In this week’s edition of the Hits and Misses section of Observer Light, we bring to you five of the most skillful players that put on The Gambia’s Red, White and Blue Strips. This list is arranged in no order and equally your thoughts are welcomed on our Facebook Page.
Alhaji Momodou Njie, Biri, is by far the Greatest Gambian footballer of all time; and for many, the Best in Africa. He played for Wallidan and B1901 in Denmark but came to world attention at Sevilla in Spain, in the mid 1970s, where he is a cult hero. Biri Biri mostly played as a right winger, using his speed and his skills. He could shoot with both legs, was a good header and full of tricks. And above all, he also was a charismatic man. No wonder he was a crowd favorite. As well as the first Gambian footballer to play professionally abroad, and the first African player to play professionally in Denmark, Biri Biri remains the only African to have a Stadium stand named after him at a European club. Named Biris Norte, the northern section of Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan carries the name of the Gambian for more than four decades.
If Biri was the King, then Aziz Corr senior was the Prince. But despite Biri’s greatness, most Gambians believe that Aziz Corr is by many miles the most skilful player ever to have donned the National Team jersey of The Gambia. He was one of the schoolboy internationals for the Scorpions who learnt his trade through the legendary figure of an Irish educationist and sports enthusiast, Father Gough. And after making his mark in domestic football, via St. Augustine’s High School, he played professionally in Denmark later in his career. As one pundit, Tijan Ceesay, once said, Aziz Corr is by far the most skilful player to ever play in Gambia. He could disgrace and beat you anytime in any fashion.
Aziz Corr Nyang:
Aziz Corr Nyang was handed his National Team debut by Sang Ndong and returned the favour by banging in the first two goals in that famous 6-0 walloping of Lesotho at Banjul’s Independence Stadium in the 2004 Afcon qualifiers. He had an on and off stint with the National Team but when available and on form, he was arguably the best player for the Scorpions and will forever be remembered as the scorer of that decisive late goal in Dakar that in 2008 secured Gambia its first result in Senegal in more than four decades. That goal also banished the memories of a terrible miss by the same player in the same stadium five years earlier. A mesmerizing superstar who has bags full of talent, Aziz played for GPA in Gambia and won the Swedish tile with Djurgarden in 2005.
Today he is the new darling of Gambian fans and since the retirement of Aziz Corr Nyang, the Scorpions hadn’t seen any player that possess the same skills as that of the 31-year-old; that was until Barrow’s introduction last year. He never played league football in The Gambia, having moved to Sweden at 11, but is unarguably our best player now and the National Team is being built around him. He became the first player to move from the second tier in Sweden to play top flight football in England, when he became the first Gambian to ply his trade in the Premier League. The man, who became the first Gambian to score in the EPL in the 3-2 defeat to Bournemouth last weekend, produced a stellar performance on the south coast which pointed to a bright future ahead. Barrow’s electric pace and unpredictable nature mean he will always be something of a threat to opposition defenses.
The first of only two Gambians to have ever captained a European side, the other being Pa Dembo Touray, Jatto Ceesay is by far the best Number 10 player for The Gambia and since his retirement from the National Team almost a decade ago, the Scorpions have failed to successfully replace him and time and again his natural ability on the ball, killer passes and leadership skills have been missed. He played for Willem II Tilberg in the Netherlands and after the departure of Sami Hypia to Liverpool, he was handed the captain armband after he himself had turned down lucrative offers from Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United in the Premier League.