By Momodou Jarju
The year was 2014 when Bakau last featured in the final of the coveted The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) Super ‘Nawettan’ tournament dubbed zonals. They lost on penalties (5-4) to Serrekunda East following a goalless draw. Last Saturday though, Bakau ended their eight-year-wait to clinch the trophy after overcoming a resolute Serekunda West side on penalties following a barren draw in regulation time. This is Bakau’s 4th super ‘nawettan’ title.
The Kachikally Boys were decorated with a giant trophy, gold medals and a cheque amounting to D250, 000.00, while runners-up Serekunda West went home with silver medals and a cheque amounting to D200, 000.00, all sponsored by the GFF.
The epic final, which was played at the Serrekunda East Mini Stadium, was attended by top football dignitaries including The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) boss Lamin Kaba Bajo, as well as politicians and well-wishers. The mini stadium was full to capacity as spectators and fans filled the pavilion and surrounded the entire pitch. The players, though, struggled to control the ball owing to the potholes on the pitch, which somewhat barred skillful players in particular from expressing themselves more with the ball.
Serekunda West were the better side in the first 10 minutes of the game but they couldn’t create clear cut chances to score. Bakau later grew into the game and created better chances albeit failing to score or trouble the West shot-stopper.
Bakau’s Muhammed Lamin Bah has been a nuisance to the West defenders as he was brought down often when he had the ball. In the 17th minute, he was fouled at the left-wing by his marker Muhammed Mbye. Bakau’s captain Pa Modou Nyang took the free kick, sending a low ball into the penalty box which met Alpha Omar Bah. But his hard-hit strike deflected and went over the bar. The resulting corner saw Bakau’s Alagie Touray powerful header go over the bar from Nyang’s brilliant curler cross.
In the 26th minute, Bakau’s Omar Jarju was fouled about 35 yard away from goal and skipper Nyang’s free kick was gripped by the confident West shot-stopper Papa Njie. Jarju’s dummy runs however didn’t go unnoticed as it caused trouble to West defenders.
Serekunda West didn’t let Bakau run the showpiece alone. In the 32nd minute, Hamza Badjie placed a brilliant through pass which met Mustapha Drammeh whose miscue half-volley went over the goal line. Three minutes later, the Westfield boys almost took the lead when midfielder Modou Lamin Kanteh’s out-of-18-strike nearly caught Bakau’s keeper off guard due to the light of the sun. Ousman Ndow managed to parry the ball away for a corner, which was top-corner bound. Ndow received treatment for some seconds after that great save.
Two minutes before the stroke of half-time, Bakau’s Omar Gassama corner kick bumped into captain Nyang in the penalty box, but his miscue volley went out for a goal kick.
The players returned into the second period with the zeal to change the goalless scoreline. And six minutes into the second-half, Bakau scored courtesy of Alpha Omar Bah from a resulting free kick, but it was disallowed for an offside.
In the 72nd minute, Serekunda West’s Muhammed Boissey broke free from two Bakau players in the middle of the pitch and supplied a splendid through pass which bumped into substitute Alajie Kijera after a miscue clearance by Bakau defender. Kijera collected the ball and rounded the goalkeeper only to strike the ball on the post. His mischance left the spectators roar in disbelief as he flung himself on the ground and held his head.
The last 15 minutes of the match witnessed a nervy atmosphere with fans of both teams raising their tunes and chants, so did the players igniting the tempo of the game. In the 84th minute, Bakau’s Ablie Manneh overtook his marker in the left-wing and played a pass across the face of West’s goal which met striker Omar Jarju whose tab in from close range went out of play. The spectators roared in disbelief for that miss.
A minute later, Serekunda West’s Moses Badjie found himself in a one-on-one situation against the goalkeeper when Bakau’s defender missed his attempt to clear a dangerous ball. Badjie struck the ball over the inbound keeper which went over the crossbar. The game ended goalless after regulation time and the teams had to settle the scores on penalties.
Bakua’s Ousman Saine was the first taker and scored. West’s Basibou Mutairu made it 1-1. Bakau’s Mustapha Badjie made it two and West’s Moses Badjie made it 2-2. Bakau’s Ebrima Jarjusey made it 3-2 as West’s Abdoulie Badjie missed the third spot kick, sending Bakau’s fans into wild jubilation. Striker Omar Jarju made it four for Bakau and the fans started to chant “loss we go” as West’s keeper Papa Njie stepped up to take the next kick. He scored the kick and then braced up to save Bakau’s next kick to restore parity.
A huge burden was shrugged on the shoulders of Substitute Alieu Cham as he stepped up to take the final kick which could either make or break Bakau’s title quest. Already, Bakau fans were up and chanting “score we go”. And as cool as ice, Cham placed the ball on the penalty spot and took about 10 steps backward. He heaved hands akimbo. He stepped forward slowly, then jogged towards the ball and struck it into the net, leaving the confident West keeper plummeting on the ground.
A deafening eruption of jubilation filled the stadium to the very brim. Bakau fans displayed firecrackers, while jumping and shouting. In no time, the fans, one after the other, scaled over the perimeter fence amid the pavilion and football field. The security officials who were on the ground to bar the fans from doing just that couldn’t stop them as they invaded the pitch and joined their players in celebration.
Alieu Cham, who was picked as the hero by the joyful fans, was held on top of the fans’ shoulders without his shirt on. They took him around in a circle, his hands waving in the air, to celebrate his heroics.