Mar 10, 2020, 2:10 PM
Following the recent publication of Part Four with Tijan Massanneh Ceesay on The Point Newspaper in Banjul, requests for one more with Tijan Massanneh Ceesay almost crashed our website. We forwarded all the fan emails to Tijan himself and he agreed to open up, one more time in this special edition,’ CONCLUDING WITH THE ICON, TIJAN MASSANNEH CEESAY.” Some of the questions were posed by his many fans around the world and Gamsports is more than pleased to be part of history. Enjoy this masterpiece. Questions are posed by Lamin Cham, Managing Editor.
Gamsports: Having so nicely led us to relive the past, give praise where is due and advise where necessary, can we now ask you to sum up with your thoughts on how do we proceed from here to attain that desired goal of ours, for example, the ongoing African Cup of Nations and an Olympic medal in London this summer?
Tijan: On the whole, I guess the approach towards sports development has been quite promising and the results in the various sporting disciplines at continental level is a testimony to this. It is also important to note that the Private sector has been an added impetus to this development. There is no time for complacency; rather we should build on the recent achievements. As a country we need to stay focused for the goals set in the Sports policy and ensure that the latter is implemented.
Gamsports: What’s your take on the recent impasse in the GNOC – the Gambia National Olympic Committee?
Tijan: Both candidates in that GNOC election are my friends and I have had the opportunity of working with both of them for a long time. Before I go into those details let me say that my endorsement of MM Dibba was more of a misunderstanding. I was of the impression that he was called upon to serve out the term of the former. That notwithstanding, let me say that any of the two candidates will do a great job. Those that are entrusted with the responsibility of electing a new President should in the interest of sports, address their differences. I think both sides have made their arguments and Democracy has prevailed, now it’s time to move on and save the Gambian Olympic movement as you have rightly addressed in your commentary.
Gamsports: What in your view must be done more by government and indeed the country to ensure that those heroes and heroines referred to in your history series remained in the top spot in our store of legends?
Tijan: Those heroes and heroines will forever be engraved with Gambian sports no matter what. I do believe the GNOC has been doing their part to honour them and that’s the right approach.
However, it is imperative that Sports Journalists are equipped with the facts to serenade these people because, really, without them, Sports would not have been where it is today. I wonder how many young people know that Leon Prom was a super star. Ebou Faye Limba, Alagie Jallow, (Tourist Boy), Kanjura Kanji, Boy Conteh, Laku Robinson, Sega Jobe, Nai Ceesay, Yuku Sylva, Taflanda Roberts, Petersen Sarr, Jim Boy Mahoney, Essa Sarr, Jim Bittaye, Kebba Diaz, Badou Foon, Garnett Coker, Tapha Conteh, Bladder Sibi, Goal Demba Belai Prom, Manga Ngum, Alagie Cole, Alpha Attila Jallow, Alieu Joof Madame, Docks Njie, Njock Njie Galleh, Baboucarr Sanneh BS, Ebou Kah EK, Ams Jallow, Charlie Boy, Essa Faye, Dominic Mendy, Ayo George, Tijan Sarge, Saul Faye Police, Corporal Ceesay, Pa Faal, Jeremiah Sock, Muntaha Gillen, Kasa Gillen, Sandou, Lawrence Bruce, Assan Oliver, Kabba Jallow, Malamin Badjie, Malick Bittaye Guarantee, Saul Jagne, Amadou Adams, Dinny Boy, Olufemi Moore, Alex Thompson, Saloum Njie, Saloum Bah, Lie Colley, Father Laos, Saul Samba, Augustus Prom, Ebou Drammeh, Tony Joiner Ombolo, Lie Jagne, Bass Awumee, Burama Jaiteh, Mounir Alami, Ebeh Moore, Ousman Jatta, Paul Sarr, Pa Sarr and many more that may not come to my memory at this time. It’s great that some of these people are part of the Veterans Football team, but what do our young ones know about their careers, I bet not a whole lot and I trust people like Pap Saine, Charles Thomas and George Gomez, all three great Sports historians, will be readily available to help put this great and rich history of Gambian football together. Dude there is some rich history, Go get it!
Gamsports: Personally; you have gone through the transformation of many athletes into super stars during your time. Why do you think such talents are scarce these days and what do we have to do to excel?
Tijan: I don’t think the talent is scarce really. The point is ‘what do you do with the talent? How do you develop and motivate the talent...?’ I don’t want to believe that throughout The Gambia, there is nothing close to say a, Jabou Jawo, Omar Faye, Banana Jarju, Bai Malleh, etc, there must be something close. We need to find a way to proceed and that’s where the National Sports Council comes into play; that is its turf.
Gamsports: There have been major developments, in Gambian sports. A Gambian is IOC Member, to cap a high profile list of Gambians in world bodies. What do you think of that?
Tijan: Gambians have had a long standing in International Sports bodies: Alagie Omar Sey was a member of CAF and FIFA, by far the most decorated Gambian in International Sports, for quite some time, Alhagi OB Conateh WAFU, Dodou Joof IAAF, the list goes on, which is great for the country and I believe most recently Beatrice Allen got the nod to the IOC, phenomenal and remarkable in the sense that it’s a good stepping stone and I really think Gambia could not have asked for a better female sports Ambassador.
However I still believe that Biri should be part of our Football Association and the National Olympic movement in some capacity. Whether we like it or not, Biri is the FACE of Gambian sports PERIOD!
Gamsports: The Gambia completed the past Nations Cup qualifiers without success. What would be your approach if you were in charge?
Tijan: Really none because I am not in charge and my days of administering football are long gone. It takes a lot of money, work and less talk, but anything is possible with the right approach and honestly I don’t have the answer for the approach to be taken. I’ve had my days and things are far different today; so I don’t want to be critical, I think that would be unfair, however I still do believe that Sang Ndong and Bornu Johnson are equally as qualified as any Coach, foreign or local and their results are unmatched, that I can say, make sense out of it.
Gamsports: You founded Roots Football Club. What can you share with us about Roots?
Tijan: Obliviously the most talented school boy team ever. We take pride in the fact that one of the greatest talents in Aziz Corr was a Roots founder member and one of the best Coaches in The Gambia, Honourable Alagie Sillah, was also a coach for Roots.
My biggest disappointment in football is not being able to see the team play in the first division. We had lots of talents: Moa Jobe, Boy Badou, Tapha Minteh, Habib Faye, Gabby Ndow, Gerry Gomez, Sheikh Ndure, Eliman Lemon, James Freeman, Kojo Lusack, Saul Faye, Badou Samba, Tapha Njie, Ebrima Secka, Sajuka Njie, Abdoulie Bittaye, Mustapha Manga, Ebou Njie, MO Goswell, Ardy Fofana, Star Njie, Abdoulie Nema Bobb, Michael Demba, Reuben Ceesay, Joseph Gaye, Mustapha Minteh, Ebou Faye, Kabba Ceesay, Ebou Njie, Alieu Jobe. It was the youngest and best talents from all the schools in the Banjul area that were brought together, thanks to the vision of Fr. Gough. I may have come up with the idea to start the team but I refuse to take the credit as its founder because my childhood friends at the time, Pa Sheikh Jeng, BO Njie, Tijan John, Alagie Jeng Bocho, Terry Williams, were right at the centre putting the pieces together and also Pa Mu Ndow Gomez, who was the first Coach.
Gamsports: A fan of yours has said that you dodged a question we asked you about being rebellious to the FA at the time and really wants you to address it this time.
Tijan: If taking the FA to task at the time is rebellious, I will call that subject matter history while apologizing to the fan because I really can’t answer this one; maybe those who served in the FA at the time are in a better position to answer this fan’s question.
Gamsports: Gamsports has been reliably informed about your own High School teams of sports commentators. Can you tell us anything on that?
Tijan: Indeed there was one. If my memory serves me right, Alagie Ceesay (Journalist), Lawyer Mai Fatty and Musa Jawara made up this team.
Together we did high school sports for a long time. I will not want to call it mine, but rather they were a young group that had the talent Saul saw in me in 1977 and they loved the trade.
They were very good and actually took over after I left High School. They had a penchant for news and no doubt it has paid off today, great results indeed and I could not be prouder of their achievements in academia.
Gamsports: A fan tells us and we quote: “After Saul Njie, Tijan is the best football commentator.” Your comments on this.
Tijan: You gotta be kidding! A fan said that...? With humility, I beg to disagree. I worked with both Bora and Malick Jones for quite some time and I bet they were great game callers. Peter Gomez was just beginning when I was leaving in 1985 and after sitting alongside him in 2003, I can say He’s a hek of a game caller and so are you Lamin.
Gamsports: We also heard about an episode in Freetown: the Schoolboy Commentator. Tell us a bit about it?
Tijan: The only thing I can recall happening in Freetown was the mob waiting to meet the schoolboy commentator. I would believe now that they were amazed to see me up there assisting Saul call the game. I looked like a baby pretty much.
Gamsports: You alluded to your work with Pap Saine in the 80s; what was it like working with one of my Mentors?
Tijan: I am delighted to know that Pap is your mentor - you have a great one; he is a good man, who is organised, meticulous and always wanted the best product.
He is also a thorough researcher. I have always referred to Pap as the Walking Gambian Sports Encyclopedia. I spent many Saturday afternoons with him at his Gloucester Street residence back in the day working together. His penchant for the best product is unmatched. A well respected Journalist outside Gambia, have travelled with him many a time.
Gamsports: Can you talk about your relationship with Fr Gough?
Tijan: Fr Gough is my best friend who taught me just about everything I know in leadership and organizing. He trusted me with just about anything.
He was very demanding; the man sought excellence, anything short was unacceptable. His contribution to Gambian education and sports is really for a whole book. He did so much for our country and I don’t think we can pay him enough. And he still continues to do great things in The Gambia.
Gamsports: How was preparation for the Gambia National team back in the day?
Tijan: Compared to today, they held their own even though there was NO MONEY! However people like Hussainou MM Njie, OB Conateh, Omar Amadou Jallow, Babou Cisse, James Furmose Gomez, Alhagi Gabbi Sosseh, Momodou M Dibba and many more, held the fort together. These are the real heroes; everything they had went into developing football and I do hope someday Gambian football history will document that they did what they could with what they had. While some may disagree, I say emphatically that without their investments of the yester years Gambia would not have been in the position it is today in world football. They all belong in the Gambian Hall of Fame, no questions asked.
Gamsports: Any last bits on Saul Njie, our readers love it?
Tijan: The greatest Gambian Journalist/Broadcaster. “Tijan, from our point of vantage, I can see Essa Faye lying flat on his back grimacing in pain. Let’s hope the injury is superficial.” Abou Johnson, the Bulldozer, here he comes, Hands Akimbo, will clear his lines any minute, he sends a long one, deep inside Wallidan’s territory calling for a header, the big men go up. I can still recall when Dingareh beat Real in the FA Cup final sometime in the late 70s, evidently the biggest upset in Gambian Football history, Saul Njie summed it up this way, “If this were in Europe today, the rockets of champaigne bottles would have been going Poom Poom, but this is The Gambia they will have to use Cocoa Cola to celebrate.” What a talent.... Lamin I will have to stop because I am beginning to cry.
Gamsports: Who would you want to credit with being most instrumental in bringing you to sports?
Tijan: Gibi Jallow and Saidou Sowe. They really encouraged me. If you recall in the series at the beginning I told you how they’d pay me to imitate Saul Njie as a young boy. Gibi Jallow actually introduced me to Saul Njie in 1977.
Gamsports: You’ve spoken and written so much about Bai Malleh Wadda, share something with us.
Tijan: I started covering Bai Malleh in 1977 when he went to Sofia to the World University games as a freelancer for MB Jones and his Gambia Outlook at the time.
Lamin anytime you suit up for your country in five sporting events, you must be a rare breed. Bai Malleh was a special athlete. He is the greatest all-round athlete in Gambian history. He was all you asked for in an athlete.
Gamsports: What about Biri?
Tijan: I will say this and I hope it goes in the record for posterity sake. Had Biri been in the right circumstance since his young days as a player, he could have easily been the GREATEST player in the world, hands down. I hope soon, the Independence Stadium is named after him...that would be a fitting tribute to the greatest carrier in Africa. I just finished watching a video on Youtube.com and saw Biri being carried by the fans through the streets of Spain; virtually being adored and Lamin, I shed some tears. If Biri is still given that fitting treatment in Spain thirty years after his retirement, WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS HOMELAND; in short, it’s a SHAME! Biri should be on national stamps, Biri should be on Tourism posters, he should be just on about everything. After our generosity, religious tolerance, peace, our beautiful beaches and all-year round sunshine, the biggest thing we have to offer is none other than ALAGIE MOMODOU NJIE BIRI BIRI. I am lucky to have witnessed some of his outstanding performances both in and out of The Gambia. Alagie Mada is the greatest in my book, Pele included, Belai nange len delor Paaka Cha Mbaram!
Gamsports: What do you think of the recent appointment of Bonu Johnson as Scorpions coach?
Tijan: I do believe they have appointed the right man for the job, a man with guts and great leadership skills who can turn the programme around in no time. I have known Peter Bornu Johnson for a lifetime and I played behind him at St Augustine’s where I was goalie and even then this man’s leadership skills and selflessness were in display and I am sure Fr Joseph Gough will second me on that one. Following his successful Canadian outing, many offers some of which I was privy to; came his way, like the Patriot he is. He turned them all down to stay and work at home. Staying home has paid off but we must also be mindful that he was not handed a silver platter, rather a programme in shambles that needs an overhaul and one-year is not suffice for this task.
Gamsports: Any last words on coaches during your time?
Tijan: I still believe that the two best coaches in Gambian history are Kabba Jallow and Mass Axi Gai; they led our coming out party in Bissau in the late 70s and ever since it has been forward on. Great tacticians and hard workers. Left it on the pitch every single day. They both belong in the Gambian Hall of fame.
Gamsports: Which team do you think is the all time greatest team in Gambian football?
Tijan: I know for a fact that my friends at Lancaster Street: Gassa, Uncle MO Njie and Saihou Njie are not going to like this one. I have argued on this one for many years here in the States. Coach Franky Taal is going to be mad at me again, but truth be told, WALLIDAN is the all time greatest team in Gambian football history.
You look at their track record and see all the championships they have won over the years and my case would have been proven.
They had a better organizational structure than any other back in the day and I am thinking up to now. You look at the talent in the 80s when they really excelled and you’d appreciate where I am coming from.
Lie Ndure, Essa Faye, Pa Ndow, AC Conteh, Demba Ndow, Olu Reid, Ali Samba, Sheikh Ndure, Lie Conteh, Father Laos, Chris, Biri, Bekai Njie, Lie Conteh, Pa Matarr Njie, Laity, Pa Mboob, Willy Jones, men who just had talent. Kudos to Alhagie OB Conateh. Real would be a close second.
Gamsports: This brings us to the end of our series with you, any last words.
Tijan: Thanks for letting me share the little I know in Gambian sports. To all my many fans around the world I say I love you all. Thanks to all those who sent emails following the series on Gamsports. I am eternally grateful to all of you. You all played a role in everything I did: Roots football Club, Saints Basketball, Young Africans, from BO Njie, Bocho, Mao Jobe, Aziz Corr, Coach Alagie Sillah, Jimskweski Wadda, together we did a lot including beating Real and Hawks, winning the League Championship for female Basketball and also being the only team that won a Confederal trophy, the Girls: Awa Jeng, Mariama Faye, Awa Jobarteh, Rose Eunson, Mary Samba, Francess Jatta, Maizee Blain, Bakoto Mboge, Haddy Mboge, Patience Andrews, Adam Touray, Ramou Sallah, Ramou Sey (RIP), Harriet Njie, Confederal Champions, 1984 coached by BO Njie.... GO SAINTS! Chi Djama Cham Demba!
EDITORS NOTE: Tijan we are grateful to you. As a young Sports Journalist I have learnt a lot of sports history through these series. Again I will not stop short of repeating that you were my inspiration to take on this career. I still can vividly recall seeing you as a young chap sitting atop a pickup truck with Saul Njie commentating at Latrikunda grounds. That young golden voice of yours is still fresh in the ears of your fans around the world. Most importantly in 2003, when I worked with you briefly before The Gambia Senegal crucial qualifier, you showed how you can move mountains. You moved a whole nation, united a whole country for one goal, beat Senegal and we almost did. While you were humble in answering the fans’ questions, I say this, I was lucky to hear you call a Gambia Mali game in 2003, I was also there when you took the signal call from Radio Gambia in The Gambia Senegal encounter, NOBODY DOES IT BETTER.