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Bubacarr “Steve” Trawally’s Journey from Fan-favorite to Estranged Player: The Moving Story of Africa’s Top Scorer in China.

Bubacarr Trawally this moment cuts a disenchanted figure at the latest reaction of his Super League-turned Chinese League One club. Inconclusive and left wondering about his future, the highest-scoring African in the CSL was left worried in the middle of nowhere with stories of his situation do the rounds.

Five months ago, his love-affair with the Chinese fans of Yanbian Funde was unshakable. That strong bond which was at one time, not so far off ago, frosty, with one of the two parties now ready to walk out on the other, ended conclusively in separation.

The recent stand-off between player and club began around September going into October last year. It came at a time least expected for Yanbian as the side struggled to stay afloat in the cash-rich Chinese Super League. For the 23-year-old, it was a mark of outlining his ambition to aim for greener pastures or at least remain in the Super League.

These differences became a recipe for conflict of interest but the club board kept their tempestuous relationship with the Gambia international secret as a leak of the saga could have, at most, become a source of unwelcome distraction and even derail desperate plans of the outfit to beat the drop following months of relegation threats.

The winger made his intentions known from October that he wanted out of the club after it became apparent that relegation was inevitable for the side. An array of CSL sides, notably Beijing Gouan, lurked around hoping to pounce on any signal of a break in a bond between Bubacarr and his employers.

The Korean-based team hurried to resolve Trawally’s 2016 contract situation with an improved pay in the hope to fend off interest from bigger cash-wielding compatriots coming for the African prized asset. Yanbian had hoped that by offering a pay rise, it will distract the player from leaving and were left exasperated following reported news that rival club Gouan has made enquires to poach the striker.

More infuriating for the Chinese outfit is that the star’s representatives had asked for the player to be granted a move, threatening to take legal action by pursuing the matter with FIFA. Yanbian responded to the Gambian’s request by slapping a hefty $8m as the compulsory asking price for any suitor keen on releasing the player of his current deal.

In the heat of the moment, the 23-year-old had sought a temporary transfer certificate from FIFA, allowing suitors Beijing Gouan to make formal their pursuit of the goal-poacher. Reacting to the development of the player’s situation, Yanbian issued a strongly worded statement in Chinese two weeks ago, describing the saga as a mockery of Chinese soccer.

In the lengthy communiqué, the club accused their star man of making illegal moves to encourage other clubs to sign him while still under contract with them; saying he’s making up excuses to force a move out of the second tier-bound club.

Trawally’s deal was supposed to run out on 31st December 2018. Players with a year left on their contract are allowed liberty to negotiate with potential suitors but this hinges on their relevance to the coach’s season plans. Whether such a clause was installed in Trawally’s contract – other names Steve – remains a puzzle.

What’s clear though, is that the Bundung-born had ten months remaining to the end of his deal. He has until this month to sort out his uncertain future after the dispute was settled allowing Trawally to depart the relegated outfit. The stand-off has disrupted an otherwise impressive year for the African rendering him understandably livid.

Owing to the brutal fashion with which the star man’s love affair with the team ended, the Gambian’s departure could not have been easy for someone who was something of a cult figure amongst fans at the Yanji Nationwide Fitness Centre where he was, twelve months ago.


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The forward was a darling of Yanbian fans. (Image: Facebook).

This is the first time the Scorpion is being mired in a controversy since turning professional in the summer of 2015. A budding teenager, five years ago, the forward initially signed for Hangzhou Green Town after seeing several attempts to play in Europe hit the buffers.

Given his talent, his move to the CSL – tagged the retirement home for fading European players – wasn’t welcomed by local fans in the Gambia. But Steve took the chance and in no time began storming the Chinese second tier. On account he wasn’t an established signing then, Green Town loaned him to promotion-chasing Yanbian to secure playing time.

He scored seventeen goals in twenty-six appearances, winning the side the second-tier gong and an automatic place in the top-tier Super League. His goals, including an audacious robona, went viral and garnered over fifty-three thousand views on YouTube and other sites. In under twelve months in the second division, he’d literally drawn the world’s attention on Yanbian, a tiny football club thriving in the Southeast Asian country.


That campaign, the small Gambian scored two hat-tricks, prompting parent clubs Green Town into wanting to retain him at the elapse of his loan spell. But Yanbian fans had already taken to the African and the club chairman didn’t mind breaking the bank to buy out the then 20-year-old’s contract to make his loan deal permanent.

Bubacarr “Steve” Trawally’s chemistry with the fans lit up with effigies of him along with his country’s flag often displayed by Yanbian supporters in virtually all games matches. He struck the net eight times and assisted as to help the side stay up in their debut term in the Chinese Super League.

But none of his performances, out of the two years he’d been at Yanbian, had been outstanding compared to the previous season when he pulled off twelve goals in ten games. Nevertheless, Steve carried the club on his young shoulders in all the difficult times.

He was prolific last term as his goal tally soared to fifteen (15) making him the highest scoring African in the CSL. But Yanbian couldn’t survive it and got demoted to the second tier which is the source of the player-club standoff.

Ducor Sports understands that a deal move to Guizhou Zhicheng has already been completed on a free transfer. Zhicheng finished the last campaign seventh in the standings.


Image: Facebook

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