Sheriff Jarju, a licenced FIFA agent, opens up on Ebanbor Sports Agency plans

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The Gambia continues to make giant strides in the world of football. In recent years, the country has been dominating transfer markets, making the U20 a force to reckon with. In women’s football, Sainey S Mboge is leading the race. On April 27th, 2023, Ebanor Agency was established. Launched and owned by Sheriff Jarju, who is a native of Sibanor. Sheriff is among the few in the Gambian community to hold a FIFA agent license. The Alkamba sports desk sat with Jarju, a seasoned banker who studied business administration in Taiwan and also works in the US as a programme manager for an interview on his football agency.

Alkamba Times: What motivated you to become a football agent?

Sheriff Jarju: What motivated me purposefully to become an agent was the Gambia’s first qualification to the Nations Cup. The number of talents in that squad and how they were performing made me have the urge. I asked myself how many Gambians licensed FIFA agents we have; the number is few. I realised we have lots of good coaches, young administrators, and journalists, so that motivated me to bridge that gap between the high number of good talents and the few numbers of agents.

 

Alkamba Times: Take us through the agency’s short- and long-term plans.

Sheriff Jarju- My mission is to create an avenue whereby the players will have the opportunity to sign a professional contract. We believe that we are a place where talents are discovered. Our vision is to be one of the biggest agencies in all of Africa. Our long-term goal is to have a centre of excellence, whereby we will have our players camped and train them to European standards and stuff like that. Our medium-term goal is to start to move players, and our short-term goal is to build a network across the globe. We are working towards achieving our short-term goals.

Alkamba Times: What’s in store for players living in rural areas?

Sheriff Jarju: There is a lot in store for people in the rural area; they have lots of good players. You see, most of those players don’t have the opportunity to play in the first or second division. So, if I am able to scout them, I will help them play divisional football, either first or second. I will create that opportunity for them to have trials so that they can raise their confidence and develop further before going abroad. We will scout for Gambian teams and monitor those players.

Alkamba Times: The year 2024 saw you visited the Gambia, Tanzania, and Cape Verde. How impressed are you with the Gambia League?

Sheriff Jarju: The league is very good and will help the national team. We should improve more infrastructure because the league is struggling with infrastructure. If it’s in place, it’s going to help. For the coaches, they must upgrade themselves; the same goes for the referees. Every stakeholder that is part of the league should try to upgrade themselves. Infrastructure is very important, and the focus should be on the fact that everything will fall into place from there.

For wages and contracts, it is very important that we set a benchmark. I have learned that some teams do not sign contracts with players and still want to hold the player to ransom when he wants to move. There should be benchmarks, whereas every player should sign a contract, and if you are under 18, your parents or guardian should sign on your behalf. A minimum wage should be there too.

Signing foreign players

It will help our local league. Before, clubs like Wallidan FC used to have two foreign players in their ranks. If you buy a player from another country, it brings a different dimension. It’s good that people look at this aspect. In Senegal and Mauritania, we start from there. If I were a team owner, I would just go outside the country and bring in players. I am aware it’s expensive, but it’s good for the image of the league. It’s good for the club because it creates more fans outside the country.

Alkamba Times: The Gambia U20 is currently in Ghana for the All African games. How impressed are you with the Gambia U20 off late?

Sheriff Jarju- The success of the U20 is very key in terms of football development in the Gambia. If you look at the past U20, almost 85% of them got professional contracts, which is good. People tend to know that the Gambia U20 has talents. Now the GFF should try to revive the U17 so that the U17 players will be purposely moved to the U20. Same goes for the U23; with these three categories, our national team will be stronger. I hope that the GFF and the government will start to work on that.

Alkamba Times: Incredible that you visited Tanzania, Cape Verde, and Denmark. What are the lessons learned?

Sheriff Jarju -My trip to Denmark last year and to Tanzania and Cape Verde is very important and is the key to the work I do. Most of the time, team representatives, sporting directors, or even scouts appreciate seeing you in person and sitting down to discuss.

They take football seriously, and the football business is huge, and I hope Gambia can learn from them. Networking is not easy. Sometimes you can network with a team or coach, but you end up finding the person you networked with has been sacked, and then you must start fresh. For them to trust and believe in me, I must try to go and see each other physically. It adds a lot.

Senegal is ahead of us in branding because they brand whatever they are good at. Look at Generation Foot and the way they brand it. You see a player leave Senegalese Ligue straight to France. If you look at the same Senegal, they have quite a number of Gambia players playing there. The teams should start taking the initiative of branding what they have, starting with the team, the branding of the player (player profile), and the video of the player. Real de Banjul is a perfect example of something that other clubs don’t have.

 

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Baboucarr Fallaboweh Sports Editor (Buba Jallow Fallaboweh) is a Gambian football expert, football analyst & columnist. The Stockholm-based Journalist is a media officer, football Scout, PR, Influencer and Digital creator. I started my journalism career as a football analyst in 2012 with Vibes FM and went on to work with CityLimit, West Coast, Hot FM, Freedom Radio, Eye Africa and Afri Radio as a content producer and presenter. In 2013, I attended Football Daily on the BBC SPORTS where we discussed the different styles of Football played in Africa. I Went on to freelance for The Point Newspaper, Freedom Newspaper, Daily Observer and Standard Newspaper before being appointed as Sports Editor with the Alkamba Times in March 2022.  I have worked for Magazines like Glo Magazine and Foot54 covering Gambian football and African Football.   Between 2020 -2021 I worked as a scout for the Gambia Football Federation, scouting talents for the U17 &U20.  From 2017 to 2021, I served as Media officer for GFF First division teams Team Rhino and Marimoo and also as media Officer of Banjul FC, fourth Division tier in Sweden and Darboe’s FC (Female second division club in the Gambia). I served as a PR for Superstars Academy.   With Afrencon, I was a data analyst before I joined LightHouse as a head scout for the Gambia project. In organizational structures, I served as the ambassador of the John Bass Kidney Foundation and one of the founders of the foundation creating kidney awareness in the Gambia.   I also served two positions in the Gambian organization in Sweden, as Sports chairman and the secretary of the associations.   After 12 years of being a football journalist, I was named 3rd best sports column writer in Africa year 2021 by the reputable sports media organization AIPS. I finished in the top 35 in the world with my article titled Back way: Gambian footballers in deadly Voyage to Europe.   With over 500 articles and interviews, analysis, profiling, features and news, I was shortlisted for the Gambia Press Union National Journalist Award 2022. I submitted the article which was co-written alongside Momodou Bah From Living Through Despair to Being An Agent Of Hope, The Inspiring Story Of John Bass.   I have served as an advisers to Football academies, clubs, and players and others. I have hosted dozens of shows and was invited as a guest on both radio, TV and the online press. I also covered the Gambia's maiden AFCON debut in 2021 in Cameroon.  

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