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JIBRIL BOJANG: The Sensation Who Turned Down Southampton

The gargantuan fleets of cars, the meticulously built and extravagant mansions, the extensive media coverage, and the lucrative pay are a few of the many reasons footballers wouldn’t hesitate to move to England.

Being linked to any club in the English Premier League is a privilege, even more so when a team signals its willingness to seal a deal. You would expect the player in question to jump at the slightest opportunity.

For Norwegian-born Gambian Jibril Bojang, there was no jumping. Advised by his father, he thought it best to pass on the opportunity when Southampton  Football Club of the South Coast of England came clamoring for his services. That herculean decision was made after much brainstorming focused on ensuring the winger’s steady football development.

This occurred while the attacker was at Vålerenga, one of Norway’s biggest premier league clubs, prioritizing football youth development.

“I remember I played in Vålerenga in just one month before the Norwegian national team coach called me and wanted me to play for Norway youth national team,” he began, delving into how the Southampton chance came about.

“It was a great chance for me and I was very happy, but for a little letdown period where I had a contract offer to move to England to play for Southampton. But I was too young to go there according to my father, so I couldn’t move (to Saint Mary’s Stadium).”

At the time, Jibril was evolving into the player he is today at Vålerenga and was expected to rapidly progress to the club’s A-team. That chance came under coach Garry Chapman’s tutelage, but it was short lived. The club chairman axed Garry, setting into motion a pattern of misfortunes that would later befall Bojang.

A series of successive injuries had hindered his progress, and the change in club managers was the last straw.

“The truth is that Garry was fired after my first year in Vålerenga and we got a new coach who did not like me. Everything went downhill for me after Garry was gone.”
A stop in Dröbak-Frogn in 2014 followed, propelled by his quest for first team football. He spent two years at Skeid Oslo as a capital side in Division Two, the equivalent of Norway’s third tier, before switching to Lørenskog IF within the same league in 2016. By this time, Bojang had lit up the championship with his direct plays. His ability to take down opponents one-on-one didn’t go unnoticed, and IK Start, a premier league, snapped him up on a two-year contract.

“First, I thank God that I’m blessed and that He gives me the opportunities I have. I believe in God and I know that it was not the time for me at that time,” he said, referencing how it didn’t work out for him while with The Bohemians (Vålerenga).

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I was a young and talented kid who complained a lot because I knew I was good enough to play first team football already at the age of 16. My mom told me that God’s time is the best, and when that time comes I will be surprised and really happy! And look now, I’ve got the chance. I believe more and better chances like this will come in the future, God-willing,” [/perfectpullquote]

he said from Kristiansand, Norway.

Much was said before he joined IK. Swedish top flight outfit Falkensberg, Mjøndalen, and Kristiansand were all queuing to sign the 22-year-old. But Start won him over with its impressive facilities and Coach Steinar Pedersen’s influence.

Results thus far haven’t been on Start’s side. The club languishes on the bottom with only twelve points and four games left until Norway’s First Division championship. Based on these shocking statistics, Start appears headed for demotion, and a talent of Jibril’s caliber playing second fiddle football isn’t appealing. However, per his current deal, he may have to fulfill his contract, going a level down to help the club rise from obscurity.

“It is very sad that it’s like that, but we’ll just take it in good faith and come back even stronger. Yes, it’s true that I’ve written a two-year contract, so will I stay with them down a division. But I am very sure that we will go right back up where we came from. Start is not a team that should play Obos League (second division) for the city and the fans. We have a fantastic stadium and it’s a bit sad for those watching our games all the time, not only live but also on TV. But as I said before we will come back stronger.”

He Might Have been a Policeman
Had Bojang lacked the talent or desire to pursue football, his life would have turned out differently. Growing up, Jibril wanted to join Norway’s police force.

“I was not exactly the smartest kid at school, but I completed high school and all my studies, so I’m very happy with that. But I always had a little dream of becoming police beside my football dream, so I know I would be an officer by now,” he said in a fit of giggles.

Gambia or Norway?

Raking up caps at the international level will be the pinnacle of Bojang’s career.

Born in Norway to Gambian parents, Jibril is eligible to play for both countries. He has actually starred for the Scandinavian nation’s U-17s and U-19s with a call-up to Norway’s U21s expected soon. When asked which country he plans on aligning with in the future, Bojang masterly dodged the subject, leaving the door open.

“Yes I have, and I think I’m good enough for Norway’s U-21 national team when I’m in shape, and I will show them next year when we start winning games. If the U-21’s coach calls, I will of course be very happy, but if he doesn’t call, then I will have to convince him through the TV screen to call me; and by that I mean scoring a lot of goals and playing good games,” he said. “My parents are from Gambia. I’ve been dreaming about playing in the colors of Gambia. It’s something I have looked forward to a long time and I know both (parents) would be very proud if I do that. But it’s something I am thinking about.”


Featured Photo: Courtesy of IKSTART.NO

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