Trade Union leader, and ex international Goalkeeper
Kebba Masaneh Ceesay, the Secretary General of The Gambia Labour Congress is well known for his soft spoken but assertive expression. He is one of the Gambia’s leading trade unionists and veteran as that.
During his long association with trade unionism, a passion he actually inherited from his father, Kebba dealt with rigorous, tough and sometimes tensed negotiations on behalf workers and represented them in many important meetings locally and abroad.
He was also a former national team footballer. In this Bantaba, he talked about his life, work and hobby;
Who is Kebba Masaneh Ceesay?
My name is Masaneh Ceesay commonly known as Kebba Masaneh Ceesay and I was born in the colonial city of Bathurst. I started my education at Leman Street Infant School through to Yundum College, the then teacher training college in The Gambia where in 1964, I graduated as a Qualified Teacher specialised an in Physical Education, PE .
Your name contains a very famous name in Gambian folklore Masaneh Ceesay. What is the connection?
Yes I carry a very popular name Masaneh. He was my grand grandfather Masaneh Ceesay of Bintang Bolondala, who was very famous, rich and generous, hence many Griots like to sing songs in his honour and name. It will be recalled that one of the songs sang during the of Gambia’s independence ceremony in 1965 was a Masaneh Ceesay tune.It is still sang at many official gatheries by the Gambia police , Army or Scout bands.
And who was your trade unionist Father who inspires you to unionism?
He was called MM Ceesay and he was one of the early unionists in The Gambia. So I was born in to the family of a trade unionist.
Let’s talk about your unionism, when and how did it start?
My involvement in Workers organisations came about in the early sixties when I was a regular attendant of workers union broadcast talks at Hagan Street and was inspired by the dynamism of Jallow Jallow, Wahab Loum and Dr Mann Joof.
My father was also a trade unionist and a member of The Gambia Labour Union, thus after qualification from college in 1964, I became active in the Union then led by BB Kebbeh and Mr Bright.
I became a member of the workers Education Committee under the chairmanship of O C Jallow and was availed the chance to represent the Union at a collegiums held by the Pan African Workers Congress in Lagos in 1966 .Later I became an Executive Member of the Pan African Workers Congress,a continent workers movement affiliated to the IFCTU and later WCL.
That was a great achievement. How did that impact on Gambian unionism?
Well I recruited many members to the Union and some of them benefited from scholarships to study abroad and are back to contribute in the development of the country. Myself I became fully involved in trade unionism at international level. In 1967, I resigned from the teaching profession to take up full time international appointment with the Pan African Workers Congress as Administrative Secretary in charge of Young Workers. Later, I was appointed Administrative Secretary for the Africa Federation of teachers and civil servants affiliated to the World Confederation of Labour WCL.
In 1972,my continued participation in Union activities gave me the possibility to pursue Industrial Relation Diploma at the Ruskin College as well as certificated course at the International Labour Institute on Labour and Social Policy with emphasis on decision making approach.
At national level I continue to search for a united labour movement having created the first Trade Union Committee TUC in 1970 which gave me the possibility to be a signatory to the charter setting up the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity by the OAU in 1973. As Chairman of the then recently established Trade Union Committee, my dream centred towards a united labour movement that will meet the aspiration of the working class and together with the government continue to create an enabling atmosphere that guarantees decent work.
You also had a distinguish football career, not so?
Yes, I was a Goalkeeper. Like all young boys in Banjul then, I started in the streets and the then Box Bar open field before the construction of the stadium.
However my Association football started in 1962 at the Yundum College when I was inducted in the College Team against a visiting Leycee from Sebikotane in Senegal.
At t college I also played Basketball,Volleyball and Handball in all of which I represented the College. I was a track athlete too but that was only at inter-house level.
I even played in the College Cricket league cup winning team in 1963 under the captainship of Alhajie Omar Sey. I was also the Volleyball captain to the College team. In those days’ sports was big and once you are good in one sports you could easily became a star in another .Sort of All Rounder.
Let’s concentrate on football. So you went on to play for the national team?
After qualifying as a teacher I joined ARRANCE FOOTBALL CLUB in 1964 as one of the youngest players with the likes of Robert Joiner, Salifiu Ndure(the first school boy international),Gaira Lamin, Edi Manneh confi ,to name a few.
It did not take me a season to be Gambia’s Number One in the national football team known as The Gambia XI. I was 19 years old when I played my first international match. It was in Bamako, against Mali,which has the likes of Salif Keita, Chemoho and others.
The other members of the Gambian team then included, Pa Mamadi Sowe, Ebou Drammeh, Aizz Coker, Biri biri, Moses Trinn, Solomon Jatta, Solomon Gomez, Babou Sowe and others.
How long was your international career?
I stayed in the National Team throughout my career (15 football seasons until I retired in 1979, bringing Goalkeeper Saho as my replacement. I captained a successful ARRANCE and Adonis teams, the first Gambia team to reach the final of the Senegalese Youth Week celebration winning the silver medal.
As a Goalkeeper I was so good that I was called the names of the greatest goalkeepers of our times such as Lev Yasshin (the greatest Goalkeeper in football history) Gordon Banks of England at the time. I did play for The Great Team Real De BANJUL contributing too many victories that earned them a great name in Gambian Football. I moved to Ports Authority FC where I added impetus and strength led them to their first FA Cup victory .After my retirement I stayed in the touch line as a coach along with Mass Axi Gye in addition to being the secretary to the Club.
You were also heavily involved in social matters too?
As secretary of the Baah Yaye social and sports club ,along with my childhood friends ,Kaba Jallow Mass Gye,Omar Ceesay, Charles Jarra, Ebrima Mbowe,Mbye Touray,Modou Mbenga, Prince Coker and others, initiated mass sports that included all social clubs such as NehAferr, Los amigos Kent street Vous Adonis Vous,etc. and there use to be annual event called Baah Yai Sports . We also initiated the inter clubs football tournament organised during the off season, now Nawettan. In my capacity as secretary of a national association I was a founder member of The Gambia National Olympic under the chairmanship of the then Director of Youth and Sports, Alh. Omar Sey.
How was football in those days?
In those good old days football was played for passion and as a hobby. We were very competitive and dedicated to the game giving it all the seriousness it deserved whole heartedly without any form of remuneration. We had to sacrifice even to buy our own football boots. The fans were well committed to the game and showed total belonging to their respective teams.We had no trained coaches and so we depended on our own collective ideas to build our teams.
I have to pay tribute to some some very dedicated personalities of my time, namely Uncle Louis Prom,Eric Janneh,Uncle Jarra,Uncle Ebou and Kebba Conteh,Fisco Conateh,Chamsu Coker,Gabbi Sosseh, to name a few. We had very talented players and if we had all the facilities that now exist in Gambia football, the sky would have been our limit.
Your last word?
My last word is that I look forward to a the day when football in this Country will be at Professional Level and the day all workers would to be united under one platform in order to make positive contribution in the socio economic development of The Gambia and promote decent work for the working class.