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Encounter with Tijan Massaneh Ceesay part four

Sep 2, 2010, 1:21 PM | Article By: Lamin Cham (culled from gamsports online)

After the first three Encounters with Tijan Massanneh Ceesay, we have been inundated with mails from those who were around Sports in the 80s. All praised Tijan's ability to vividly recall all those moments, and some asked if he was keeping a Journal which we now know he never did. The requests for a Part Four have been overwhelming and true to his nature, with humility and grace, a true sports historian and an Icon of Gambian Sports Journalism has again opened his minds for this unprecedented Part Four. Only at www.Gamsports.com, enjoy the work of a legend and Patriot. Read on.............................

Gamsports: Tijan , we have a lot to talk about the Independence stadium later in this interview, but can you tell us anything about the Independence stadium, its opening and just some history.

Tijan: The twenty five thousand seater Independence Stadium, Gambia's only multipurpose sports edifice, constructed to the tune of about 32 Million Dalasis by the Government of the people's Republic of China was officially opened in 1983/1984 season with a four nation football Tournament with Senegal, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and the Gambia participating. The Gambia beat Sierra Leone by a lone Bai Malleh Wadda header. Lets relive those moments in this sequence, "Goalkeeper Sang Ndong, a short over arm throw to Dodou Saine, He finds Laos in the middle of the field, Laos beats pass Abu Battor Sisay and sends a floater towards the right hand flank of the field with Saul Samba, running at his flat out speed against, Sierra Leone's captain, Amadou Rappel Kamara. Saul gains the upper hand and sends a cross towards the eighteen and there goes Gambia's number 14, Bai Malleh Wadda against Joeph Toby and keeper Brima Attouga Kamara, and yes what a header by Wadda 14, It is a Goal, it is a goal, this 32 million Dalasi sports edifice is being rocked to its very foundation." Ali

Baba Kuma narr, these were the glorious days of Gambian Football.

The first Board of Directors was headed by the late Alhagi Housainou Njie and Sereign Saihou Sarr was the first stadium Manager whilst a lady named Vico Ndow was in charge of the friendship Hostel and yes......the food was great.

During the early years the independence stadium saw some great games and events, The most thrilling encounters in The Gambia Young African Vs Wallidan, GNIC Championship game, Port vs Wallidan, PPP Jubilee Trophy, Real's come from behind win against Port Authority down three goals in the dying minutes, Roots Football Club upset of Real De Banjul and Hawks in the Saihou Ceesay championship, Paul Ogoo's forty yarder against Real's Jim Wadda, Biri's magnificent transformation to Libero, Hawks Football Club and the fifteen touch drill under Yusu Samba, and ofcourse Abdel Kabirr's launching of Motherland Dearest.

Then we can't forget the track and field battles, Banana Jarju Vs Omar faye, Georgiana Freeman on the blocks looking left and right to find either Jabou Jawo or Amie Ndow.

Dawda Jallow with the beautiful strides in the 400 metres. A young girl named

Awa Jeng electrifying the stadium from the High Jump pitch. The twin brothers, Peter and Paul Ceesay, by far Gambia's most conditioned athletes. Bai Malleh Wadda dominating the High Jump, Long Jump and Triple Jump. The Independence Stadium has seen some great events in the 80's.

Gamsports: It looks like you know Saul Njie like no other and our readers have inundated us with requests that we pose more questions to you about Saul, what more can you tell us?

Tijan: That's my Father Lamin. He made me a Man; He brought me up and taught me everything I knew. Saul realised I had a little talent and he moulded and nurtured me, and today when I am on the air, you really don't know if its Saul or Tijan. A true Patriot in every sense of the word. His patriotism is unmatched and effectively, in as much as Senegal saved Gambia in 1981, Saul's role in establishing, faith and confidence in the citizenry through Radio Syd during those dark days of our history will never be forgotten.

How can Gambians of our generation forget those convincing words; "GENAW BA NGA HAMM MEH  NE NDEY E REEW MI DELU SI NA FI CHI REEW  MI , JAAMA  DELOU SI NAM FEKA BAAH AK NAM MUUS DI MEL CHI JAMANO, BATAHEL YA NGE WALA NGAN NI NDOH CHA DEKU WAI E KERR BURR DI KO NDOKEL DI KO SAR GAL," or calling a parade with, "Here comes Captain Maba Jobe, a young Gambian, Sandhurst trained that has formed the Elite corps of The Gambia National Army, looking very smart and alert, calling this parade to attention as The Gambia Police Band under the baton of Commander Mbaye Jobe stands poised for the National Salute or Baati Askanwi." I can go on and on Lamin, to call him a Legend or Icon of Broadcasting is really not enough; Saul was the KING and will remain so for generations to come. I can never speak enough of him and I call myself lucky to have sat next to him both in and out of the country calling games together, it was indeed a priviledge and honor I will cherish forever.

Gamsports: Recently a petition has begun calling for the Independence Stadium to be named after Alhagi Njie Biri, whats your take on this?

Tijan: Very deserving indeed and I think Gamsports and all the media outlets involved in this should be complimented. I have said this before, Biri is still not retired and I do believe such an honor will indeed close that great chapter in Gambian football. Recently I was sent a video of a visit to his club Seville in Spain and I saw that this man is still revered in Spain, because his visit made the evening news and the reporter, Maria Fernandez would just not stop. More pleasing was to see the current legion of foreign players for the team being around Biri seeking his autograph, that does speak a lot. Today all those players that play in Spain have one thing in common, Biri set the standards and He also opened the doors. Gambia will always owe him gratitude. He is the greatest of all all times. Naming the Independence stadium after him is a clarion call that really needs to be given consideration with the many merits laid before those who will ultimately make the decision if it ever happens. I hope thereat, the fans who saw him play will be given a  chance to at least recall GAINDEH PARK and at that time, I bet they surely will "DELOR PAAKA CHA MBARAM!"

Gamsports: Over the course of the interviews, you have provided a lot of valuable sports information, do you envisage writing a book at some point?

Tijan: May be call it "BY WAY OF ALJAMDOU," my native home in Niumi. Following these series, a lot of my friends have asked I do just that and please take note, that what I have said is really a small portion of the glorious moments of Gambian sports during my time. However, I will have to have the blessings of Saul Njie to pen it because I sure will need him and if I ever do, the book will be dedicated to the memory of his beautiful wife of over two centuries, IDA NJIE and evidently I will have to reach out to the others I worked with then, Bora Mboge, Pap Saine and Malick Alaba Jones, my good friend and the photographers, Alagie Gibril Badjie, Lat and Sadibou.

Gamsports: One sport that obviously is the biggest victim among those who fell along side the way is Gymnastics. Do you remember any good days and people  of this sport and what do you think can be done to revive it?

Tijan: Gymnastics was really never a popular sport, if my memory is right I think the only qualified Gymnastics Coach at the time, in Gambia was Mr Abrahams, Games Master at the Crab Island School. As you know this sport is quite an expensive one and at one point in 1979 it was resurrected by Fr Joseph Gough with Dentist Jim Auckett with the first performance at the official opening of the Bishop Cleary Hall before President Jawara. Great gymnasts like Salieu Sarr, Sulayman Gaye, Alieu and Ous Njie, Andrew Jallow, Sheikh Jobarteh, and ofcouse some females too, Ida Faal, Oulaye Camara and Fatou AB Njie stood out as great gymnasts. Shortly thereafter, I think in 1982, Mr Abraham put up the greatest Gymnastics show at MaCcarthy's Square with a selection of gymnasts from all the schools and I can still recall when they did the finale which was a long pyramid, the late Alhagi Lalo Samateh just went on , I still don't know what he was saying, but I can safely say He could not believe seeing human beings stacked on one another like that, unbelievable! Revival takes money and quality trained Personnel, its a sport like no other, if not done right the results can be devastating.

Gamsports: What is your take in the debate that the present form of the football league where teams no longer identified with communities; eg Biko for Bakau, Wallidan or Real for Half Die or Portuguese Town etc, does not help create fan base  and it should be scrapped to give way to community centred league clubs,, e.g along the lines of the Super Nawettan or Zonals ;; example as was the case in Youth Week of your time.

Tijan: You see Lamin, I will kind of disagree with you on this. Football back in the day had a huge fan base not because of where the teams came from but because the league games were big, the rivarlries were huge, there was some kind of balance in the GFA league then, teams would beat each other on any given day and the Football Association  was on top of its game so to speak. To recapture the fan base we must return to a very organised form of League football which can only be backed by adequate sponsorship because the game has changed drastically from a Dollar standpoint.

If you look at the history of Gambian football; just take for example the first teams, Rainbow, Gambia United, Augustinians and Prisons, these were long before Real and Wallidan, they came from different parts of Banjul and I don’t think there were issues.

Gamsports: How is it possible that sports in your time leave so much passion and legends in many people when it was run by just a department, as opposed  to 1992 to date when it has a full ministry yet; it shows very little by ways  of legends? Is that down to administrative problems or dearth of talents?

Tijan: I don't think it could be attributable to any. First we have to reach a common consensus that the game has changed dramatically in comparison and it is more expensive to run Football today than say back during our time. However I will say that the department of sports at the time had a very competent staff, most of whom actually played the game at both club and national team level. If you take a close look at the Personnel of the Department then; you'll figure what I'm saying here. Alhagi Omar Sey was the in charge of all Referees for the Confederation of African Football at the time so he was glued to the development of the game. Cherno Barra Touray was Assistant Director, but was also Chair of the Technical Committee of The Gambia Football Association and also responsible for establishing the first Under 17 in Gambian history. Ebou Joof, a former ace Sweeper for Real De Banjul, the Greatest Biri and Sereign Saihou Sarr, National team captain were the Sports Officers, so you see this combination was a success story from Day One. Even the Secretaries, the late Mam Nyima Jagne, God bless Her Soul, Ellen Njie and Agi Binta Sallah were into the game and they took it PERSONAL, the Drivers, Pa Jasseh and Ousman Cha Dinko Ba, they  were all just as committed and this really may have been a vital attribute towards the development of the game.

Gamsports: Decentralisation has been an age old phrase in the lips of sports officials but after 45 years of independence how much do you think Gambian sports development has reached the hinterland to use a colonial term for the Provinces?

Tijan: The issue of decentralisation has always been a key issue for the Gambia Football Association at the time and people like Ousainou Njie, OB Conateh, Fr Gough, Babou Cisse really pushed for it and teams played as far as Basse during pre-seasons. However the impact was minimal so it was a great thing for Sports Minister at the time; Bakary Bunja Darbo to take on this issue. Today there are results to show for this bold move as great talents continue to emerge from the Provinces. I think the Zonals have been a great outfit for show casing Provincial talent. I remember teams like Saraba, Bombada, Sofanyama and Satangba, they use to give Banjul teams a run for their monies. There is a lot of potential and the schools in these areas can serve as a great foundation for developing the game. The current Football Association need some credit really for they have done quite a lot in this area.

Gamsports: Gambia has made good impressions in hosting sports especially football events; the recent biggest mean the Under 17 African championship. But do you think it is crazy for anyone to think of bidding for the CAN? Even if it means co hosting with Senegal. After all Equatorial Guinea, though they have petro Dollars is not more respected than Gambia, and they are co hosting with Gabon?

Tijan: Given the infrastructure, I think The Gambia can host the Cup of Nations. You do know, like I do, we are a proud country and when it comes to showcasing the smiling coast nobody does it better. I think  on the second part of the question when the need arises for co-hosting; these two great sisterly countries will address it appropriately, but again YES, with the proper structures, I am sure Gambia can host the tournament on its own. You gotta remember, the Africa Cup of Nations is no Zone Two Amilca Cabral tournament, its way bigger, so it's serious business and we have a Man in Alhagi Omar Sey who knows the Ins and Outs of hosting a tournament of this magnitude and I am sure he will have a better answer.

Gamsports: Back to the administrators who do you think stands out as the single most benefactor, in terms of service to Gambian sports  across the disciplines?

Tijan: I believe the nation of Gambia is the most important benefactor and I want to back this up with some historical data. Save for Biri nobody knew about Gambian football. However that changed in 1978/79 in Guinea Bissau with Kaba jallow, Mass Axi Gai and Kebba Njie at the helm of the national team. It was at this tournament that Lamin Owens was recruited to come to New York and try out with Cosmos. Following that we went to Liberia for the William Tolbert fraternity tournament and Boy, all eyes were on Gambia. In track and field, the girls, Jabou Jawo, Amie Ndow, Francess Jatta and Georgianna Freeman won Bronze for The Gambia at the All Africa games 1982/83, by any stretch of imagination, the greatest feat for Gambia track and Field. Then later in 1983, The Gambia won the Zone Two Basketball tournament, the first victory at sub regional level for The Gambia. These performances really put everyone on notice and sent a strong message across the sport spectrum in West Africa and the continent at large.

Gamsports: You have started a very popular sports talk show on GRTS international on the gambiajounal.com, one that everyone is talking about; please tell us a bit about that and how do you feel doing it all again?

Tijan: Well those who know me well do know broadcasting is part of me. I have been in broadcasting since March 1977 and don't anticipate giving it up any time soon, I love it and do welcome the opportunity accorded me to host an online Sports talk show. Really it has kicked off well and we have been able to talk to former players and Coaches. We are really bringing back memories of the yester years. While there is a consensus that Biri is the greatest of all time, my guests have sparked a very interesting debate on the all time Gambian National team.... and I really can’t wait to take on the Sports Journalist Giant in Lamin Cham. So it's on!

Gamsports: We were told that during your days as a club Executive you were very rebellious towards the FA, any comment?

Tijan: I don't think rebellious is the word to use here. That has never been my nature, but to cut a long story short, I loved to challenge the FA, I held them accountable so to speak but it was never in those terms. As a Journalist when I had to be critical, when I thought some players should not have played, I sure used my column to talk about it and I think they were most of the times constructive and at the time, the FA took heed from that. Ofcourse I had it handed to me all the time, Axi Gai, was never short of reminding me that ,NYUNGE NYO KEBBA CEESAY LA (My Brother) nor did the late Sef Carew ever stop telling me NYO  Sulayman Masanneh (My oldest Brother) LA, NYOI MOROM, BUL NYU YAB, it was so much fun and I became their Son.

Gamsports: You are credited with leading the campaign to get a name for the National Sports Teams of The Gambia. What was it like?

Tijan: I deserve no credit for it, I was only doing what I was asked to do. If credit is due to any persons for getting a name (Scorpions) for our national teams, I think it should go to Swaebou Conateh, Director of Information at the time who ensured that I published the public notice in the sports column of The Gambia News Bulletin, Alhagi Ousainou Njie, Momodou M Dibba, Alhagi Omar Sey and Alhagi OB Conateh, these were the people behind it. Pap Saine and I used the Print Media at the time calling on Gambians and Sports fans to send in names, I think Aunty Lou was Minister of Sports at the time and she was also very well into it. Quite a lot of names came in to our Bedford Place Building Offices from all over the country and I remember, Mr Alieu Sanyang of The Gambia Information News Services ensured that all the mails got to our Apollo Hotel Annex office which was the home of The Gambia News Bulletin. To date I can recall the young student from Armitage High school who sent in the name IFANGBONDI STARS and also pointed out that IFANGBONDI is tied to Gambian culture and that also the world have heard the name before given the IFANGBONDI BAND'S prominence in Europe which to me made a lot of sense. However the name BLACK SCORPIONS, (which at one time of football history was a club ) overwhelmingly dominated. That name was adopted with the word "BLACK' eliminated because of its political ramification viz-a-viz the Biafra war in Nigeria. That's how the name Scorpions came about.

Gamsports: What can you tell us anything on the history of  Gambian Football?

Tijan: Evidently you know I was not born then but Saul Njie did pass on some information to me on this and I will be delighted to share it with your readers. And to my best recollection Football started in The Gambia way before 1952 when the country had an official Football Association and affiliated with FIFA. Games were played at the MaCcarthy's Square until about 1959 when the Box Bar Stadium was built.During those days people like the late Uncle Sam Forster, OK Saho, Uncle Louis Prom and a man called Roscoe who was an expatriate in The Gambia ran football. The teams then, Augustinians, Rainbow, Gambia United, Prisons and Police competed in the first division. Our first national team was composed of the likes of Uncle  Mam Barra Taal, Uncle Jimmy Ndow, Teacher Michael Touray, Uncle Saul Samba,Koto Pa Mamadi Sowe, Uncle Eku Forbes, Uncle Gabriel Bobo George and Uncle Amadou Taal. You see there is quite a rich history of football, the likes of Momodou Cadi Cham, SKO Obrien Coker, Dr Ebrima Malick Samba and Mr Anthony LR Blain have served the FA from Presidential capacities to Secretary's General and I don't quite think these facts are known, so really as Sports Journalists you outta go after this rich and "should be" cherished history.

Gamsports: The Gambia has a great chance to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations, your take on this.

Tijan: I like the way you framed this question, "The Gambia has a chance" and indeed we sure do, however following the discussions on The Gambia's schedule some make it look like a sure thing, a slam dunk so to speak. I think we will take a cue from our sub par performance in the recent U 17 World cup appearance and take note of the fact that it is not a GIVEN, we must work hard to earn it and that takes early preparations which is NOW. I believe the GFA needs a pat on the back for the recent international friendlies which really moved us in the rankings and thus guaranteed a more friendlier schedule. With this in mind, we have to begin scouting these teams today and also highlight that Burkina Faso is up there and Namibia is no walk over either. As far as Mauritania, I can say that during my time, when it mattered, they gave us a run for our money, How many can recall Mauritania jumping on Gambia in the semi finals of the Zone Two in 1980 in our own turf, it was not easy then and it is not going to be a cake walk. I am sure Axi Gai and kabba Jallow who were on the bench will share their rich knowledge with todays administrators and ofcourse our "walking sports encyclopaedia"; Pap Saine will also give his input. We have the opportunity to get to the Cup of Nations and the recipe is simple, WIN ALL HOME GAMES, get there and at the big show, anything can happen but the focus right now is preparation and scouting.

Gamsports: What is your favourite Gambian National Team?

Tijan: Lamin, I believe it would be the prolific team that went to Liberia and lost narrowly in the final to the Lone Stars of Liberia. that was the new chapter of Gambian football and ever since we have not looked back. I remember Pap Saine and I had had a lot of debates about this team and except for a few changes we agreed that this would go down as the greatest team in Gambian football history and if my memory serves me right, the squad comprised of the following, Babou Saho and Lie Ndure as goalkeepers, Commy Owens, Garba Touray, Lamin Owens (Lor def Bahna), Baboucarr Bah,(Edakarr), AC Conteh,Bladder Sibi, Bill Badjie, Saloum Njie, (That was the Defence) Saihou sarr, Star Jallow (Captain) Ebou Kah (EK), Sherrif Jobe, Baboucarr Sowe (Laos),( that was the Mifield). Upfront, Alagie Njie Biri, Salimong Nyassi, Tony Joiner, Essa Faye, Charlie Boy, Ndow Njie, Alagie Nyan and Essa Faye, Young Saul Samba and Amat Tan Joof. Macoumba Kabba Jallow, Mass Axi Gai and Kebba Njie (Master) were the Technicians..what a team!

Gamsports: Do you think Naweetan competitions had a positive impact on the game?

Tijan: Absolutely YES! A lot of stars were discovered from Naweetan competitions. For example, Laos was a half back for White Phantoms and played midfield for Barkays in the Banjul Naweetan, Boy in 1976/77, Laos emerged as one of the greatest midfielders in The Gambia and to date He is one of the best that ever played the position. Likewise, Lamin Owens is a Naweetan product, Joe Gaye, Henry Moore, Babou Saho, Che Jallow, Rilwan Mboob (Pom), and Bakau produced the likes of Lie Jagne, Julung the goalkeeper,Peter Ndow,  Gallo Saidy (the Fisherman)Pa Njie, Pa Faye, and also in Banjul ;stars like Gibou Nyang (Mbollae), Saul Jagne (Gentile),Malleh Sallah (Rossi), Dodou Badjie (Governor) and many more who went on to play for the country were products of Naweetans.

Gamsports: The last time we spoke you told me of a specific goal at the Independence stadium, take us down memory lane.

Tijan: Wow,I  can still mentally recall that goal. From about forty yards, Real Vs Hawks, Paul Ogoo picked up a loose ball and sent the greatest canon I ever saw against Jim Wadda, that goal cannot be described again, that's how spectacular it was. In Jim Wadda’s defence, he had no chance against that one but to his credit, he has never conceded a goal by Biri and above all, Nobody has ever scored against him with a header, quite remarkable .

Gamsports: Any other particular Sport you want to recall?

Tijan: Well I guess it would be Cricket. I must say I was blessed to have covered the West African Quadrangular tournament and had an opportunity to see Uncle Badou Jassey throw the fast ball while Uncle Spencer Jarra (JBJ) came up with the unique spin ball that would just knock wickets down. Modupeh Roberts could send the balls to the old Commercial bank, Kwamla Manly- Elliot my Uncle, was as great as there was a wicket keeper in the continent. I still can recall Saihou Njie, Pa Johnson, Sam Montore njie, Koto Ebou taal, Uncle Sonny Manly Rollings and many more. Ofcourse the greatest cricket commentator was Radio Gambia' Edwin Thomas, nobody did it better.

Gamsports: If you were ever asked what is your greatest achievement in Gambian sports what would you say?

Tijan: I got no achievement whatsoever. I just was another guy with a microphone and a pen. The achievers were the stars who played, the people who put out their resources and time, Alhagi Ousainou Njie, Alhagi OB Conateh, Baboucarr Barrow, Omar Amadou Jallow, Alhagi Gabbi Sosseh, Mass Axi Gai, Tom King, Augustus Prom, Adama Hala Samba, Lie Corr, Kebba Masaneh Ceesay, Sherrif Nyan, Augustus Prom, James Furmose Gomez, Ebou Ndure, Momodou M Dibba, Edmonson Shonobi, Koto Saho of Brikama, Sef Carew, Alhagi MO Njie, Fr Joseph Gough, Pa Modou Faal (Gento), Alieu Koroma, Babou Cisse, Mustapha Ngum, BO Fofana, Alagie Mboob and his team of Referees, Cherno Barra Touray, Moses Roberts, Maccoumba Kabba Jallow, Ebrima Pesseh Njie, Uncle Jarra and the list can go on forever but these are my heroes in Gambian football, they gave it their all and they can lean back today and say to themselves, "after all we did not do that bad." They were awesome and the success today is because of their hard work of many years ago and the old adage that Rome was not built in one day applies. and ofcourse they lived up to the first line of the national pledge, "It is the combination of government and People."

Gamsports: Any last words?

Tijan: Thanks Lamin for the opportunity even though some of your questions were nerve wrecking but I hope I gave it all my best. I look forward to following your reporting on the preparations for the Cup of Nations qualifiers and I hope you can come on Talking Sports someday soon. You guys are great for Gambian sports and I do hope you’ll keep up the good work. But I am not committing to a Part Five, then the book you suggested would have been complete. Thanks my brother, anything for you, you are a class act and I will cherish forever the moments working together with you in 2003. I also want to wish the FA and all the fans well as we embark on the latest chapter for Gambian Football, SCORPIONS STING THEIR WAY TO CAN 2012! GO SCORPIONS!