By Davidson Forster
News of the passing of our Biri Biri evoked mixed feelings and emotions in me. I was sad because the span of life of this great legend has ended, but happy to have had some association with him. Some people are born great, and one such person is Alhaji Momodou Njie popularly known as Biri Biri. His greatness comes from doing what very few can do which was to successfully make a career out of his hobby, make money from it, and bring fame not only to himself but to his country.
The lenses through which I see Biri come from three experiences. I knew Biri Biri since I was knee high through my mother Aunty Blanche who taught him at Crab Island School. At the time I did not know who he was or what he did, but his personality was unmistakable. He was one of my mother’s favourite students and the mutual love and respect they shared were admirable. Biri’s “……. hey Aunty! Teacher ow you do?” would be heard as he approached our house in Dobson Street, see his smile as he drew nearer, and feel his warmth upon close encounter. He earned my mum’s love and admiration because of his respect for all and his strong work ethics which he transferred to the sporting world. The second experience comes from watching him play when I was growing up and I need not go into detail about that. The final experience is a vicarious one lived through a recent conversation I had with an older cousin. He told me that his late brother Bannie Forster was a centre forward but was always redeployed to defence whenever he played against Biri Biri. This was done so that his quick mind and athleticism would contain Biri Biri, a task he often found challenging. Of course, his other brother Sam Forster of the legendary Real de Banjul will have his own stories about Biri. It will be very interesting to catalogue the experiences of all the defenders who played against Biri Biri to have a sense of the capital that was expended on Biri.
Biri Biri was a great person who became a great footballer. Perhaps the most impactful of his greatness comes from his humility and his humanity and the good example he was, attributes that not only exceed his sporting abilities, but ones that will outlive his physical being. True greatness has an enduring legacy, and because of that not even death can rob us of Biri Biri. His footprints have been embedded in the sands of time so through his brand Biri Biri, his contributions will continue to impact not only The Gambia, but Africa.
To talk of Biri Biri (Pele La Gambie as the Senegalese called him), in the past tense is sad, but the reality is, in the midst of life there is death. While we bid farewell to his mortal remains, we celebrate his life and are grateful for his legacy.
Rest in Peace Biri Biri
On behalf of Aunty Blanche