Saturday, June 25, 2022

A Tale of “Bitter-Sweet Emotions” As Nda Retires From National Football

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By Momodou Jarju

For Pa Modou Jagne, fondly called Nda, football is part of his identity. It is a game that gives him a job and plays a key role in moulding him into the adult he is today. A trip down memory lane of his career for the Scorpions of The Gambia brings “bitter-sweet emotions” for him as he announced his retirement from national football duties on Monday, February 7, 2022. 

“I came to the international football scene when I was given the opportunity to serve in the Gambia’s under 17 squad that competed in the under-17 world cup in 2005 in Peru,” Nda recalled as quoted from his recent Facebook page post. “Since then, I have tried my best to always answer and honour the call to represent The Gambia with my utmost best.”

Soft-spoken and dedicated to national duty whenever he is called to represent Gambia, Nda held a farewell event at the Football Hotel in Old Yundum and dedicated the moment to his grandma and uncle, both of whom, he said, raised him to become who he is today.

Like many players, representing their country in a football competition—the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the case of Nda—is always a dream come true. Nda captained the senior Scorpions to their maiden AFCON finals held in Cameroon. The Scorpions were the lowest-ranked side (150) in the 33rd edition of the tournament, but their splendid performances made them the biggest movers in the latest FIFA world football ranking—jumping 25 places more to occupy 125 now.

Photo: Nda speaking to the press as he announced his retirement from national duty. © Culled from GFF Facebook page.
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From underdogs to giant killers, the Gambia national team beat Mauritania, drew with Mali and defeated Tunisia in the group stage of the 2021 AFCON. They would shock Guinea Conakry in the last-16 by beating them one nil to reach the quarter-finals for the first time. They crashed out through a 2-0 beating by the hosts Cameroon. But the moment was a lifetime opportunity Nda believed started before his generation.   

“It has been a great honour to be part of the Gambian team that qualified for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time. Every time I get on the field during the tournament so many emotions are evoked knowing that the whole Gambian public are united in watching us live the dream with them. This was the dream of Biri Biri, Jatto Ceesay, Ebou Sillah, Aziz Corr, Bonu Johnson, Sang Ndong and all the other brilliant footballers that came before me. They laid the foundation and walked so that our generation of footballers can run,” Nda told the gathering.

Nda’s retirement means his deputy captain, Omar Colley, will take over. While leaving the leadership position of Gambia’s national team captain to the capable hands of Colley, Nda is full of pride and hope for Gambian football. The Gambia skipper is also of the opinion that the Scorpions have quality players with incredible professionalism. These boys, he said, are going to keep breaking the barriers and will be “chilling with the big boys of football”.

Photo: Nda handing the national flag to President Adama Barrow following their exit in the Afcon quarter-finals in Cameroon.

There were many people who doubted his deserving call to represent his country in the just concluded Afcon finals. He was among the two oldest players who shared the same 2005 generation of talented Gambian players.  But Gambia’s Belgian coach Tom Saintfient believed in him and shrugged Nda’s shoulders with the responsibility to lead the boys in Cameroon. He shares his appreciation for that “trust.”

“My gratitude goes to Coach Tom Saintfiet for trusting me with the captaincy and believing that I have a place in the national team. To the Gambia Football Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports thank you,” he said.

“To Kabba Ceesay and all those that contributed to my development as a player in the early years, my achievements would not have been possible if you had not helped in nurturing my talent and guiding me.

“To the Gambian people and Scorpions fans. You supported, encouraged, and constructively criticised us though the many failed attempts of taking our football to the higher international stage. I am grateful to have been supported by you and to now be joining you in supporting the gallant scorpions,” Nda said.

Meanwhile, Nda isn’t calling quits to football all together. He has a few years plan to be on the pitch and what to do after football.

“This is not goodbye to football yet. For the next couple of years, I will continue with club football after which I will transition to other roles associated with the sport which will be communicated in due time,” Nda said. 

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