Feb 24, 2014, 10:37 AM
Death struck Max Jallow on Sunday 19 May and thousands of Gambians are mourning the life of a rising charismatic figure whose charm and openness made him multitude of friends and admirers.
But that was Max at a distance.
For those close to him among them myself, Max was a gigantic and towering personality laden with immense courage and determination that made him an indispensable ally in social and community service. I began to notice this ever-amiable young boy in the late 80s but when sport brought us closer on the birth of the Brufut Marathon in 1995, I came to know the man the more and his unrivaled passionate and enthusiasm for sport and youth development, innovations and inspirational leadership.
No meetings, decisions or suggestions were even half complete without Max putting an input that might sound over the mark but almost always logical.
His brainchild, the Brufut Marathon, is now an international brand thanks to Max’s unrelenting drive and zeal in popularising the Run which has now become a permanent fixture in the Gambian calendar and replicated around the country.
The only noise that attracted Max was sports activities or meetings, or youth development programmes. Perhaps Max can be credited for the single largest contribution to the development and promotion of sport in Brufut, having served in managerial and of late advisory capacities in all sporting organisations in the town.
This exuberance was exported to the national stage once Max took control of the National Sports Council in 2011. In no time that technical arm of the sports ministry began to gain the importance and attention it deserves.
Max was able to reinvigorate the council’s role and standing and raise its profile to the roof top in Gambian sports administration.
Going by his famous mantra, “Go to the people, eat with them, live with them”, Max used his charm and positive assertiveness to tactfully implement directives on thorny issues such as the registration and criteria standards for national associations and harmonise their interactions with government.
In fact it can safely be said that only Max Jallow could tell, and sometimes without consulting notes, who is who in all national associations.
It was to him that questions such as who is, or was the president, secretary or treasurer of which organisation is asked in The Gambia.
Max was the one who knew which associations had won which medal in which country and when. Max knew which athlete or wrestler had impressed at which meeting, etc.
His resilience and ever present personality made his office the first port of call for anyone with any plan for Gambian sport.
Of all the many executive secretaries who served the National Sports Council Max was the most well-known. His popularity with the media often caused concern for his superiors.
But Max was not bothered. For him running an office is public service and so every twist and turn of the Council’s activities should be in the public domain to create better and right understanding.
He was never away from the back pages or radio and TV sports shows, which helped to build him an image constantly in public eye.
Yet Max never abused official confidentiality.
I remember many frustrating moments when I unsuccessfully sought clarifications from him over matters under his purview. He would say, “Boy, I am constrained and I cannot give out confidential information entrusted to me. Besides, everyone will know your source since they know I am your friend’’.
That was Max. I last spoke to him at 7.51 a.m. as he packed his bags heading to catch a plane to Dakar that Sunday, three hours before he died.
His last words to me were: “Cham, please you and Ba Jabbie should take the meetings between the Brufut Marathon Association and the Nova Scotia Gambia Association seriously as I am travelling to Dakar, Germany and the UK’’.
Max did travel that Sunday morning. But he fooled me. He was going for ever. Brother, you have left so suddenly and so soon that part of me went with you. How can I come to terms with the reality that you will never again be on the telephone all day and night for us to update one another or meet at home or Nursery School or the Brufut School field? How can I go to the stadium now? Whose office will I go to? Would I be able to ride on NSC 1 anymore? How can we coordinate the next Brufut marathon run? Who will pick the GRTS crew, the Ice Man juice? Who would give the progress and development speech? Who deals with the cyclists? Who keeps touch with the Friends of The Gambia? What is the theme of the run this time, Max? We promised Darko that we will run a full marathon in 2015 Max. Have you forgotten? Then why did you do this to us? Max are you with me?
Note. Lamin Cham knew Max closely for decades and both worked on the Brufut marathon and sports activities in Brufut.