#Article (Archive)

Tijan captures great moments of Gambian Sport again (Part 3)

Jun 5, 2013, 2:29 PM | Article By: Lamin Cham

Lamin: In your piece last week, you claimed that the 1983 forward line was the best ever in Gambian football, I will believe your time. Now some fans of that era want to challenge you on that, they claim the Liberia forward line was more talented. How do you spin this one?

TMC: Really nothing to spin here; that’s the beauty of Democracy - where everyone has a right to their opinion. This was and is still what I believe and I would want to briefly elaborate on it. If you look at the 1979 lineup, indeed there was great talent there: you had Biri, Tony Joiner, Ndow Njie, Alagie Nyan, Salimong Nyassi, Charlie Boy and Saul Samba.

Indeed great talents but the problem was the combinations were not there. You had three centre forwards, in Ndow Njie, Biri and Salimong Nyassi, if you wanted to start Ndow, Biri had to drop and play the role of a ten and took away from the speed of our attacks unlike having Malleh Wadda a natural centre forward manning that position flanked by two young aces in Saul Samba and Joe Sambou.

You see Tony Joiner was used more in the flanks and those who knew Tony then are aware that the man was a centre forward. That front line could have been more potent if Essa Faye was starting at his natural right wing position.

These problems were there and it showed. Gambia played one of the finest football but finding the back of the net was a problem unlike the 1983 team that had no problems scoring at will.

This is exactly where my claim is premised on. I never said the 1979 forward line was not as good; I alluded to the combinations on the 1983 team.

Lamin: You spoke about Essa Faye being kicked out of the team but you did not go into details, can you please elaborate?

TMC: Well first let me say I broke the news a few hours after Essa was kicked off the team because personally I was not happy about it and I thought the reasons were weak, so to speak.

The coaching staff was not too happy about me breaking that news and indeed I was confronted at the team’s headquarters at the Bakau Police Depot and even threatened that I may not be allowed around the national team in future. The full details are inside the pages of AN INSIDERS REVIEW OF GAMBIAN FOOTBALL and I’ll leave it at that.

Lamin: You described Lamin Owens as the equivalence of Socrates of Brazil. For the many that have not seen him play, what exactly do you mean?

TMC: First the description is not mine, it’s an original from my younger brother Latjorr Ndow who was a great player himself and I mistakenly did not attribute that to him in the piece. Call it plagiarism if you will, but it is his and I do feel where he is coming from.

Lamin Owens, whose real surname is JAH, is the best and greatest discovery in Gambian football and I don’t know where Omar Amadou Jallow (OJ) found this gem. He totally transformed the libero position in Gambian football. He was so good, Saul Njie nicknamed him “Lamin lor def Bahna,” He was that intelligent.

This guy could beat you with his head, chest and legs any day.

He was a crafty sweeper who just took over the back field like no other I have seen play in my lifetime and I honestly don’t think we’ll ever see someone as great as he was. When you get recruited by the legendary New York Cosmos, you had to be great and YES, he was that great.

Watching him play was nothing but beauty in its definition and all its accompaniment.
Lamin: I know you were a track and field man also; have you been following the successes of the Runners?
TMC: I can safely say reading Pointsports is a ritual which confirms that I do. Gambian track and field has always been great. The issue why it did not develop at the time was the fact that there was no money and I believe that’s still the case. In Gambia then, we did not keep records, but I am sure, the able President of The GAA, Dodou Joof (Cappi), can tell you as far back as the early 70s Sheikh Faye (RIP) co-shared the African High Jump record 2.04 meters that stood for almost three decades.

The Gambian female relay team of 1983 (Amie Ndow, Francess Jatta, Jabou Jawo and Georgianna Freeman) won the first medals for The Gambia (Bronze) at the All Africa games. So the progress has always been steady and these men, Cappy Joof, Chico Njie, Bamba Njie, Fred Llyod Evans and Sait Mbye, have been there forever giving their best for the development of sport in The Gambia and without them, there would not have been track and field in Gambia today.

A few months ago, I had a telephone visit with my cousin, His Excellency, Lamine Diack, President of the IAAF and he had nothing but praise for Dodou Joof and his team.

I enjoyed watching these men do their thing. They have produced some of the finest athletes in Gambian track and field history.

It was always a joy watching Banana Jarju jump out of the blocks at Stade Iba Mar Diop or Omar Faye giving it his all in the 200 meter bend.

I can go on and on: the Ceesay twin brothers, Corporal Ceesay and Saul Faye, the girls, Jabot Jaw, Amie Ndow and Georgianna Freeman in those heated 100 meters finals or watching the Wadda brothers, Jim and Malleh dominating the field events; that’s memory lane Lamin Cham.
Lamin: If you were asked to select the best individual athletes during your time for all major sports, who would they be?
TMC: The world knows the greatest football player in Gambian history and for me the continent of Africa is Alagie Njie Biri Biri and I am on the record saying had he been said a Brazilian at birth, he simply could have been the Pele of the world.

For basketball, I think the best all-round basketball player I saw play in Gambia is Sunny Alade Joiner. With his 6ft 9 inches, he could put the ball on the floor and beat you to the basket. He could post up against anyone down low and take you to the hoop. He was unstoppable.

The best female basketball player I saw play was Marie Louise Mendy; she was left handed and could post up against any one and also had a deadly jump shot.  Aminata (Cordillia) Sowe, the finest female point guard ever, would be a close second.

In track and field Banana Jarju was the greatest men’s sprinter and Georgianna Freeman was just way too powerful for the female category.

For volleyball, no discussion, Seydou Sowe was the best volleyball player in Gambia. Of course table tennis, I will say, Dodou Bammy Jagne was as good as you could get around Africa at the time, and Adiatou Coker was way too much for any female at that time.

I also covered lawn tennis and I enjoyed watching Amie Burrie Mbye. I think she was the best female tennis player and Imam Bai Secka was the dominant men’s champion until he departed for King College in Tennessee.

Again, let me be clear on one thing, I still do believe deep down in my heart that the greatest all-round Gambian sportsman is Bai Malleh Wadda.

In all these disciplines, he would rank in the top five and I know for a fact that he is the only man I know who represented his country in six sports at international level: football, basketball, volleyball, track and field, rugby and lawn tennis; that’s a world record and I stand to be corrected, but until then, it’s my world record!