By: Foday Manneh
West Bromwich Albion wonder-kid in the English Championship, Modou Faal, 20, has expressed interest in playing for The Gambia national team over England, with whom he holds dual citizenship.
Mo, as he is shortly called, is a Gambian born. He moved to England at the early age of seven with his family to settle in Birmingham.
Brightly into his footballing journey, the young attacking center-forward has earned himself massive recognition in England and The Gambia, which came during his professional debut in 2021. That honor put him in the spotlight on whether he could represent the Gambia.
“I want to play for the Gambia National team,” Mo expressed. “That’s where I am from, where I was born and raised for seven years. I would make everyone proud if I played for the Gambia.”
However, the young star argued to have waited for a call to arrive to represent his country of birth and heritage, but this has now been a long wait for him.
“I don’t know what hinders the call because my performance and playing level could easily tell. It should have happened by now, but I don’t know. I am ready and waiting for them,” he told TAT Sports.
BEGINNING OF HIS FOOTBALL JOURNEY
Mo left the Gambia as a young boy attending Serekunda Primary School. This educational journey continued even when he arrived in England. He completed his primary school in the new settlement and finished his Secondary education.
At this stage, Mo felt deciding whether to pursue a college degree or chase his dream football career was crucial.
“When I finished secondary school, then I decide whether to go to college or go in for football,” he contemplated.
“I decided to go for football and trust and back myself. So I joined a football college and said to myself I am going to try in two years and sign for a team; if that did not work out, then I will go back to start conventional college,” he added.
This decision began the footballing journey for what looks like a typical Gambian boy who will forfeit or risk his education for what he loved to do.
He got enrolled in a football college. Fast forward two months later, Faal joined West Brom Academy at 16, after impressively passing a two-week trial thanks to the invitation of one of his college managers who doubled as a representative of his new club.
It was just a matter of time before Mo began his journey with West Brom. His impression secured him a place in the club’s Under 18 and 23 youth teams, where he served during the 2020/21 campaign. He made his worth count by scoring seven goals for the U18 that season.
PROFESSIONAL DEBUT WITH WEST BROM
What he described as a “reward” could be an absolute prize for his hard work. Mo’s professional debut came in August 2021, an EFL Cup game that ushered him into disbelief and nervousness as not all young players like Faal would have the opportunity to debut against the famous Arsenal.
“It was very good and exciting,” he expressed. “It was like a reward for all the hard work we put into training. First, I thought maybe I would not play, or I might. Our first-choice striker was not very fit at the time. Then, finally, the gaffer pointed at me, and I looked back and said he was calling me or someone else. I could not believe I was going to come on.”
“I was very nervous and scared because it was my first time playing a professional game. If you look at the pitch, you see Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Bakayo Saka, and Martinelli; all these players are world-class footballers,” Mo recalled.
Whatever the feeling was for Faal, this game was also an opportunity for him to pay back the trust of his coach and show what he could do even on the big stage, most specifically against Arsenal, becoming the first Gambian from the lower English leagues to play against one of the top six clubs of the EPL.
“You get a bit nervous, but when you get to the pitch, you want to prove yourself at the highest stage. You want to prove you are young but ready to play against these guys. That moment was amazing, and I will always be thankful for that.”
The Gambia’s prospect had a moment of takeaway from this debut, “When I touched the ball for the first time, and I was in a tight area. I dribbled past the central midfielder, then Xhaka played the ball wide and ran into the box. After doing that, I heard the fans clapping, and that was amazing.”
FEELINGS OF WINNING EPL 2 WITH U23 IN 2021
“It was a good journey for me. I scored the winner in the semi-finals and also scored in the finals. I enjoyed it because we were losing at halftime, and it went to 115′ minutes in extra time when I scored the late equalizer in the final. It is my best goal so far. After that, it went into penalties, and we won,” Mo rejoiced.
LOAN MOVES AS CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR MO
In a quest for more first-team experience and game time, Mo Faal left West Brom on loan to three different clubs, namely, Hereford, Telford United, and AFC Fylde, from March 2022 to March 2023. He has shone in all these clubs in the national leagues, but most impressively, he was at his last stop, Fylde, before being recalled by his parent club.
“My stay at Fylde was a good experience for me. I learned from professionals, and we did a lot together there, and it was the best for me,” he recalled.
Image: Mo’s impressive time at Fylde
“Some would want to stay in their clubs and fight for their place. For me, I want to play against men. It is serious football. You play against strong players who are more mature and grown than me. I want that experience, and I had that,”
Mo Faal later returned and had his championship debut with West Brom in April 2023 against Sunderland. He came as a substitute in the 2-1 defeat. More or less, he described the moment like his call to the Arsenal game two years ago.
MO’S DREAM OF A BIG STAGE
The tall, lanky striker, who gave himself the best described as a technical and perfect target man, has a contract with West Brom that expires this summer in June 2023. There are ongoing negotiations to extend his stay with the Championship side, but good to note that several clubs in England have shown interest in signing the forward; among them is Portsmouth.
However, looking at the long-term future, Mo dreams of playing for his favorite club Manchester United in the English Premier League, following in the footsteps of his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. And if there is anything Mo could take from the Portuguese captain would be his mentality of staying at the highest stage.