From playing barefoot on the streets of Yundum to Gambia U20: The sensational rise of Bakary Jawara

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By: Muhammed Lamin Drammeh

Like many other young people growing up in the Gambia playing football, Bakary Jawara began his journey of kicking a ball at a tender age in the streets of Yundum, playing barefoot.

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Struggled to get himself proper football boots when he moved to train with a football academy, Bakary never threw in the towel. He weathered the storm with his perseverance. Bakary would go from playing without boots to winning the most coveted prize in Gambian football to representing the Gambia National team in different age categories and travelling to five different countries as a footballer.

Bakary’s expedition to the peak of Gambian football and his ambitions are no different from a staunch young boy who has inserted a robust and contagious craving for success in his adventure. And now, he is one of the best players in his position in the country.

From the dusty streets of Yundum to playing in school football teams, Bakary, now a player for Fortune Football Club in the top tier of Gambian football, balances football and his education. Though like many other parents, Bakary’s mother wanted him to focus on education rather than football, however, the young star never shifted his mind from football. But, at some point, his mother would rescue him from giving up on football.

“It used to be a push and pull between me and my mum. She wanted me to focus on education while I want to be a footballer at all costs.

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“I can remember there was a time I really needed football boots but could not get any. However, despite her longing for me to concentrate on schooling, my mother came to my rescue when a cousin of mine handed over a pair of football boots to her to give to me when she visited them. In those days, I really struggled to get boots to train. When that pair of boots were damaged, an elderly friend of mine would come in to help me with boots as support for my talent,” Bakary explained.

Focused and reinforced by his indomitable lust to reach the top, Bakary used his challenges as motivation and put his heart into what he loves doing. As luck would complement hard work, Bakary was opportune to be invited by Fortune Football Club, a naweetan team by then in Brikama to play for them, a move that will create a fascinating path for the young star to trek.

“My struggle to get football boots stopped when I joined Fortune in 2015. It began a path for me to pursue my dreams at another level as a dreamer. Since then, I have started enjoying football with correct boots.”

Bakary then helped Fortune in the team’s transformation from a naweetan team in Brikama to Gambia’s First Division, the GFF Division One League.

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In 2018, the energetic, reliable, and dazzling right full-back would then be invited to join the Gambia National U17 team. This was the beginning of a five-year stint with different levels of the national team. When he travelled with the U17 team to Senegal and came back, his mother then started believing in Bakary’s dream of becoming a footballer.

The young star would not allow his maiden national U17 called-up to get into his head, he continued working harder and then gained a call to the National U20 and CHAN teams. At the age of 19, Bakary travelled to five different countries representing the country and Fortune Football Club.

The Fortune FC’s tricky right full-back has been a consistent player for the Gambia National U20 side and has been a key member in coach Abdoulie Bojang’s side, which is preparing for the African U20 Nations Cup in Egypt next month.

“Putting in the national team jerseys and winning the WAFU U20 is different a dream come through for me. Although, I am still saddened that a best friend of mine, Edirrisa Marreh, died while welcoming me from the competition.”

Edrrisa died in an accident around Bakau cape point when numerous Gambians went to the streets to welcome the young scorpions back home after the WAFU Zone A triumphed.

In his club’s successes, Bakary played an instrumental role in Fortune Football Club’s league triumph in the Gambia Football Federation Division One league in 2021. When Fortune was playing in the second division, he struggled to get his way through the team but later, through hard work, made his way to the team and has been consistently playing for the team for the last five seasons.

Bakary, like any other footballer playing in the Gambia, has a dream of becoming a professional footballer anytime soon. The brilliant young star desires to play in the English Premier League.

“I want to play in the Premier League. I know it is a massive ambition, but that is my dream. Dreams are meant to be chased, so I will chase them. I am not looking back in my dreams,” he told TFN.

Bakary is looking up to England and Chelsea right full-back, Recce James.

The young star has the potential to be a great football star in the future. He has the ambition, mentality and spirit to get there. Bakary only needs the luck to see his dreams come through in the professional league. As of now, Bakary has played every minute for Fortune Football Club in the ongoing Gambia Football Federation Division One League.

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