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City of Banjul
Thursday, January 21, 2021

Alfu Gomez, a Gambian Premier League hopeful

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Another Gambian is hoping to break another first in that same profession – refereeing. He is Alfu Gomez, a Gambian referee officiating in the North Devon County in the UK. 

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Gomez, who started his refereeing from Level 9 when he moved to the UK, is now at Level 5 and hoping to be promoted to Level 4 which will put him under the purview of the English FA. “My aim is to play in the Premiership (Level 1). But there is long and hard work all the way there but hopefully one day I will get there,” he told The Standard yesterday. 

Alfu is in the country on holiday as he always does every year. “I actually did officiate some Nawettan matches during previous visits,” said Alfu who has been graded with 75 per cent in recent assessment in North Devon county where he works as a referee.

But Alfu hopes he can one day officiate Gambian league matches or join the GFF referees corps. “That would be exciting.” he said.

The 30-year old Gambian’s journey in the refereeing profession was once glaringly captured in this piece on the North Devon Journal, titled Gomez’s journey may end in Premier League.

 

“From barefoot kickabouts on the sandy streets of a sprawling African town to league football in Fremington, it has been quite a journey for Alfusainey Gomez.

From his degree studies in HIV/ Aids and sexually transmitted diseases in a continent where such problems are rife to his new life here as a kitchen assistant and trainee plumber, the man they call Alfie has set his sights high.

When Gomez married an Ilfracombe girl within three months of meeting her in The Gambia four years ago, no matter how much his circumstances were about to change one thing would remain constant – his addiction to football.

 So, with a trace of The Gambia around his neck in the form of a string of coloured beads, Gomez took to the field on Saturday for his latest assignment as a referee. It may have been only the fourth and lowest tier of the North Devon League but, 14 months after he gave up playing for Barnstaple Town reserves in a calculated move to progress in the game, Gomez is adamant.

“I want to make it to the very top, to the Premier League,” said the 26-year­ old immigrant from the country that calls itself the Smiling Coast of Africa.

And Gomez would have been smiling too after hearing the comments of the managers whose teams he refereed on Alfu Alfugomez yahoo,co uk Saturday, even though a question­able penalty decision gave Fremington.

John Thompson, the Fremington manager, said: “He is up with the best we have had this year.”

Mark Gammon, the Pilton boss, rated him as “one of the best referees we have had this season”.

Gammon said: “We had him for his first game last year and he wasn’t that great. But we’ve had him half a dozen times and, although he could do with having· a bigger voice, he keeps up with play and explains his decisions.”The controversial penalty came just before half time after Andy King had put Fremington ahead, Darren Wood equalised and Richard Shannon re­stored the hosts’ lead.

Although it was officially a home game for Pilton, the match had been switched to Frembley.

Bob Patterson, the Fremington keeper, had arrived late for kick-off and Thompson had to go in goal for the first eight minutes until his arrival. Now Patterson arrived late for a challenge on Alex Boreham on the edge of the area.

Patterson argued that it was outside the box but a penalty was awarded, from which Garry Ellis made it 2-2. At the final whistle, with Pilton having won 3-2 after Gary Grant struck an 81st-minute winner, Gomez stood his ground. “Penalty, 100 per cent,” he said.

Thompson, who was more upset with his defence, said: ”A couple of the lads said it was outside the box but that’s the way it goes. “We gave away three stupid goals.  Letting the ball bounce on a (hard) pitch like this was asking for trouble.”

Gammon praised his team’s work rate but was bewildered by how they could beat the top two in the division this season, Northside Atlantic and Fremington, yet draw with the bottom two, Chittlehampton reserves and North Molton thirds.

For Gomez the task now is to climb the local refereeing ladder towards the big time. “I can do it by working hard and believing in myself,” he said.

It was while playing with Barnstaple that the idea of switching to refereeing struck him. “I thought, ‘I’m 25, I’m playing with Barnstaple re­serves, I’m not going to make it into the professionals’,” he said.

After talking· it over with friends, family and teammates, taking the advice of local referees and going on a course, he made his debut in the middle in February last year.

“The amount of support I’ve had from people here has been unbelievable,” said Gomez.

 

Even though The Gambia is not ranked among the world’s top 100 football nations and has no internationally acclaimed players, it is the most popular sport there ..

And when Gomez arrived in Britain after meeting bride-to-be Sharon in his home town of Serekunda, it was football that kept him here.

“I came in the summer, it rained a lot and I was miserable,” he said. “I wanted to go home. But Sharon got me Sky so I could watch football.

“I said to Sharon that I wanted to get into a team and I joined Ilfracombe thirds but it didn’t work out.”

The greatest difficulty was that on the pitch he was used to speaking Wollof; a tribal language, although his country’s official language is English. “I could read and write English but the accent here was different,” said Gomez. “Terms I’d never heard of, like ‘man on’, were difficult to pick up, so my reactions were slower and I had to learn.”

Although there are few black officials or players in North Devon, Gomez said that he has suffered no malice.

“Even ‘if I did I wouldn’t know it because I refuse to live by the word racism,” he said.  His memories of playing without shoes in Serekunda from the age of 5 remain vivid. “The streets were full of sand and potholes, not made up like here,” he said.

Just as vivid is Gomez’s view of the refereeing summit. “I believe I can get me there,” he said.

It may be a long journey to the Premier League but the boy from Serekunda has come a long way already.

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