Coach Kebba Njie Championing school football beyond Banjul 

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By: Bubacarr Fallaboweh 

The Banjul regional coach Kebba Njie is a CAF B license holder. Born in Banjul, Kebba played for his school team, including Mohammadan and Muslim High School.

Kebba featured for Waterside FC, a second-division side, before playing for Augustinians and Starlight in the First division league. During his prime, he played in all positions across the back four and thrived much as a defensive defender.   

Like a striker, he puts on a glove when the goalkeeper doesn’t turn up, and the rest is history. Unfortunately, that’s the same path Kebba underwent, and what happened again will blow away your imagination. 

What People say about Kebba 

“These are the people behind the scenes regarding football development, especially at the grassroots. So open, down to earth, and very humble. The way Bakau has Lie Bojang with his products, Alagie Nyassi at Serekunda East, Kebba Njie is multiple one,” the President of the Gambia Football Coaches Association said of Kebba. 

“He is the big boss of the grassroots when it comes to Gambian coaches. From Alasana Manneh and beyond, most of that generation of kids started grassroots football under him, especially with that Hawks project, Gilkock. Bacha is big in Gambian football. Maybe people don’t recognize us, but we know each other. He needs to be celebrated regarding local and grassroots football development. He is still sacrificing his time amply for these kids. He was knocking on the doors of Banjulians. Coaching in this country is to sacrifice 90%. He is making sure that these young people make it to the top. And this is what he is doing every day. Morning to evening. He is one of the regional coaches who is functioning very well. At that grassroots level, Banjul is on top of other regions,’ Kebba Touray told Alkamba Times. 

“Coach Yusupha Sibi (then captain of Real de Banjul) didn’t turn up, and I was responsible for leading the team that day. I was a player-manager, and it continued for quite a while and blew out of proportion. I decided to step back to give the youngsters the chance to play and become a coach.”  

Sang Ndong, the godfather of Gambian coaches, mentored Kebba before returning to Banjul for an enormous task. In addition, the following tacticians greatly impacted Bacha while growing up. Kabba Ceesay, Sam Thorpe, and MI Kaba Jallow(Starlight) inspired him to take coaching as a career.  

Bacha would spend five years with Gilkock Academy and even went up to the ranks of being an assistant coach with Hawks FC.

“Sang Ndong found me coaching at the KG5 mini stadium, he asked me if I wanted to continue to be a coach, and I replied in positive affirmation. Then, he invited me to Gillock to learn about the trade, and that’s how I found myself at Gilkock Academy. I met Alagie Jobe (former Hawks coach) and the late Joe Gomez there. I was there with Do Jobe likewise Abdoulie Bojang & Ansu Fatty; the latter went to Bakau to continue and established Steve Biko,” he recalled. 

Kebba’s inspiration is establishing more grassroots football avenues in Banjul, which already boasts eight academies.

He is concerned about Grassroots football, focusing on school football and academy Football. 

“His job was to search for talents from the schools and bring them. He says, “The foundation should be strong; we train them before reaching elite football. We are just doing a revival, and it’s standing firm.” The Gambia FA President added

Schools such as Gambia High and Saint Augustine produced elite footballers under the time of the late Father Gough and Mr. Carr. Sheikh Ndure and Aziz Corr were all attending school while playing for the national team. Peter Prom, James Sulayman, and Kabba Ceesay were all at their peak while going to school. 

“We trained with the schools till we established school football. So we left these structures there, and it’s the one we are remodeling again.”

“The schools got acquainted with the U12 tournament. The idea is to build and search for more players from the schools. First, we train them in the basics, look into their mindset, and after that, those we believe can make it, build a team, and develop and push them.”

Current U20 duo Ba lamin Sowe and Pa Ebou Dampha were scouted at Pa Joof Upper essential from the school tournament. Even Alasana Manneh had the same height when he was examined by Kebba Njie from Albion School. The Gambian International would later go to Aspire Academy, Barcelona, a stint in Poland, and now with Odense BK. 

The depth analysis, structures, and experience that Kebba has gathered over the years have helped the Gambia. Its results have been seen in the first edition of the CAF U15 school tournament, where ScanAid won the WAFU Zone A girls category and Old Yundum lost in the finals. ScanAid later represented WAFU A and the Gambia in South Africa, where they won Bronze.

Kebba was coordinating the U15 school tournament together with officers from the school football. 

He applauded scanAid, whom he described as “a very organized team. They have a good setup. That’s why they reached this far. Kanuma (Foni girls) caught the eyes of the scout, who believed they had achieved a similar feat by Scandaid. The scouting was perfect, and they played good football.” 

 

The Gambia will continue searching for talents at schools. Another project is coming where talent identification will start from the Nursey school, an actual football festival. 

Kebba Njie’s model of regional school football was successful, giving birth to the regional third division in the Gambia. So now it’s on our football calendar.

“We introduced the 3rd division, then it was national, but we introduced it regional. Banjul was the first to play in 3rd division. Buba Jallow, Regional coach of the west coast, came to understudy at Banjul; he introduced it, then other regions followed suit.”

Both Fifa and CAF are investing in grassroots football to cut out age cheating and create tomorrow’s stars.

“The academies are part of youth football. Academies have developed, and they have to push Gambian football, some from the academies; once you are in school, you are connected to an academy. Licensed D coaches head most academies; four coaches have D licenses. Now coaches can go to training and workshops.”

Giving Banjul players identity, unlocking their talents  

Banjul has played an integral part in the national teams, from the U17 to the senior national team, over the years.  

“After playing nawettan, they sat down; we came up to see how we could encourage them so that they could concentrate on the league. Banjul players got more involved and took charge. Everybody started to train to be able to play divisional.” Kebba mentioned

“Home from Home, all these teams were founded in Banjul but now geographically moved their bases outside the Capital. Gambia Ports Authority, Gamtel, Wallidan, Gambia Armed Forces, Real de Banjul, and Hawks FC “

“We started mobilizing, but well before that, I was already training with them in the academy. By then, the idea was to avoid pushing them into divisional football; we were training them to move them to other clubs. Establish Banjul teams because we didn’t have 100% Banjul players playing in Banjul clubs; that’s how we started to build and build some teams; some didn’t maintain their status largely due to funding.”

“Ebou Faye thought we should give it a try, Banjul Utd was born, and they qualified; things started to click more. Starlight followed later, but it ended up being dissolved after the relegation. After that, Waa Banjul, which was initially meant to be the feeder team of Banjul Utd, but fortunately, they qualified. So we built up another team to be the feeder team of both Banjul Utd and Waa Banjul. That was the Lions of Banjul. Who in turn believed they could make it and qualified for the second division and spent three years before it was dissolved after relegation to the third tier.”

The list that has passed through Kebba Njie is so much, and it brings him joy, and he describes those players as talented. Dawda and Jimmy Camara Alasana Manneh, Aziz Corr, Kebba Njie, Lamin Sarr, Modou Abdou Bobb, Bakary Bobb, Abdou Njie 

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