By: Khalifa Jabbi Alias Karl D’ Poet
If football were a discipline or philosophy, some ardent football fanatics in Holland would either graduate as specialists in the theories of a pragmatic Louis Van Gaal or adventurous disciples of Johan Cruyff. These legendary figures shaped and defined football in Holland. Cruyff was a superstar as a footballer and further cemented his name as one of the game’s greatest managers. Van Gaal just had a decent if not spectacular career as a footballer but as a trainer, he can rival anyone with a better CV.
Both have a place in the Ajax Hall of Fame because of their exploits for the Amsterdam side. Despite their legendary status in Ajax, fans are always divided as to who was a better manager. Van Gaal was a didactic and pragmatic manager who gave no regard to a free-flowing football while Cruyff believed the best way to win was a possession based football with flair and freedom. If you wonder how contrasting the two styles are, remember the styles of Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho. Pep was Cruyff’s most trusted disciple in Barcelona and Jose was Van Gaal’s students. In Holland, if you are a football fan, you either support Cruyff or Van Gaal. That’s the rivalry there.
Sports and football in general is never short of double rivarly. In England, it’s Manchester United versus the rest of the league. El Classico is the biggest rivarly for many football fans but not me. It is always the most watched and followed football game every year but I cannot remember the last El Classico I watched. To me, it’s more of a business oriented game than sport. I will rather watch the Superclàsico between Boca Juniors and River Plate, Derby of the Eternal Enemies between Olympiacos and Panathinakos, Der Klassiker between Dortmund and Bayern or the Serbian Derby where guns and fireworks separate the scores. A rivalry that cannot push me to the edge of my seat is not a derby for me. Recently, many football fans are also caught between a Messi-Christiano rivalry. My friend Muhammed Y Darboe always argued that, I am never where people are but I am beginning to accept his view. Both Messi and Christiano are not my superstars. Cr7 might have scored hundred goals for my Manchester and he still won’t be my star of the game. To me, the greatest player to have ever played this beautiful game is Wayne Rooney. You can choose your best players and rival each other but I will either settle for Wazza or Samuel Eto’o as the GOATs of football.
Those rivalries in Europe are in football. They may have their rivalries in other facets of life but no country can also rival The Gambia when it comes to the different kinds of rivalries in this country. Whether you accept it or not, this country is being spoiled for choices on debates over who is the best. In The Gambia, nobody is a hero. We don’t have a superstar because your superstar is below someone’s superstar. Even if you talk about the beauty of your girlfriend, someone will tell you that, your friend’s girlfriend is more beautiful. Talk about your uncle having a stroke, someone will tell you that his aunt dies with a cancer. The person won’t wait to sympathise with you because we are a country built on petty comparison. For example, if I tell someone that AV DICEY is the best writer in UTG, someone will tell me but Emess is a better writer.
Gambian music back in the days used to be between Jah Alex and Singhateh Rise. You either support the man from Bansang or you support the Afro Manding star. Those were days when music was music. Now most followers of Gambian music, unless if you are a thoroughbred Brikama nko; are divided between ST and Jizzle. It is appalling to me that both don’t sing anything or I don’t understand music anymore. When you talk about punchlines in rap music, I will go for either Kombonka, Artenola or Gee not ST and Jizzle. Like I said earlier on, a thoroughbred Brikama nko chooses between Jaliba Kuyateh and Tata Dinding. In Brikama, it is either Tata or Jaliba. Nice music rivalry.
The rivalry in our political space is another one I enjoy. The most interesting one is between Halifah Sallah and Ousainou Darboe. If you are a keen follower of Gambian politics, you either support Halifa Sallah or Ousainou Darboe. The rest of the politicians are mare attention seekers.
The other rivalries that are always on the lips of many Gambians are Kerr Fatou versus Fatu Network, GRTS versus QTV, Gambia College versus UTG, Nusrat students versus rest of the country but no rivalry can beat that of the one between our Islamic religious leaders.
Muslims in The Gambia are usually divided on the teachings of Imam Fatty and Imam Ba Kawsu Fatty. Both are renowned Islamic leaders with huge followers in The Gambia and the sub region. Legends has it that Ba Kawsu was Imam Fatty’s student but the master and student relationship no longer exists between them. They’re always divided on opinions which creates a huge rivalry between their respective followers. Over the years, both swear to wage a war against each other amidst numerous feuds which culminated into the exile of Ba Kawsu.
The most interesting part of their rivalry is always at the beginning and the ending of Ramadan. Imam Fatty believes that, there’s no problem with Gambia and Mecca fasting and praying at the same time while Ba Kawsu opines that, we must only fast when we see the moon or someone within the sub Africa. Imam Fatty and Islamic Council always declare a day different from Ba Kawsu’s days. Usually they always fast a day before Ba Kawsu and his people and pray a day before them.
Both have a section of Gambians who follow them. As for me, I always sit on the fence depending on the day my gastric ulcer escapes. Sometimes I fast with Team Ba Kawsu because they’re always the last to fast and pray with Team Imam Fatty because they are always the first to pray. It is the rivalry that I always enjoy because there’s always an advantage for me irrespective of the side I choose. A healthy rivalry that must continue.