Gambia: Ob Conateh - the Man Who Never Played Football but Yet Sold His Properties to Develop Gambia's Game

Floodgate of condolences greet the death of virtual anyone. However, the ones being hurled at OB Conateh after his death today is beyond emotional.

Very typical of Gambians, legends are not celebrated until their passing. Talk of those who spurred Gambian football and his name will be the first to be reeled off the list.

He never played the round object but dared to invest almost religiously in a sport he never donned a jersey of but yet believed in so much.

Born November 1st 1937 and transitioning from St Augustine High School before taking up training at the United Africa Company in Lagos, Nigeria, Fisco as he is known to loved ones and OB to the football world, Conateh returned to serve as manager of Gambia Fisheries Limited.

He thrived in business but is popular most for his illustrious contributions in football. Interestingly, he had only ever taken part in cricket and cycling.

However, for his love for football spanning back in 1969, he would push for the founding of a football club today known as Wallidan spurred on by an army of young boys' affection for the round object who're today perhaps granddads.

Talk of domestic football success, Wallidan represent all of that, winning a combined sixteen domestic first division trophies with the sole gongs missing in their trophy cabinet being the Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup -trophies they've made tries for but never slalomed past the group stages.

A quick recapitulation of the club's legions of progresses shows that majority of Gambia's many generation of national team footballers passed through Wallidan or came off via the side's production line.

Talk of the legendary Alhajie Momodou Njie famed for his sobriquet Biri Biri Njie, Jatto Ceesay, Mustapha Jarju, Ousman Jallow of his recent generations, all passed through the iconic Blue Boys' outfit -Wallidan and under Fisco's tutelage.

Jatto Ceesay could be recalled saying he owes his career success to OB whom he simply calls as Daddy.

During torrid times Wallidan battled funding issues, insiders at the Conateh family reveal, OB would sell off his properties to fund his dear club and help rivals domestic league teams -such was his unselfishness.

The Gambia Football Federation describe him a "devastating cricketer and an ex-national cycling champion" in a recent article pieced to eulogize its erstwhile president who ran affairs of the GFA then from 1993 before voluntarily retiring in 2001.

" In 1986, he was decorated with the prestigious honour of the Insignia of Member of the Republic of The Gambia (MRC); Officer of the National Order of the Republic of Cote d' Ivoire in 1995; inducted into the Hall of Fame as National Cycling Champion, International Cricketer. For the outstanding contribution to the development of youth and sport in 1999; he also won the Millennium Award for Excellence by The Gambia National Olympic Committee in 2000 and in 2001, he was honoured with the Achievement Award for Excellence by The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Insignia of the National Order of the Republic of The Gambia (ORG). In 2007, he was made Commander of the National Order of the Republic of Cote d' Ivoire," a portion of the piece read.

OB has been battling illness before his demise today.

Veteran Sport pundit Tijan Masaneh Ceesay tells of an elaborate but yet brief role "Daddy" played in helping set up Gambia's first sport paper.

" This Man (OB), once a national bicycle champion would take Gambian football to the pinnacle whether as a Club owner, FA President or the Vice President of WAFU, an organization he ushered to maturity, walked the walk and did everything humanly possible for the Youth of our Country and Sports in general. TAKING A CHANCE ON ME, In December of 1984, I returned from an assignment in Freetown where I saw Sports Journalism at its best. There were lots of exclusive Sports Papers in Freetown and I was ready to duplicate it in The Gambia. On my return to Banjul I went to Tobacco Road to sell the idea to Daddy and without hesitation, he said YES and funded the first Gambian Sports Daily, Zone Two Cabral a hit in 1985. That was OB for you, he gave anyone a chance to succeed. I could go on and on and would have endless testimonies on the good deeds of OB and his love for country and still not capture the least," he said in an emotional write up minutes ago.

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