Shivers were inevitably sent down the spines of The Gambia –a tiny West African nation with no less than a two million population –when it was reported that one of their own, Omar Colley, has contacted the life-ravaging Coronavirus.
Being a huge star in Banjul and a world-beater in the art of defending a goal-post, there was worry all over. These fears were more than genuine for an African country whose health sector is not only poorly funded but ill-equipped to tackle anything that sounds like a virus, Coronavirus notwithstanding.
Local social media platforms went bonkers about the news. A random sampling of these outlets revealed a tone of gross worry from the comments and prayers of Gambians.
One rather overzealous comment dared to poke fun during what was and still a moment of great unease.
“While developed nations with state-of-the-art scientific apparatus are busy finding a solution for coronavirus, please we Gambians should concern ourselves only on praying a cure is found through God’s intervention because that is all we can do,” the humorous comment read invited a bombardment of expletive rants from a lot clearly in no mood for hilarity.
Gambia have been shoved in panic mood from the time a case was confirmed in Senegal of a certain elderly French man– their closest neighbours whose exorbitant hospitals is a majority of Gambians last resort having exhausted all avenues in Banjul’s main referral Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
So the last thing anyone from this part of the world ever wanted to hear was news of one of their own being forced into isolation upon infection.
So How Did The News Break?
One-time Italy Serie A title winners and Genoa-based Sampdoria delivered the unpleasant news. They named the 27-year-old, valued in excess of 19m euros, as one of four of their players in self-isolation having “contacted” coronavirus.
The story is, the left-sided African centre-back probably got the infection from a teammate and striker Manolo Gabbiddini who became the first to be hit by the pandemic amongst Sampdoria’s squad members.
News of Colley’s reported infection came much as a disappointment to initial claims suggesting Africans are immune to the epidemic. This argument was referenced on the surprising few cases of confirmed incidents of the virus on the African soil.
A great air of apprehension hovers in Serrekunda this minute, one of Gambia’s largest cities. However, one news platform from the legion of papers that carried Omar’s story differed with the news article. Editors of the outlet insist Colley is not infected of Coronavirus, banking heavily on a family source who said the player only has a slight sore throat and is in isolation like the rest of Sampdoria’s squad members as per club directives.
So Did Sampdoria Lie About Omar?
Sampdoria were once one of the heavyweights of the Serie A when Italian football was at the height of its powers, never mind the team’s recent spectacular fall from grace. The Blues of the Serie A are consequently a revered side and risk soiling this reputation if they would name Colley as infected when he is not.
There seems to be a solid argument suggesting that this appears to be the case. Colley, a squad regular, had been bound for Gambia for the make or break Gabon qualifier in Libreville. His departure would have created a void in gaffer Claudio Ranieri’s setup coming during crucial times jaws of relegation are gnashing.
To the Gambia, where he hails, the former Genk man is a mainstay even in his worst football form. So this risk of losing Omar for a number of days, before the Italian FA postponed leagues games, according to the particular news outlet in Gambia, is the reason for Sampdoria’s inclusion of Colley on their list of stars with the coronavirus.
Regardless, question still lingers over why the Italian outfit would jeopardise their player’s health knowing it will pose Gambia a scare.
Interestingly, Omar sent a leaked voice message to a family member claiming he has no virus, that he is well and sound, claiming the release is his employer’s (Sampdoria) tactic of blocking his travel to the Gambia for the AFCON.
The audio was leaked just hours before CAF announced the cancellation of all 2021 March qualifiers until further notice.
Yesterday evening, Omar Colley posted a 50-second video confirming he does not have the virus having ran two tests.
Permission is obtained to re-publish this story culled from African multi-media news outlet Ducor Sports of which Sulayman Bah is Managing Editor.