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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Profile: a legend revisited. Essa Faye Walidan, Gambia 11

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By Tijan Massaneh Ceesay The grandson of the venerable Sheikh Omar Faye, one of the few men during colonial times who were chosen to represent Gambian natives in the then legislative chambers, Essa Faye like his grandfather, would also defend our country in many a stadia outside The Gambia doing what he did best, scoring goals in the most amazing ways. Under the legendary teacher, Cherno Barra Touray at Crab Island School, Essa Faye quickly made another name in his family sports dynasty following in the footsteps of his late elder brother, Sheikh Faye who up until a few years ago held the African High Jump record at 2.04 meters set at the All Africa Games in Nigeria in the 70s. Alongside his very close friends, Ebou Kah, (EK) and Demba Ndow, they carved a niche in Gambian football with all three ascending to the pinnacle of Gambian football with Hawks FC. In the 70’s he transferred to Gambia’s best team at the time, Wallidan where he suited up next to the greatest player that ever played in our country, Alhagie Momodou Njie, Biri Biri. His tenacity as a winger was unrivaled, much more his physical capabilities and over all physique which earned him the name, “Gambia’s fittest player” by legendary commentator Saul Njie. At Wallidan, Essa was among the top scorers in the first division football and there was not a halfback who could contain him for ninety minutes. He was that good. My favorite recollection of this gem was a Wallidan against Canon Yaounde of Cameroon in the African Club Championships qualifiers in 1980 with the world great Thomas Nkono manning the pipes for Canon Yaounde. It was a through pass, a thing of beauty from Baboucar Sowe Laos towards the Primet Street end goal at Box Bar Stadium. With one move, Essa faked the legendary Stephen Tataw and sent a canon Nkono’s way and it found the net. I have never again seen a goal like that! In The Gambia national team Essa Faye was one of the best ever but was not a mainstay for the fact that, he once told me, “I will never stop speaking the truth.” While that may be up for conjecture, he was not a regular on the national team which German Coach Holger Obermann lamented during his farewell visit with then Sports Minister Louise Antoinette Njie, a meeting I attended as a journalist. In Obermann’s own words, “Essa Faye is the best player in The Gambia but I was not allowed to select him.” This statement prompted the Minister to invite Cherno Touray, Axi Gai, (Essa’s coach at the time and the Director of Sports to find out why Essa was not being selected in the national team if he was the best. This meeting with the Minister did take place and I must say, I was not in that meeting and both MrTouray and Mr Gai are well and kicking and can be reached to verify this. Essa Faye is one for the ages, as a young man plying his trade at Bayeh Afdie, he never knew he’d play professional in Europe and indeed he did. Senegal’s Omar Touray (Half Back left 1980) once told a Senegalese journalist, Essa is the best thing he ever faced. Dega! He finished his prolific career with the Quay side of Banjul. When it is all said and done, Essa Faye is one of the top three players in Gambian football, hands down!]]>

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