Pa Assan Badjan
Gambian legend ALHAJI MOMODOU BIRI BIRI NJIE died on Sunday 19 July 2020 in Dakar Senegal,age 72, where he was receiving medical treatment after battling with illness.
An outstanding Sports Personality ALHAJI MOMODOU NJIE popularly known as BIRI BIRI NJIE was regarded as the greatest player The Gambia has ever produced.
He has for many decades won the hearts and respect of Gambians – a man whose skills and high sense of commitment to duty went beyond the boundaries of sports. He will go down in the history of Gambian football as the greatest talent our country has ever produced.
BIRI the son of Alhaji Ngooze Njie was born at Perseverance Street in Banjul. He attended Albion and St Mary’s Primary School before moving over to Crab Island Secondary Modern School where his talents were first discovered in the Inter-School Soccer competitions when BIRI dominated Junior Soccer and brought many awards and honours to his school.
According to veteran Sports journalist Pap Saine co-proprietor of the Point Newspaper, BIRI was launched into national soccer as a young player for the Black Star Football Club, a team he only played for one match and because of his incredible dribbling skills and acute sense of pace and goal-making, BIRI was invited to join the Black Diamonds, the then national champions.
He played for Diamonds until 1963 when he was virtually bought by the White Phantoms where he stayed for 5 years.
BIRI joined ARRANCE FC, a young team filled with young talents, which suited BIRI’S style of play.
After winning a championship for ARRANCE FC in 1965, he was again invited to join the famous AUGUSTINIANS Football Club to dominate soccer throughout this period.
In 1970, he was invited for trials with Derby County then a first Division English league club.
In 1972 he turned professional and signed for a Danish 1st Division Club B1901. In 1973 he signed a five year contract with SIVILLE FC, a first Division team in Spain thus becoming the first African to play for SEVILLE.
In 1978, he returned to Denmark and played for HERFOLIO FC until 1981 when he returned to The Gambia and continued playing for WALLIDAN.
In recognition of his contribution to sports and football in particular, he was awarded the MRG on two occasions ; in 1985 by the President of the 1st Republic Alh Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and in 2000, by the President of the second Republic Alh Yaya Jammeh. He was also one time a Deputy Mayor of Banjul in the second Republic.
AS AN EYE WITNESS
Well, for those of us who saw him play at the former Box Bar Stadium in the 70s in Banjul and have worked with him when I practiced refereeing under the the GFA and even prior to have interviewed him on several occasions, I have witnessed seeing him always assisting national coaches and has led The Gambia National squad on many occasion as team Manager under the auspices oh The Gambia Football Federation.
And he has played for the national team from 1963 to 1987.
When he first joined the national squad BIRI BIRI was still going to school and was always an automatic choice for selection until his retirement with WALLIDAN.
Every team in football would love to have him.
BIRI played against teams from Senegal, Mali Guinea Conakry, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’Iviore, Sierra Leone and was well known, admired and respected in all these countries.
One could firmly recalled that in 1965 after playing against Sierra Leone, he was then signed by BLACK POOL FOOTBALL CLUB in Sierra Leone as a semi professional before earned a trial with Derby County in UK.
BIRI BIRI was an inspirational personality to Gambians especially the young generation.
With sadness, yet glorification to The Almighty our thoughts and prayers are with him.