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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A look back at the contributions of our veterans: featuring Fisco Conateh

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Mr. Ousman B. Conateh, fondly called OB Conateh, is a Football Administrator, a philanthropist, a cyclist, Cricketer and an entrepreneur.
He is the founding father of Wallidan Football Club, a former President of The Gambia Football Association and now honorary life President of The Gambia Football Federation.
A household name in Gambian Football, O.B was elected the President of The Gambia Football Association in 1994 and served up to 2001, when he stepped down honourably after serving for two terms. He is one of the most successful of GFA Presidents in the past two decades. O.B Conateh and Alagie Omar Sey were the only former Football Association Presidents that left the presidency honourably.

 

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The other former presidents were either banned, dissolved and or ejected by the electorate before the end of their terms.
During OB’s time as president of the Gambia Football Association, he registered very many achievements in all the spheres of the beautiful game. The FIFA Financial Assistant Program (FAP) began when Fisco was in charge. Himself and his able Secretary General, Alasanna Gitteh, put the application together to secure the funding from FIFA that is now buttering the bread of the Football House and financing all the Association’s football activities.
The FAP is significant because it has changed how football is now funded in The Gambia. Prior to the commencement of the financial assistant program from FIFA, Fisco was bankrolling the Football Association from his pocket. Himself, the likes of Gabbi Sosseh, and Ousainou Njie were spending their own money to keep our football alive in The Gambia.
Fisco used the FAP funds to start the decentralisation of football in The Gambia. He appointed a Technical Director in the person of Musa Njie, assigned Sang Ndong, Toreh from the Swedish FA, Wandeh Njie, to the national teams. He appointed Regional Coaches in all the seven administrative regions in the country;
Ousman Bayo was appointed regional coach – URR, Lamin Sambou (LS) – CRR, Haruna Trawaleh – LRR, the Late Lamin Sarr NRR, late Omar Sandu Bojang WCR and Pa Samba Jeng Banjul/KMC. Mr. Terema Dahaba was appointed as the Regional Coordinator who was responsible for managing the Regional Coaches and coordinating the Regional Leagues.
Fisco’s administration did not stop at appointing coaches but they went further to start the first-ever Gambia Football Association Regional League. The purpose of this league as stated earlier on is to decentralise Football across the country. The first Regional League was a resounding success, as the participation of the Regions was overwhelming. The final of the tournament was played in Jarra Soma and won by Jarra West District. It was attended by Fisco himself with his executive and some distinguished personalities in the football fraternity.
The bid to host the Africa U-17 tournament and the work towards building the glorious U-17 team did not start during the presidency of Gabbi Sosseh and Alagie Omar Sey. The whole idea was conceptualised by Fisco and his team, Musa Njie to be precise had a lot of input into the idea and the implementation of it too. Gabbi Sosseh, and Omar Sey both championed this golden idea of nurturing and developing our youth teams and the result was an historic success. The Gambia was the first-ever country to host and won the Africa U-17 tournament under the able presidency of Alagie Omar Sey.
As chief Patron of Wallidan Football Club, O.B contributed immensely towards to the success of the club and Gambian Football in general. Wallidan won remarkable 18 League titles, 15 FA Cup trophies and 12 doubles; a record yet to be broken by any club in The Gambia. While I was in The Gambia, I once asked O.B whether he ever played football when he was young? The answer he gave me was “yes I used to play for a second division team called Tararu 11”.
Fisco was not only a footballer and a football administrator, he was a cyclist and was crowned cyclist champion in The Gambia for three consecutive times. Abou Dandeh Njie, once reported on one of the sports programs that O.B was a cricketer and good at that. He was one time even the vice captain of his cricket team. Fisco’s cricket team played cricket in The Gambia and outside in countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria during and after the British colonial era.
He was elected as the Vice President of the West African Football Union, where he served for many years and brought in innovation to the sub-regional body. His tenure at WAFU was successful by any measure. He was caring and protective to everyone associated with him. He also served in both U-17 and U-20 Organising committees of CAF.
Undoubtedly, OB has been and is an absolutely complete sports boss. He has the personality, techniques and the knowledge. And it is an understatement to say O.B is a fine sports personality. He nurtured Gambian Football with respect, humility and hard work and these are just the three many good things that O.B armed himself with. His love for sports is unquestionably crystal clear, given his contributions towards it and his interaction with the grassroots.

He is known for his heartfelt commitment to success and wellbeing of players and also for his kindness to his colleagues in the beautiful game of football.
His gentlemanly mannerisms will always be noticed and appreciated by people who are fortunate to know him.
No one can doubt his competence in sports administration, particularly in football administration. He is affectionately known to share his extensive knowledge on life lessons with unmatched passion. To witness O.B in full flow is truly a marvel. He has a formidable knowledge and an impressive intellect.
Several meritorious accolades and awards, both National and International were awarded to him. O.B was recognised by former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, former CAF boss Issa Hayatou! And yes, he is still the Honorary Counsel General of Cote ‘d Voire in The Gambia, a position he held and continues to hold for many years and proprietor of the National Partnership Enterprise (NPE). This is Ousman Bisi Conateh, OB; the self-made man.

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