Parading the greatest Gambian sportsman of all time; Bai Malleh Mustapha Wadda

Feb 21, 2022, 2:13 PM | Article By: Tijan Mansaneh Ceesay

Bai Malleh Mustapha Wadda or BMW his name in Gambian sports circles was born on October 22nd 1959 to Ya Naffie Sallah and Papa Tapha Wadda both of blessed memory at Buckle Street in Banjul.

He attended Windley and Mohammedan Primary Schools along greats like Essa Faye. At Mohammedan, he was the schools goalkeeper and it was there that he put everyone on notice that; a new star was in the making. From Mohammedan, he moved on to Crab Island School under the tutelage of renowned educationist and sports Coach, Cherno Barra Touray. After a brief stint, he proceeded to Banjul's St Augustine's High School, at the time a Mecca for Education and Sports Excellence under the Irish Priest, Joseph A Gough, ORG.

At St. Augustine's Bai Malleh represented the school in football, Volleyball, Basketball and track and field, all disciplines He would later represent The Gambia, the only person known to have done so. From 1974 to 1977, he won the Victor Ludorum trophy for the best High School athlete in The Gambia, a feat never ever repeated. While at St. Augustines's He starred for the family team Real De Banjul, following in the footsteps of big brother Jim Wadda who had departed for Exeter College in the United Kingdom. At sixteen, this Wadda phenomenon was called to international duty in the African Club Championship game against Joliba of Mali, the youngest Gamian to suit up at that level. The following year at seventeen Bai Malleh was selected to man the pipes for The Gambia at the mighty Accra Sports stadium in Ghana.

He left the shores of The Gambia in 1978 for Elmira College in New York where he played football and basketball. He was an instant sensation nick named WADDA 14 for his number. He was leading goal scorer in the three years he spent there. He also was the second Gambian to play NCAA basketball following in the footsteps of his coach and mentor, Alade Sunny Joiner. In addition, he played professional football, but briefly.

Following his graduation with a Bsc in Marketing and Management, he returned home in July of 1982 and his football acumen was revealed on day one on Gambian soil when he netted three goals for Dai ten Football Club in the Banjul Nawetaan. He returned to his first love in football, the team he led to a Naweetan championship before his departure to the states and one that he co-founded with former classmates at St. Augustine's. At Young Africans, for teams sake, he returned to the goalkeeper position and instantly brought some smarts and craftiness to the position, transforming the way the position was played. However in The Gambia national team, he was the unstoppable striker who would go on to win the leading goal scorer trophy at the West African Football Championships (Zone Two) at Mauritania in 1983; a one and done for The Gambia. He is also the author of the famous lone goal that gave The Gambia its only championship in West African football. Along the way, Gambia's greatest football commentator, Saul Njie has given him many names; the Bionic Man, Superman and Dizzle Dazzle Malleh because of his great leaping abilities that the country of Guinea Conakry are in awe of to this day because in their entire history as a nation, Bai Malleh Wadda is the only known person to have netted four goals against them. What a feat! No wonder Tijan Masanneh once called him, " the gravity defying Malleh" recognizing his ability to jump above any defender. That big Sierra Leonean defender of the 80's Joseph Toby was a permanent BMW victim.

He has represented The Gambia in Football, Track and Field, Basketball, Volleyball, Lawn Tennis, Cricket and Rugby, the only
Man known to have done all these for his country. He was also the lone representative of The Gambia at the World University Games in Bulgaria in 1977 and thereat; he made it to the semis in the long and triple jumps competing against future Olympians. Bai Malleh Wadda is the holder of numerous degrees having trained at prestigious institutions like, Elmira College, Harvard University, Bradford University and the University of Bridgeport from where he earned an MBA. He also taught at his alma mater, St. Augustine's High School.

Upon retirement from football, Bai Malleh took over as Head Coach of Real de Banjul in the late 80's and led them to two consecutive league championships tittles, two super cup titles and an FA cup championship. Many that would become legends later; the likes of Ebou Sillah and Pa Dembo Touray went through his hands. His assistant at the time, Bakau's Wa Wandeh Njie, a prolific goalkeeper himself once confided to me that; "Malleh is the smartest person" he's ever been around. Well, his acumen as an athlete and a human being supports that statement.

He is by far the greatest All Round Gambian Athlete. He represented his country with dignity and pride and in the process; he was and is still humble Malleh. And rightfully so, today he is back on the sidelines coaching his boyhood and family team, REAL DE BANJUL. WADDA 14 IS A LEGEND!

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