By: Foday Manneh
Young Gambian referee Mustapha Jawara has become the first migrant in the Campano Reception Center in Italy to be registered as a football referee with the AIA, the Italian Association of Referees.
Mustapha, 22 is a native of Sanunding village of Tumana District in the Upper River Region who left the Gambia at age 16 to go in search of greener pastures through the Mediterranean Sea to Sala Consilina, Italy, where he now lives.
Despite encountering too many difficulties after being long stranded on the coast of Libya, Mustapha didn’t give up on his ambitions to help his family back home. Mustapha who had always wanted to be football referee well before the covid-19 lockdown in Italy last year, discovered an associate in the Italian referee’s association who eventually helped him to get enrolled in a referee course.
Mustapha attended a series of online referee programs and brilliantly passed both the theoretical and athletic tests.
The young man whose first ambition was to become an electrician in Europe was handed his first game to officiate at a youth match just a month ago and since then he has shown great determination in refereeing youth matches.
“I am not good at playing football, so I thought I could be a good referee. My dream is to officiate the finals of the African Cup of Nations one day and maybe the World Cup by emulating my compatriot, Bakary Papa Gassama.” Mustapha said via the AIA.
“I learned all the rules by my heart to make sure that one day my dream can become a reality. That way, I could hug my family and friends who can see me again in my new career as a referee.”
Sport, most especially football, has recently been the most compelling reason driving many young Gambians on the perilous journey to Europe.
Mustapha’s path sets a viable example that the dream of being a professional in the game does not only stop at becoming a footballer amid other areas in the profession such as refereeing and coaching.