A legendary Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) FC player Joko Belle died suddenly at his residence at Latrikunda-German on Friday. A very famous and much-loved player Joko Belle made many friends and admirers in the football fraternity and even beyond.
Born in Kent Street in Banjul, Belle was described by his pals as a very formidable, charismatic, energetic and disciplined all-rounded right-sided midfielder. He started at Waterside Football Club, a local team in the Banjul vicinity but made his name with Ports, whom he joined in the mid 1970s and played for almost a decade.
His Coach at the time was Mass Axi Gai, a former Scorpion, who was amongst the founders of Ports Authority. Gai skippered the team for just one season after which he hanged up his boots to take up the coaching position of the team. Amongst his early recruits was Belle.
“He was a very good, energetic and disciplined midfielder. He was a very commendable player who was loved by all. Ports represented Gambia in a tournament in the 1980s and played with Jaraaf of Senegal and he was part of that competition which was also his last competition for us” Gai, a former diplomat and ex-Minister told www.gambiaff.org.
He was born Victor Christopher Joko Belle but went by his football moniker ‘Mandinka Jololi’. The reason been, according to Axi Gai, he wanted to disassociate himself from his colonial past that earned him such westernised name. Then, he chose to go with a more localised one that depicted his character as a typical Gambian, but also that which had a lot of meaning for him.
“We called him ‘Mandinka Jololi’ because that was his adopted name,” Gai added. “According to him, it was too colonial to call him Joko Belle so he decided to use ‘Mandinka Jololi’ as his football name because he said his grandparents were Mandinka.”
The President of the GFF, Mr. Lamin Kaba Bajo paid tribute and described Mandinka Jololi’s demise as an irreparable loss to the Gambian football family. On his behalf, and that of his Executive Committee, Mr. Bajo sent his deepest condolences to the family of the deceased and prayed for his soul to rest in eternal peace.