On a very peaceful Thursday, 25 February, 2021, my favourite Gambian football coach Sulayman (Saul) Kuyateh succumbed to the cold hands of death. Immediately I heard the news, I was shell-shocked and my mind wondered to the last time we met and tears rolled from my eyes down to my nose.
The former Brikama United FC coach had a gigantic dream for Gambian football and one of them was qualifying The Gambia to Fifa World Cup. That dream could sound far-fetched to many but Saul always dreamed big, even though that dream will not be realised in his life time, his record is strong enough to match a world cup coach.
I was working on writing his biography and we were exchanging messages often. On the 16 February, some two weeks before he died, Saul Kuyateh sent me a voice message on WhatsApp, telling me that he was not feeling okay and that he would send me a picture of himself I had requested for the piece I was preparing on him. I wished him quick healing but little did I know that that would be our final conversation. I told him that I was going to wait for him, but death had a different plan. Sulayman never had the chance to continue working with me on his bio as a head coach of Brakeman United. What a missed opportunity for anyone interested in the life of a man who had spent all his life developing football and footballers in Brikama.
However, I am an outlier to the common saying that Gambians don’t celebrate their legends until when they die. Yes, I did, because on 24 January, 2021 a month or so before he died, I had invited him on my Light Shows on Bollundala Radio and for 48 minute he talked about his life and career from his introduction to football as a small boy from Brikama Mansaring -Su to becoming one of the most successful football coaches in Brikama. “Be ready to learn and work hard if you want to be successful as a coach”, he recommended to any young person striving to be a football coach on that programme.
Saul Kuyateh was born on the 5th August 1981 and grew up under the care of his grandmother in Brikama Mansanrig Su. He never knew until much later life that the woman he had called mother was in fact his grandmother. His mother had died when he was very young.
He attended Santo- Su Nursery School, Brikama Primary and Junior Secondary Technical Schools before proceeding to Bottrop Senior Secondary School. He wanted to become a lawyer, and so went to Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) to pursue a certificate and diploma in Law. But even before he completed his studies his passion for football overtook all his other ambitions and the lawyer in him cooled off.
He would skip his classes at different times to go to Gambia High School where he would watch his mentor, Coach Sang Ndong train Hawks FC.
“I will do this almost every day and Sang would sometimes give me [transport] fare to go home. He advised me on several occasions to go to school, but my passion will not let me stay away from football”, Saul said to me on that radio programme.
Fast forward, Saul coached Soccer Stars FC in Brikama in the 2010-11 nawettan season, winning virtually everything on stake that year, from the league and knock-out cups to individual trophies, except the leading scorer.
A few years after that, Saul will win the Gambia Football Federation Division One league, FF Cup and Coach of the Year Award with Brikama United FC, which he also guided to their first Africa Club Champions League second round qualifiers.
Saul successfully shaped the future of so many young players within and outside Brikama. He is still terribly missed by the football fraternity.