By Tijan Masanneh Ceesay
Well before his name was synonymous with Gambian football, he was born into royalty; the first born of Gambia’s most popular family out of Denton Street in Half Die. Many of his friends say his affection for the game was further consolidated while in the United Kingdom where he trained as an economist. Having spent time around him and his friends at MaCdonnel Street in Banjul, I can’t recall how many times, I heard Uncle Mali Joiner say to HMM or Jimmy as he was commonly known by close friends; “BOE YOU TOO FAIR,” or “BOE YOU TOO PAST HONEST.” This is the man that I am about to serenade for his “Never come close to” contribution to Gambian football and sports in general. To those who know Gambian sports and watched this “God sent for Gambian sports” man, he is the eternal patron of all Gambian sports hands down.
While history may only point at him founding Hawks Football Club, Housainou was also founder of a young Banjul team named Black Scorpions from which the name of our national team was derived. It was under his watch and tutelage that stars like Ek (Ebou Kah), BS Sanneh, Saul Samba, Essa Faye, Saul Samba, Victor Gabbidon, Gorgi Sock, Moses Njie, Hassan and Tijan Njie, all became household names his in Gambian football. He painstakingly brought up Hawks FC to the pinnacle of Gambian football after many years keeping faith with his his favorite slogan; “Everything has a process,”. Indeed Njie, by the time you were done Hawks played the best football there ever was and how I so wished we adhered to your philosophy of process back in the day.
Dealing with Housainou was almost a daily routine for me since I wore two caps in Gambian football; one as a journalist and the other as a club executive. I must admit here that all of them were always quick to remind me that they went to school with my mother so ” Bu ma len yab.” That did nothing to prevent me from hanging out with them every day either at MaCdonnel or his residence at Buckle Street where we spent the greater parts of the night watching the latest English league games played two days prior. Wow, that was our house, there were no limitations and I know Louis Thorpe and Sang Ndong can attest to this. Where we were not in the same team he cared less, for him everyone was family and he treated everyone he came across with kindness and respect. However may I also add, his virtues and convictions were never up for compromise on any given day regardless where pressure was emanating from, HMM was always a fair and straight forward person.
In Gambian football, this man was the support system, single handedly when it came to our national teams. The Gambia Government at the time and still does have a next to nothing budget for the whole of sports. Then there was no Gambia National Olympic Committee to pay for the athletes to participate in international events; but there was Housainou MM Njie. I have witnessed outside of The Gambia, when he had to pay for an international line for us to commentate a game back to Banjul via Radio Gambia. Camping and equipping the national team he also did. All these things he did for the love of the game and country. He was the first Chairman of the Independence Stadium Board and everyone saw how well the stadium was kept under his watch.
What this man has done for Gambian football and sports in general, no one can match. If it were not for him, there would not have been Gambian football today and no one can take that away from him. His name will forever be engraved to the game in our country. A generation salutes you Jimmy and will forever be grateful to you; for not just what you did for sports and the Gambian youth; but for all you were, humble, kind, generous, caring, meticulous, patriotic and respectful to all. Gachengalama Njie! Sleep in heavenly Peace.
Aunty Isatou, Touma, Sata, Baby Soma, Modou Musa et al, thanks for sharing your husband and Dad with all of Gambia. He was a rare gem!
Tey Ma delor paaka cha mbaaram!