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Gambia’s Lamin Jallow: Current African Players Can Equal George Weah’s Ballon D’or Feat But Won’t Come Easy

INTERVIEW— George Weah won the World Best Player –the only African to this day and time to have scooped the gong, and interestingly, without ever getting to play a minute of World Cup football. His trophy cabinet is home to a combined fourteen club and individual medals. The 50-year-old Liberian is a football Man Mountain and has set standards current generation of African footballers will undoubtedly face herculean task to surmount, especially in the Serie A where he remains highly revered to this moment.

13-years to the day he retired, no one player from the continent has matched the Liberian shoulder-to shoulder. Number of goals scored per season has become the yardstick to pick the FIFA World Player of The Year, a criterion –racism aside – making it all too difficult for Yaya Toure or the Drogbas to lift the prestigious gold-coloured trophy.

Aubamayeng remains the highest goal-getter from our side of the world but can he or the current generation of African players ever match footballer-turned Politian George Weah’s accomplishment –the Ballon D’or?

Rising star Lamin Jallow is in agreement of the mammoth work his generation would require to overcome such feats but believes, George’s accomplishments and personality alone is enough an inspiration.

“To be honest, I think a determined person or player is one who would want to do more than those who’ve been there,” the striker says. By those who’ve been there, he means the Yaya Toures and Samuel Eto’o –arguably Africa’s most successful players the last decade.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Looking up to all these players and where they are today, is enough to just push you to go harder on equaling George’s record. The current Africans in the Serie A and how determined they are is another indication we will do even better by God’s Grace.”[/perfectpullquote]

The inclination to one day beat Weah’s incredible feat is an ambition Jallow wants to see light of day. He however must win his place in the Chievo Verona’s line up to start with. The 22-year-old, two months ago, put pen-to-paper on a four-year deal running until 2020.

The Flying Donkeys have a track record of signing youngsters and shipping them away to clubs in the lower echelons to develop before being recalled to the first squad or sold away to other clubs within the Serie A on astronomical sums.

The improved contract was, partly, a devised plan by Chievo to ward off overtures from club Cittadella. The playmaker, having grown too good for reserve team football, was shipped to Cittadella where he blossomed, becoming a star man and helping the outfit with promotion to the Serie B. Awed by his inimitable brilliance with the ball to his feet, coalesced with his invaluable contributions, fans pestered the club chairman to pursue idea of extending Jallow’s loan for a further 12-month realizing tempting parent side Chievo to sell will be unthinkable.

Lorando Maran, Chievo’s gaffer, who’d been keeping tabs on the striker’s rapid progress had little hesitation to block Citta’s extended loan plans for Jallow. The 53-year-old coach quickly made arrangements for Lamin to join with the A-team for the pre-season. There, Maran had a first sight of what the euphoria was all about this budding talent and his decision to give him his debut against Fiorentiana came much as no surprise to those who’ve followed Jallow’s progression.

“I was on loan and played for Cittadella which was a Serie C team but now in Serie B. I am glad to be one of those who had made the club to achieve that!

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Chievo refused to allow me move on a loan to Cittadella, and instead, gave me a four-year contract to just stay with them for a reason they know better,”[/perfectpullquote]

Jallow, whose moniker is Beck, tells Ducor Sports from his Verona apartment.

“I guess they wanted me for themselves because I had proven myself to them (Chievo) and they’ve seen my potentials.”

Beck was a guest on the treatment table in the aftermath of his debut but swiftly recuperated.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I was given the chance to make my first debut in Chievo and, which afterwards, I had an injury but had fully recovered. Alhamdoulilah (Thank God) I have joined the team again last week and got named on the bench. I’m just hoping for the best; hoping to have more playing time sooner or later. I am on a contract of four years till 2020 with one year option to extend. So more (playing) time, I believe, will come God-willing.”[/perfectpullquote]

Lamin is the only player from his country Gambia, starring in the Italian top tier. Ali Sowe, now plying in the Serie C, was the first footballer from the Smiling Coast to sign contractual terms with a Serie A outfit in 2013. Like Lamin, he is a Chievo player but serving a loan deal at Lecce. The pair were scouted in the Umbria tournament in Italy while they played for Gambia U-19s who later won the championship title.


Gambia’s Lamin Jallow plays for Italian club Chievo Verona

Sowe, captain of the team, was the first one to be spotted before Jallow came a year later. His transfer Chievo expected to have been a smooth transition, turned chaotic as local clubs Real de Banjul and Bakau United locked in a prolong battle over ownership of the player.

The delay and never-ceasing war between Real and Bakau over who receives the transfer fee, nearly had the Verona-based club pulling the plug on the deal. The situation required intervention of the Gambia Football Federation to settle the dust.

And taking Ducor Sports down this controversial lane of his career, Jallow didn’t hold back.

“I was playing with a first division team in The Gambia were I had the opportunity to play for The Gambia U-19 team in Umbria; that was when I got spotted by an Italian football agent in 2013 and was brought to AC Chievo Verona in 2014 and had a three (3) years contract with them for the first time!

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It was a very difficult moment for me as a young player, who, from a divisional team in Gambia, found himself in a big team like Chievo and then having teams pushing and pulling over me back home about which team I actually belong to. It nearly had me depressed and which nearly affected by transfer. In my own opinion, I believe that Real de Banjul owned me. For they are the team I had an official football contract with before I got signed by Chievo”[/perfectpullquote]

Gambia national team

Shifting the discussion to his country’s performance internationally, the up-and-coming star was much forthcoming.

Gambia national team is out of all competitions as the West African nation’s non-qualification in an Africa Cup of Nations or World Cup tournament continues into its fifth decade.

Gambia managed to clutch two in a possible eighteen points, conceding the most goals in a qualifier group topped by Cameroon.

Italy-based Lamin was one of new faces introduced to the Scorpions setup that had changed twenty-four players since start of the qualifiers.

He was man-of-the match in the friendly goalless tie against Zambia before starring in the first 60-minute of the 4-0 shock defeat to South Africa, on his debut. That was followed by an upsetting 2-0 trouncing to Cameroon in Yaounde. That blip, effectively sealed Gambia’s push for a place in Gabon. Questions still linger over Gambia’s failure to reach the next round with the scorpions boasting the second biggest individual pool of talent after the Indomitable Lions in their group.

So why couldn’t they qualify like Cape Verde whose thinner population of 498, 897 is less than Gambia’s 900, 000? Jallow supplied the answers.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I believe that we have a lot of constraints which are drawing us back and which includes financial problems,”[/perfectpullquote]

he says.

“Football includes a lot of money and preparation which I’m not seeing on the side of the national team. I mean, a team can’t be formed in just weeks. I believe more international test games should be organized ahead of official tournaments on which the national team is going to partake in therefore preparing the team for bigger matches”

“I guess we have more than potential players in The Gambia. Looking at the performances of almost all Gambian international players in their respective teams, is just amazing.

“But like the coach mentioned, we’re in the process of re-building and re-branding. We’re praying for that to happen soon so that we could fly our country’s flag to the higher height. For The Gambia our Homeland,’ the 22-year-old, says.


Featured Photo: George Weah. Courtesy of Paris Saint-Germain F.C.

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