By: Bubacarr Fallaboweh
Daddy Gai could have been a top man in Africa. Instead, he was walloped; he left South Africa under very abnormal circumstances. Nevertheless, he has what a player requires in terms of technical abilities.
If records were kept, the national league record, he should have been the holder or had broken it. He could score from an angle, from any position, and at any time.
Born in Dobson but raised in Bakau by his grandmother, he was cherished by the nation because of his striking prowess. That’s Daddy Gai!
“I have the talent, and I was upright. I never expected someone will do something like that. When you need help, people will take advantage of you. People took me to the wrong marabouts in search of turning my miseries into victories,” Daddy Gai told the TAT sports editor in an exclusive interview.
Words failed to come from Kebba Ceesay, alias Jesper, as he struggled to voice his emotions.
“Daddy was a striker second to none. But, unfortunately, he couldn’t play at that high level. Still, he is one of the players that attended the most high-level trials in Africa, Europe, and America.”
“My success in football is I play all my games in my head, like one week before the game. Before going to bed, I visualized what to do in the 18-yard, 1 to 1 with a defender, and how to pass or kick; I calculate a lot. That’s why I score some spectator goals. I used to communicate a lot,” Daddy Gai, who grew up idolizing Morientes, said in the exclusive.
A born striker, he thrived on scoring goals. However, daddy can play on the wings. Daddy became a one-man club person in The Gambia as a second striker until he hung his boots. Premier Gambian clubs like Armed Forces, Real de Banjul, and Wallidan were all after his signing for many years.
However, Bakau United has always been home for Daddy Gai simply because of the connection with Seedy Kinteh. “Seedy realized my talent and has been there since day one; he encouraged me throughout.”
Like every Gambian childhood memory, street football was the order of the day, with plastic scandals and rubber balls; come rain or sunshine, Daddy joined the game and had much fun.
Daddy started playing for the local football jamboree under coach Ebrima Jallow. After that, he joined the elite big boys league by playing for Vietnam Border, where a much younger Daddy always came in the second half, with many complaining about his size, but the coach believed in his instinct and Daddy’s talent.
Bakau Utd was formed in 1997 and started its journey to Gambian football. On their first try, they lost on penalties in the semi-finals. Daddy was later loaned to Sait Matty, who featured in five games and scored in one.
Second, try; they got promoted to the Second Division and then to the First Division. What is a football made of without memories? There are the two gold medals in the short career of Daddy Gai, from the FA Cup and Super Cup, all at the expense of Wallidan 4-1 and 1-0, respectively, with Daddy scoring twice in the FA Cup.
Daddy Gai has featured in all national team categories but failed to leave a mark due to his recurring injuries.
Daddy Gai was a public demand. He was named so many times in the 18-man squad, but he did not make many appearances for him in the senior national cap.
Described as a “top striker, one of the finest strikers that Bakau has ever produced. Good in the head, posed a great threat to defenders, a goal poacher.”
His national team caps include a match against Lesotho and the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
He made his senior national team debut under Sang Ndong and was part of the Paul Put squad. “It’s the choice of the coach. I know I could play; not even a second-half choice.”
Daddy made his debut for the U17 in the 1998 Qualifiers. Unfortunately, the Baby Scorpions were eliminated by Burkina Faso 2-1 on aggregate, with Daddy missing a penalty.
“Had a promising career. Many people thought I was traveling a lot in Africa. Everyone knows Africa. Where is the logic of being a footballer, traveling abroad until after putting a pen on a paper, then I say I want to return home?
It occurred so many times; every time I am in the Gambia, I want to go out for trials, but once I am there, I wish to return; nobody knows why.”
“I lost my luggage when I arrived in Tunisia and was kicked out of the hotel. I called the Gambia for them to send me clothes and shoes, but it wasn’t possible. I ran out of pocket money. So I was smuggled into the hotel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and when I sneaked for dinner, I didn’t go out. My ticket was due, and then I returned to The Gambia.”
The big headline never came to materialize. Instead, many hoped that Daddy would be the first Gambian to play in the PSL, for formerly Silver Stars, now called Platinum Stars FC.
The coach took me from the hotel, and I stayed with him. He told me, “if my wife returns, you can go and search for accommodation and come with anyone you want to stay with.”
Suddenly, I stopped going to training. My mum called me with coach Ebrima Jallow, and they were crying, but I said I wanted to return home.
When I returned to the Gambia, the feeling of wanting to travel produced. I called South Africa back, telling them my desire to return, but the coach declined.
People started saying I was homesick and that I missed my wife. Everybody has an enemy, everyone. I have faith. What happened to my journey? If it had to befall others, they would have gone mad.
The people close to me destroyed me; not everyone wished me well. I had a big circle and was left lonely, but some stuck with me throughout.
“I got a muscle injury while training with some African players to stay fit before my trials in Vietnam.”
Daddy traveled to Norway for trials thrice under Saul Sowe. “I wasn’t fit for the first outing and had to undergo a knee operation. For the second trial, we spent 11 days and were asked to return for the pre-season. Then they had a change of a coach.
The best that got out of Daddy Gai is Bakau United. He won the zonal with Bakau against Serekunda East in 1998. However, throughout his career, he was mainly injured or sick and could not help the teams the way he wanted.
Daddy’s best goal was scored against the Hawks. They needed a win after 1–1, and Daddy received a throw-in from Alasana Jallow while standing at the edge of the 18 yards. A right turn, then volleyed it with the left to the far top corner.
In 2005, Daddy Gai scored 23 goals in all competitions – 16 in the League and seven in the FA Cup. His 16 league goals are a national record, and there was a season he finished as Joint Top Scorer with Assan Jatta at four goals each.
Beyond his national record, Daddy has scored against all teams he faced in the First Division. His international outings saw him play for Impact Montreal, where he only stayed for six months despite signing for one year. “I wasn’t happy because the agent ate my money, and the balance for my salary wasn’t sustainable.”
In Kuwait with Al Tadamon
Despite joining them for the second round, Daddy was on and off the pitch and only played five matches. However, when the club was in Egypt, where they played three test matches, he found the back of the net twice.
Close to joining Jaraaf
In 2003, Daddy Gai would later play for HML, where he was the club’s top scorer with six goals for two seasons, and also featured for the Louga-based club Ndiambour.
Daddy Gai, throughout his career, struggled with ankle, knee, muscle, and toe injuries.
“Even in a fun game, I get injured or feel pain. Whenever I enter the pitch. Whenever I go for trials, I get injured.”
Daddy’s first injury was on his ankle in a test match featuring Bakau Stars. A long ball was sent towards Daddy, who controlled it, but it landed on the left of his left ankle.
Daddy Gai will join BK Milan’s technical team when the season kicks off, and he will also pursue his coaching license badges.