Father Joseph Anthony Gough, a sports administrator extraordinaire died in March 2017, almost fifty decades after he arrived on The Gambia from his native Ireland for what would become a blessing for Gambian sports and education.
Father Gough came to The Gambia in 1971 and started the St. Michael Seminary in 1972 where he trained the first Gambians to be ordained as priests. He taught at the St. Augustine’s High School throughout his stay in The Gambia, and became the Principal from 1978 to 1983. During his tenure, he built in the school a covered basketball lawn with fiber glass posts and a gymnasium. He also transformed the swamps at the back of the school into a football field which is being transformed into an artificial grass football pitch.
The President of The Gambia Cricket Association Johnny Gomez described Father Gough as God’s gift to The Gambia. “When Gough came over, it was Father Murphy who was in charge of sports at St. Augustine’s High School. He then took over and started creating programs for school sports.”
“Father Gough was the one who introduced rugby to me. By then we were big boys at the school. It was me, Bai Malleh Wadda, Omar Faye and Paul Njie. He introduced rugby to all of us in 1980,” Johnny told The Chronicle.
Under Father Gough, St Augustine’s won all the inter-school sports competitions except in 1977 when Nusrat High School triumphed.
Outside the walls of St. Augustine’s, Father Gough was involved in all aspects of Gambian life. He helped raise the standard of Gambian Sport, football in particular.
“I remember meeting him at St Augustine’s High School upon my return from studies in the UK. Though our interaction wasn’t sports-related, I remember his sense of humour,” said veteran sports administrator, George Gomez. “He was a humble man and always ready to help. Sports was his life and he helped nurture many talents who are now stars in their various fields of play.”
Among the many Gambia football internationals Father Gough produced and helped develop were Bye Malleh Wadda, Joe Sambou, Aziz Corr, Paul Sarr, Peter Ndow, Victor Gabbidon, Louis Thorpe, Abou Johnson, Saul Faye, James Freeman, Kemo Fatajo, Alieu Nyang, Peter Prom, Baboucar Foon, Gerry Gomez and Sheriff Njie.
In Basketball, he helped develop Alhagie Conteh, Reme Joiner, John Roberts, Abdourahman Jobe, Bai Malleh Wadda, Anthony Sonko, Abou Johnson, Zack Ceesay, Sam Chapman, Musa Njie, Alhagie Jeng and Omar Faye.
Father Gough was an outstanding sportsman in his own right and saw the value of sports in motivating students to better themselves. Many of his students used their sporting abilities to get scholarships abroad and educate themselves. He was the football coach at the school for ten years and during that time, St. Augustine’s High School won the annual school League every year, and the Cup for eight consecutive years. He was the first to get the players to use football boots. St. Augustine’s were always the best-dressed teams as he imported their playing gear from O’Neills in Ireland.
Tijan Masanneh Ceesay, a former student and mentee of Father Gough said the Irishman ensured that the students of St Augustine’s had the best sports facilities in the country.
“He made the school football pitch out of a sand dump and spent many of the rainy seasons planting grass on the field. He had basketball courts built and provided both tennis and volleyball courts and looked out for students interested in those sports.”
Tijan also recalled Father Gough’s introduction of cricket and other success stories. “The Athletic team of St. Augustine’s High School/St. Joseph’s High School swept the boards every year in the annual inter-school Sports held at McCarthy Square. He founded the then famous Gymnastic Team which performed on Prize Day. Ex-President Sir Dawda Jawara often invited the team to perform on the White House Lawn to entertain state guests.”
Father Gough will also be remembered for the Father Joseph Gouw Sports Foundation, a charity he set up in 2012 to develop football in The Gambia by developing football grounds and facilities.
Father Gough was honoured with the Order of the Republic of The Gambia (ORG) for his service to the country.