Awardee for Contribution in Sports (Biri Biri)

Monday, September 17, 2012

After years of continuous contribution to Gambian sports, Alhaji Momodou Njie, aka Biri Biri, was among the 2011 Sports Journalists Association Awardees for their immense contribution to sports in The Gambia.

Who is Biri Biri?

Alhaji Momodou Njie, alias Biri Biri, AlhajiMada, Magji, you name it, was born second son of Alhaji Momodou Ngoose Njie and Ajaratou Sainabou Njie, both of blessed memory from Perseverance Street in Banjul Central. He attended Albion Primary School and St Mary’s Primary School at Leman Street in Banjul before proceeding to Crab Island Secondary School, where the might in the star was revealed. He became an instant sensation in the school’s football team and was given a leading role of captain.

While in school, Biri had been heavily monitored by many football teams, but he chose the Black Stars Football Club in 1963. Following a stint with the latter, he proceeded to Black Diamonds and immediately established himself as a superstar, and teams continued to vie for his services. One veteran contacted for this piece had this to say: “Biri became an instant hit in the FA and top giants in the league at the time were all out to get this complete talent.” He later played for White Phantoms and then onto Augustinians under the watchful eye of the late Koto Louis Kajack Prom, before finally moving on with some other players to establish what is today Wallidan Football Club in 1968/69.

In 1963, Biri became the youngest player to ever play for The Gambia in what today is still remembered as the last time The Gambia beat Senegal by three goals to two, with all three goals emanating from the football prodigy, Biri Biri. He also played on loan in Sierra Leone and in the early seventies through the assistance of the late Alhaji Matarr Sarr, one of the first Africans to test the professional terrain with Derby County of England. He proceeded to Denmark where he played for B1901 and Herfolge before proceeding to Spain to suit up for European powerhouse Sevilla, where to this day, he is by far one of the most popular people and well respected. He led Sevilla to its only FA Cup appearance in the 70’s.

He is still remembered for one of his brilliant gravity defying goals against Spanish national goalkeeper at the time, Arconada. His twenty-six goals during his four-year career with Sevilla still stands atop in the record books for their all time foreign legion of players. He retired from professional football in 1981 and returned to his ‘first love’ Wallidan where he continued to play until his retirement in 1986.

Biri played for The Gambia National team through 1986, by far the most capped in Gambian history if not Africa as a whole. Many a time, Biri had answered to national duty at his own expense and left every ounce of Gambian blood and sweat on that field. There is no single team in our sub-region that did not specifically map out strategies to defend Biri back in the day.

Despite the hard tactics that were employed both locally and internationally, Alhaji Momodou Njie is and will be the greatest that ever wore the Red, White and Blue, and there is or will never be a debate on that.

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