Inspiring Story of Adama Jarju, Founder of Yakarr Football Academy 

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By Yankuba Jallow 

This is a story of a self-employed girl who founded a club in her community and now will be competing in the GFF Women’s First Division next season after winning the 2023/24 Women’s Second Division. She manages a club having about 30 players. 

Adama Jarju is living her dream. She hailed from a humble family. Foroyaa Sports brings you her story as a sports lover and one of the few ladies investing in women’s football development. 

Adama Jarju founder and President of Yakarr Football Academy

Young Adama was born and grew up in Siffoe Village, Kombo South District, West Coast Region. She is the founder and President of Yakarr Football Academy based in Siffoe.

“Football in general is expensive. You have to have the passion to be able to spend in sports. If you do not have the passion, there is no way you can spend your money on it. It is my passion and I love it. I enjoy it,” Adama Jarju said.

Yakarr FC are already the winners of the GFF Women’s Second Division with 2 matches before the end of the league season. They are at the summit of the table on points from 20 matches. The second place team, Jeshwang United, are on 36 points from 20 matches. Yakarr has the highest number of wins in the league and lost only once. They only lost to Greater Tomorrow. Yakarr also have the highest number of goals as they have scored 42 goals.

Yakarr’s succeeded in winning some strong and established sides in Second Division. One of the outstanding victories was against Jeshwang United. This match was the decider as to who will top the league. Yakarr won the match and maintained the top until now. They are now the champions.

“For Jung Mama, we can beat them again and again. It is a very strong team. We drew the first leg 1-1 because something happened. I do not like apportioning blame on anyone. A fault happened and they scored. We saw what happened. They even scored in stoppage time. My girls like competing,” Adama said.

This is Yakarr’s second spell in the Second Division and they won it after having finished 9th in their first season. The milestone achievement has a history dating back to 2007.

Yakarr’s two players were part of the Under-20 squad that played in the recent WAFU tournament in Senegal. They were Banna Jarju and Joko Saho. 

Adama said when they came to the Second Division they only wanted to maintain their position in the league because the girls were not used to playing a lot of matches. In the second year, they came with the mission of winning the league and they succeeded. She explained that they had a good pre-season training and matches to prepare for the league season.

Adama’s love for sports began during her childhood days. During her primary school days at the Siffoe Lower Basic School, Adama would not join her fellow female students to play rounders instead she used to play football with boys. Rounders is seen as a girls game. 

Adama and her girls

“When we go out for Physical Education (PE), normally the girls play rounders and other games. The boys play football. For me, I like playing football. From primary school days to now, the passion stays with me,” she said.

Adama first played for her community women’s team and moved to play for Jam City Football Club in the Second Division of the GFF League for 3 years. This time she was still going to school. She was a player coach – meaning she plays and coaches at the same time. She used to play defensive midfield role, then central midfield and she was an attacking midfielder before stopping active football to focus on her founded football club.

“I can still play football, but now I am very busy with my Club. I train but not like before,” she said.

Her journey into administration commenced when the Gambia Football Federation (GFF) came with a training course for women football administrators. Adama was part of the training on two occasions and proceeded to do her D-Licence and C-Licence Coaching Courses. 

“I am a C-Licence holder,” she said.

Adama Jarju is C-Lincense holder

Yakarr FC 

Yakarr FC was not the first name. In 2007, Adama built the club and named it Gamcel. The club was given the name to Gambia’s sole national GSM provider to attract sponsorship. Adama’s goal was not achieved since she did not receive any funding or support from Gamcel. 

“We tried to look for sponsors from Gamcel, but we were not able to find one,” she said.

The name of the club was changed to Siffoe United. It began to grow.

“When it was growing at some point, the community claimed ownership. It was a bit difficult for us. I had some push and pull with some of them. So I decided to let it go,” she said.

Adama left the team and focused on playing for Jam City until a point when the girls returned to her.

“The girls said they want me to come back to them. They wanted me back. I told them that I will come back but the club’s name has to be changed. That was how I changed the team’s name to Yakarr,’ she said.

Adama succeed in registering Yakarr Football Academy in the West Coast Region’s Third Division and spent 4 to 5 years. The team comprises mainly players from Siffoe, Berending, Kartong, Nyofelleh, Kitty, Gunjur and some communities as far as Foni. They qualified for the GFF Second Division in the 2022/2023 season after winning the West Coast Region Third Division. During their first season in the Second Division, Yakarr FC finished in 9th position. 

“We faced a lot of challenges, but we managed to finish in 9th position. A lot of things happened but we managed,” she said.

Adama, who is now a little above 30 years, said her players trust her because she always fulfils her promises to them. She aspires to do more for Yakarr FC and to keep her girls motivated with the right resources.

“They listen to me. Some of them call me Aunty. They believe in me because I always fulfil my promises,” she said.

Adama now focuses on administration to ensure that the club progresses while there is a coach who trains the players. 

Adama was asked about the potential of losing her players to big guns in the Gambian Women’s League because they are financially stronger than her.

“I trust my players. They have been coming for them. Some clubs go to my players and speak to them directly. You know what, they used to tell the clubs that approach them – ‘We cannot betray Adama. She suffered for us.’ I am safe,” she said.

Challenges

“In Kombo South District, I can say we are the only recognised female team there. Like I said, sports have been my passion. So every little penny I have, I spend it on football,” she said. 

Yakarr FC is being run and managed by Adama all by herself and with support from her mother and friends. The club has about 30 players. 

“It has been a long journey for me. Sometimes I will be out of money and my mother would support me. My mum supports me a lot,” she said.

Adama recalled that it was not easy to pursue her career dream because of cultural and perceived religious barriers regarding women’s football.

“Football is seen as a men’s game,” she said.

Her mother was not appreciative of her career choice at the beginning, but her late father was supportive.

“My mum had no choice because my dad supported me. She began supporting me when she had no option. She really supports me,” Adama said.

She would provide the team transport on each match they played. 

“I pay Eight Thousand Dalasi to transport the team to Soma. When we travel to that area, we spend between D10,000 to D12,000. All our matches we camp, we cook and we travel. All of that money comes from me,” she said.

The team will travel one day before the scheduled date for the match to spend the night at the school in Soma.

“We travel a day before the match and spend the night in Soma because it is a long journey. It is not easy,” she said.

She would also give the players weekly transport to come to train. She said the players from Foni come twice or thrice a week.

“They cannot come every day. It is not easy,” she said.

Adama gets support from her good friends because they have seen what has been doing and they want to motivate her.

Yakarr is an academy and it is not easy to run it.

“Right now I am going through a lot. All the money I am working for is going into the team,” said.

A group of young boys came to her asking her to manage them. These are boys between 9 and 16 years. Adama accepted them and they form part of the Yakarr Academy. There is a man volunteering to coach them and they participate in tournaments in the village and its vicinity. They are currently playing in one league in Kitty.

“I train them sometimes, but I have a boy helping me to coordinate them. For me, I do more of administrative work now,” she said.

She decried that it is not easy for women’s team to get sponsorship in the Gambia.

Adama said she has been writing to companies for sponsors but she still did not have sponsors.

“I only have helpers. Sometimes when I win, some of my friends would give me D2000, D3000 or D5000,” she said.

Adama also organises an annual women’s football festival that lasts for 3 days (from Friday to Sunday). She invites 10 teams to compete among themselves.

“I sponsor that myself- alone. They stay together and I provide the feeding,” she said.

The last edition was held in Marakissa Village in the Kombo Central District. 

“October is normally my birth month. Instead of celebrating my birthday like others, I decided to bring women footballers together and play football. That’s the Festival” she said.

First Division Football

Yakarr will be playing in the Women’s First Division next season as they have already booked their place. They will have to play against top and established clubs like serial winners Red Scorpions and Berewuleng, who have been dominating women’s football over the years.

“We are coming to compete. We are going to break records because I know the calibre of players I am having. They only need support. They need technical training to get to the level of the other teams,” she said.

Adama is hopeful that her girls will do well in the First Division. 

“My players want to compete, especially with big teams,” she said.

Yakarr will be playing in the Women’s FF-Cup semi-final against First Division side Berewuleng.

“Berewuleng is not our problem. We played with them when we were in the Third Division and they were in the Second Division. They were not able to beat us. We still have the same players and they also have the same players. My players like to compete,” she said.

Adama said her strength is that her players listen to her and they adhere to her advice.

“I always advise them to take football with seriousness and they listen to me,” she said.

Adama said women football footballers and administrators need all the support to achieve their career dreams. 

“It is not easy. Some people will try to discourage you. Others would want to serve as impediments but you don’t need to give up. It is not easy, but if you push you will get to the level you aspire to reach,” she said.

Adama said the environment is not encouraging but that should not discourage anyone.

“You will get to the level you want to reach. You just have to be prepared,” she said.