The 2018/2019 Gambia Football Federation’s National Division One League was one of the most exciting title races ever held in the country in recent years. It was a hard-fought contest between Real De Banjul and Brikama United, going down to the wire.
After months of hard work, it was Modou Lamin Nyassi’s Brikama United that triumphed, setting off an incredible run of form to win their first league title in eight years. For many football fans, that confirmed Nyassi’s status as the best coach in the country’s premiere league.
“He is calm, tactically intelligent and has a winning mentality always,” says football fan Foday Manneh.
Nyassi became Brikama United’s head coach in 2017, replacing Sulayman Kuyateh, the man he worked under as assistant coach for a few years. At 41, he may not yet be at the halfway point of his managerial career in terms of experience, but he has already given to his club’s fans more than what they expected when he took over. “He has transformed Brikama United to a better side,” says Brikama United supporter Nfansu Jambang. “We the fans are grateful to him and I urge all the people of Brikama to support and encourage him because he is a national asset.”
One of the visible signs of transformation in Brikama United under Nyassi is his bold move to blend older, experienced players with young ones.
“We made the standard higher than last season and the entire Brikama Community helped us,” he says. “I had to blend experienced players with young players to get what I wanted. It’s by far the toughest title we have won.”
Nyassi is also credited for instilling and consistently maintaining discipline and confidence in his team throughout the campaign.
After 26 runs of matches, the team dubbed the ‘Sateba Boys’ finished the campaign with 46 points, while the closest challengers Real De Banjul settled for 45 points, and GAF for 42 points.
Meanwhile, one player who was so instrumental in Brikama United’s league triumph on the pitch this season is Lamin Balajo, who doubles as a corporate banker at Zenith bank.
“My father wanted me to be educated, though he wasn’t against my love for football. I regularly train and play for some teams in the Brikama nawettan,” he tells The Chronicle.
“At the beginning, it wasn’t easy to combine banking and football. I wanted to quit football but my coach and some of my teammates pleaded with me to stay.”
And with the 2019 victory, coach Nyassi is grateful that Balajo stayed on to play football.
“He is the youngest talented and energetic player in the team,” Nyassi says of Balajo.
“We changed our formation during the last three matches to two holding players in the middle. He understood that formation very well and that helped us to win Real De Banjul, Wallidan and GAF. “He definitely was very instrumental for us this season.”