By Sulayman Bah
Musa Barrow entered the history books of Gambians to have featured in the Champions League when he turned up for his Italian Serie A side Atalanta yesterday night in their 4-0 savaging to Croatian Premier League winners Dinamo Zagreb.
His chances of starring in this prestigious competition had looked unlikely weeks ago amid reports he was on his way out of the team on loan basis. However, gaffer Gasperini’s failure to get his star transfer target meant the 20-year-old staying put. And yesterday, he fielded for Atalanta coming off the bench two minutes to end of regular time in a move that had him achieving some records.
If Champions League football is assurance of legendary status in the Gambia, then these three have earned.
Foroyaa Sport chronicles these Gambian players to have achieved the landmark.
He goes down as a player –likes most of his compatriots and the succeeding generation – who’d never starred in Africa Cup of Nations, the biggest on the continent.
Jatto remains a legend for the nation despite hanging up his boots in acrimonious circumstances with the Gambia national team in 2007 in the immediate aftermath of the deflating loss to Guinea Conakry.
But a rewind into his most high moments tells of some intriguing achievements. For a nation rarely any footballing hotbed then, he was one out of a generation to have defied the odds and make a break into the European game. It’s uncommon for a raw talent plucked off the GFA domestic league production line to morph into an integral part for a Euro team. Jatto is an epitome of that. He remains remembered still at Eredivisie outfit Willem II whom he had scored thirty-eight goals for out of two hundred and thirty-two (232) cameos in the ten seasons he has been at the Koning ground. In the year he departed Wallidan for the Tiburg outfit, he helped Willem II to finish as silver medalists behind champions of that term Feyernood. Up next was their campaign in the Uefa Champions League in which they faced Spartak Moscow, Bordeaux and Sparta Praha, an experience ending in four straight defeats with two return leg stalemate results. Ceesay partook in those outings clocking a combined 540 minutes with a single caution in Russia to the delight of home fans back in the Gambia. He is revered for his tenacity never mind his abysmal final game for the Scorpions which wrapped up with umbraged fans pelting stones at national team players and his refusal to play in Conakry for the return visit under gaffer Jose Martinez. Now 44 years old, Jatto retired in 2012 with Cyprus Ormideia.
Seyfo Soley is the second Gambian to feature in the Uefa Champions, eleven years following the competition’s renaming to its current nomenclature.
Photo: Seyfo Soley is the second Gambian to play in the CL
His type came rarely. A combative winner of duels laced with silky passing technique, Soley is the first Gambia international to emerge from Lamin village before current Scorpions captain Omar Colley who idolises the former. Not the goal-obsessed type, the former Hawks stalwart formed core of Belgian club KRC Genk’s backline, diverse from the deep-lying midfield role he canters in around for Gambia. He stormed to prominence with his performance in the famous 1-1 draw against Real Madrid, marshalling erstwhile Liverpool, Zaragoza, Valencia and Marseille Fernando Morientes who then was the goal-assassin for Madrid while Zidane was out injured. Stints at Al-Hilal and Preston North End followed suit before his transfer to Doxa Katokopia in 2011.
He was one of players relied on in midfield so much so that he had to be shoved into the pitch minutes from being picked up at the airport despite being jet-lagged just prior to kickoff in Gambia’s tie with Guinea Conakry in 2007 at the Independence Stadium. Fans cheered him on his entry in Bakau but matters turned to tatters when he gave away the ball that culminated to Kabba Diawara’s opening goal for the Syli Nationale. Then chaos erupted after skipper Pascal Feindounou’s second for Guinea as fans vented spleen on him with stones and rest of the squad. Under gaffer Paul Put, there were attempts for his return for the first-leg trip to Monrovia prior to being leapfrogged by a then enterprising Tijan Jaiteh, the wunderkind of SK Brann at the time. Soley faded soon after on the back of an unsuccessful audition at Scottish Premiership team Motherwell.
Number of Gambians to have showcased in the UCL is no more than four and Ceesay makes the cut. He has a more illustrious career than the other two, winning the Slovakian title twice and dragging minnows MSK Zilina history almost single-handedly.
A Chelsea outcast, Zico fired Zilina to the limelight with his heart-stopping acrobatic kick against Sparta Prague earning them spot in the Uefa Champions League group stage of 2010 in which they had Marseille and Chelsea as adversaries. He, like the aforesaid duo, couldn’t get on the score sheet in the European Cup but remain in minds of fans mostly for this outing, in the Africa and World U-17 championships in 2005.
Dogged by injuries, the 30-year-old goal-getter is this minute without a club after leaving Kazakhstani Premier League side Irtysh following expiry of his deal.