By Tijan Massaneh Ceesay
Sometime in 1975, my late Grandmother, Auntie Okiki walked me into the Police Station at Buckle Street for misbehaving. The station officer was Captain Dodou Joof. He gave me some serious 36 “cuts” and sent me home with an admonition that I don’t ever return. Well here comes the funny part. Six days later I walked into his house at Police Lines with Bambo Fatty and the first question he asked me was, “Du yaw la noha barki Dembaa.” I reluctantly and lowly said yes so Bambo and the rest would not know. Ever since, Cappi as he is fondly called, and I have been great friends and worked together in track and field during my stint as the beat writer for The Gambia News Bulletin.
His dedication and commitment to the development of Gambian Track and Field is nulli secondis, nobody has done it better than him. As the only Gambian athlete that ever made it to the finals of the Commonwealth Games with a 21.5 secs record that stood for some thirty years; Cappi (A name he derived from being Captain of the Gambian Track team) has given all he has to developing Track and Field including his personal resources at the expense of his family. He once confided to me; ” The only way to develop our youth to become model citizens is do all we can and spend as much time as possible with them and teach them right.’ I vividly recall these words during a conversation at the Independence Stadium. In a nutshell, this is Cappi’s life, he’s a faithful servant of our country and not too many, can stand in the same line with him. Jerrejef Joof ak Nyoho Baaye.
Today, because of his contribution to African and World Track and Field, Dodou Joof remains an outstanding and key member of many international track associations around the world. For over fifty years, he has led Gambian track and field, with integrity, honesty and decency.
He is the only reason why Gambian track and field is where it is. During my time covering the sport, he alongside his friend Bamba Njie of blessed memory, brought up great track stars like Copral Ceesay, Saul Faye, Omar Faye, Banana Jarjue, Peter and Paul Ceesay, Abdoulie Barry, Caroline Briggs,Malleh Wadda, Dado Jah,Ricard Gomez, Orland Apollo Johnson,Mary Samba, Victoria Decker, Bakoto Mboge,Sherrifo Mboge, Haddy Njie, Francess Jatta, Jabou Jawo, Binta Daffeh, Amie Ndow, Awa Jeng, Bello Njie, Abdourahman Jallow Oil, Ebou Conateh, Modou Faye Night, Dawda Loum, Georgianna Freeman,Adiatou, Ajatta, Dawda Jallow, Saikou Ceesay and many more that would later become national stars in the sport
As he celebrates his birthday these days and the Gambia set out for the Commonwealth games, I ask a grateful nation to join me in celebrating this gem of our time.
The many years you spent in the dark under the February cold trying to mark the track will never be forgotten. Thanks for the memories Cappi, and above all, thanks for putting Gambia on the track and field map. Happy birthday with best wishes for your continued good health and properity. You have done what you can for your nation. Salutations and God Bless!