By Sulayman Bah
The coast was beginning to clear so was Gambia’s quest to make a mark in the world of football.
Coming hot on the heels of the Africa U-17 success in 2005 –a feat Ghanaians will argue was controversy marred owing to a fan’s intrusion in the goalmouth -scouts from abroad saw some gems sprouting out of Banjul.
It would be a travesty chronicling that exploit without mentioning the late Ousam Dodou. The Ghanaian gaffer’s expertise is largely credited for the Scorpions’ heroics.
Like a garden adorned with ripe flowers ready for harvest, Chelsea saw the requisite to dispatch their chief scout Guan Williams who it happened was keeping tabs on the triumvirate of Ousman Jallow, Momodou Ceesay and defensive midfielder Ebrima Sohna.
Domestic club Wallidan, by default of being the trio’s employers, were in the heart of the negotiations but first the Stamford Bridge outfit felt the need to test the players in a tournament in England.
Newly crowned African champions The Baby Scorpions were headed for the youth World Cup in Peru but had a stop in London where they did their preparations.
Photo: Ebrim Sohna is now the sole player in the national team
Mourinho, upon learning a lot about his would-be trialists via dossier compiled by his chief talent-hunter, the Portuguese gaffer found it prudent to put the Gambians to an audition.
The trio were viewed as the like for like replacements of Didier Drogba or Claude Makalele.
History was about to be written as the aforesaid names look on the brink of being Gambia’s first aces to star in the English Premiership.
Jose’s vision for the youngsters was to get them inking the dotted lines as youth recruits then ship them out to fetch first team experience in one of their feeder outfits in the Belgian First Division A.
As juicy as the project looked, there was also an installed clause in the proposed contract permitting Chelsea to build an academy in the Gambia in total bucks amounting in excess of D21million Gambian notes.
The news was well received before it took a poor curve stabbing a knife right though into any hopes of the deal crossing the line. Typical of such scenarios, blames were apportioned on the players, their parents and Wallidan for being ‘greedy’ in the narration of the late Omar Sey.
Sey opted to come out with the story at a press briefing eight years ago cleaning himself of whatever faults or dirt.
Sohna and Ousman Jallow were both laid back about the story in previous interviews. For the latter, there was an overture from Arsenal as well but he had to divert to Denmark having had qualms with obtaining a working permit.
And telling his side of the narration, Sey then said: ‘Chelsea offered those three players trials which was held under Mourinho and I had to travel to London with them. They were offered contracts because Mourinho wanted to sign Zico as a replacement for Didier Drogba and Ebrima Sohna as a replacement for Claude Makelele but because they were less than 18 at the time, they had offered to sign them and take them to Belgium until they turn 18 and then this rumours went out that I took players to sell in England.’
‘Their parents also wanted something out of that money at that time and then Zico’s mother called me and (a relative of his) who lived in Scotland said he was taking him to Tottenham. They spoke to Tottenham,’ he said.
Elucidating, he ventured again: ‘Imagine at the time, Chelsea offered 300,000 pounds for the trio, they will also pay the GFA training fees while they also wanted to set up an academy here in Gambia but the club here (Wallidan) was asking more and when it failed, Chelsea said they cannot rely on us anymore. So I will blame the players for their immaturity, their parents and club for greed and the club for their improper structures.
‘The players were officially supposed to be Under-17, and that means they cannot straight away make a break into first team contracts.
‘The attitudes by all those named, among other things, led to the failure of those potentially lucrative deals, which would even have resulted in the establishment of a Chelsea football academy in The Gambia,’ Sey moaned.
It’s 16 years on. The players are already in their peak with Ebrima Sohna, Momodou Ceesay without clubs as well as Ousman Jallow who last kicked a ball June last year with a lowly league side in Finland.