ceesay, Okiki Andrews, Marie Louise Mendy (Kadous), Ramou Jeng, Manneh Sillah (RIP), Awa Jeng, Harriet Njie, Amie Sey, Awa Lamin and many more I may have not recalled on the female side. For the male side, I can recall, Saul MCadoo Faye, Louis Thorpe, Max Secka, MO Njie, Dox Badjie, Allador, Pa Boy, Abou Johnson, Omar Jobe, Tallai Sonko, Sam Chapman, Arthur Cates, Ousman Conateh (Tolo), Ousman NJie (Kuuse), Aziz Sallah,and many many more, but it was fun and I am sure Arthur Maxwell can attest to that.

Lamin Cham: Greatest All Round Female Athlete?
Tijan: Awa Jeng hands down. She was a star and I mean a big star in the following events,Track and Field, Basketball, Volleyball, Table tennis and could even play soccer at the time. Binta Daffeh will be a very close second.

Lamin Cham: You just mentioned Biri, tell us something about him as you knew him.
Tijan: Alagie Mada, Magji... thats my man... we go way long and I can say that apart from being the greatest football player in Gambian history, he is one of Gambia's kindest people... Lamin, you know I'd talk trash to him all game when Wallidan was playing against Young Africans and still went to his house after the game. I was delighted to see him honoured again for his services to the nation. Those who did not get to see 'GAINDEH PARK' during his days have really missed out because there are no films on him, a sad story indeed. Biri Biri, Pele La Gambie, The Gambia's Football Ambassador is indeed the greatest and will remain the greatest. I will also want to re echo something you reported on not too long ago, like many football fans, I endorse the idea you pitched, name the Independence Stadium, "ALAGIE MOMODOU NJIE SPORTS COMPLEX... what a beauty. I can't finish without taking a shot at him and it would be... "INSIDE GHANA NA YA AGO..." Sang Ndong knows the rest and I will leave it with him to finish the puzzle.

Lamin Cham: It looks like you all had a lot of fun back then!
Tijan: Lamin, football back in the day was a family affair... we were a fraternity even though we all belonged to different teams. Almost everyone went to everyones house... we really did not have any animosity against one another even though business had to be taken care of come Friday, Saturday or Sunday. We were just one big football family and ofcourse some members of our football family have gone home, but people like Demba Ndow, Baboucarr Bah (Edakarr), Essa Bobb (Sukuro), Dodou Saine (Chana), Babou Touray, Saul Samba (Pitty Baba) will never be forgotten... they did well for the game in The Gambia and hopefully someday down the line we can document Gambian Football history in full and give them the due they really deserve.

Lamin Cham: Any specific memory in Gambian football?

Tijan: There are many but this one I will never forget. It was Real Vs Wallidan and someone was talking trash to Biri from the fence, he turned around and pointed to his house as to tell the guy who was telling him 'Munu Lor Dara,' Football gave me that house. A week later The Gambia was playing against Mali and this same guy called Biri out again but this time he said to him, 'Magji Yov lange yakarr,’ Biri turned around and told him,"last week rek nga ma fi wah ne muna ma dara... demal falleh."
Boy did he deliver after this statement, He sure did, he authored Gambia's only goal in that game. Also I don't think anyone will forget Tally 8 or Katanga as they were known from their fence spot. They were fierce and objective critics that kept the FA on its heels, football watchdog so to speak... but they knew their football.

Lamin Cham: The greatest school's rivalry.
Tijan: I think Hassan SK Joof, the best co-ordinator ever in secondary schools sports said it best in 1977, "there never ever will be a contest like Kemo Fatajo Vs Abdoulie Barry" in the 100 Metres Intermediate Boys and 200 Metres. These two entertained Gambian track and field like no other two in recent memory... great rivalry for many years and it will stay that way for a long time. Their duels were beyond MAJESTIC to say the least.

Lamin Cham: As a former Sports Journalist, How do you see the progress in covering Gambian sports today?
Tijan: Damn, its not good to be an old man, I am already former... I have nothing but praises for Gambian Sports Journalists, they do a phenomenal job. I have had the opportunity to work with Malick Allaba Jones, Peter Gomez and Pap Saine many years ago and I am just delighted to see them still engaged working with the younger ones. Of course I know Moses Ndene, he was a great goalie for IOGT and Augustinians many years ago which has positioned him to be an authority of the game which he really is. I also had the opportunity to meet the energetic president of the Sports Journalist Association some years back and he's an innovator and of course I got to work with you. When you look at what the sports journalists do for Gambian sports you just want to conclude that there is indeed a brighter future for sports because these guys don’t miss a beat and its always a pleasure to follow their reporting online... phenomenal!

Lamin Cham: One of our readers sent us a question for you and it reads, 'can Tijan come clean after all these years on who turned the lights off when Muslim was beating St Augustine's in a Basketball final?
Tijan: Is this question coming from my good friend and coach Bun Njie, Principal of Muslim High School... for many years Lamin, people have been asking for an answer from me, even to this day, the answer is the same, power went off man... that was it... I mean, I saw nothing, knew nothing. I will say this in fairness to Muslim High School, they were our toughest rivals and did beat us in a cup final... SAHS Perpetual

Challenge Cup... Ebou Ceesay's forty yarder is still visible!

Lamin Cham: Last words.

Tijan: It was a pleasant experience to share what I witnessed in Gambian sports through your pages. However I could not possibly have done this without the Man that prepared and trained me to be a Commentator and later Sports Journalist in Saul AB Njie, the greatest that ever hit the Gambian airwaves and I am eternally grateful to him and in signing off, as a special tribute and gratitude to him, let me relive Saul Njie calling the game from Freetown in December 1984 as I heard him from two metres; 'Thank you very much Christiana Thomas as you come over to Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, the Siaka Stevens Sports Stadium is being rocked to its very foundation as the pre game niceties are now on the way preceding a gigantic tussle, Hill for Leather, tooth and nail battle here between The Gambia and the Republic of Sierra Leone. For those of you who know Freetown, The Gambia is defending the goal from the Ascension Town Cemetery end and any minute, we will be on our way, for The Gambia at goal, Sang Ndong, Dodou Saine, Garba Touray, Commy Owens, Saihou Sarr, Paul Ogoo, Baboucar Sowe Laos, Joe Tennis Gomez, Saul Samba, Bai Malleh Wadda and Sheikh Ndure, that's the starting eleven for the Fangbondi Boys, The stage is set, everything is at an equilibrium, Pap Saine! "Jerrejef Saul, fi chi Freetown chi walu football diganteh Gambia ak Sierra Leone..." Hey Pap, it was also fun working with you all those years... thanks for the memories.
Of course The Gambia lost two nil to Sierra Leone and this is how the greatest broadcaster in Gambian history called it; "The die is cast, the boys are the vanquished, ndeysan!" They did put up a dogged determination fight and poured every ounce of Gambian sweat on that field today, but mother luck was not with them. Thats the way it is from Freetown, for Pap Saine, Matarr Nyang, our technical back up, Young Tijan Ceesay, this is Saul Njie, sending you back to the comforts of our studious at Mile Seven... !  "Ally Baba Kuma Narr, ku sa ndiga dama, sa dohin nyaw Njie Jatta,” there will never be a broadcaster that will come close; and like all your fans, I look forward to the day that THE SAUL NJIE INSTITUTE OF MASS COMMUNICATIONS will be established... for many years you brought nothing but joy to many homes. To borrow one you made so famous, "GACHE NGA LA MA!”

Lamin Cham: Tijan Massaneh, onbehalf of all the fans we thank you for bringing us these great memories of Gambian sports. While you continue to disagree because of your humility, we are saying that, You were indeed an authority in Gambian sports during your time. Thanks for the memories and we hope you will continue to be part of us as we set ourselves to bring Sports from Yesterday to our readers.
In Part Four we will discuss the administration of sports back in the day and the famous disqualification of the Gambian Under 23 in the WAFU Championship in 1984 and Volleyball.