Alhagie OB Conateh, revered as the ‘Father of Gambian Football’, died on 4th April 2020, he was 83.
His death sent hundreds people from different walks of life into mourning for a man who devoted his life to serve humanity and football in particular.
OB Conateh was a servant of football who put his passion at the heart of his life.
“Gambian Football has lost a great man, said Momodou Njie Biri, Gambia’s greatest footballer of all time. “OB Conateh’s place among the greats in Gambian football will never be taken away.”
Biri, who played for OB’s Wallidan football club in the 70’s said it had been a privilege to have known OB Conateh. “He was a complete human being, Biri tells The Chronicle. “With his courage and greatness, OB sacrificed his resources and time for the development of Gambian football. “He will forever remain in our hearts.”
A widely-respected man, Alhagie OB was intelligent, and to those in his care, a great mentor: humble, wise, competent, and experienced. Some saw him as a legend for what he achieved – the pride of The Gambia.
“He will always be remembered as a visionary leader, says Alagie Faye, a retired FIFA referee. OB played a huge role in my refereeing career.
After cementing his position as a good referee in local leagues in the 70’s, Faye was assisted by OB Conateh to enroll for a Basic Refereeing Course. “OB helped me to numerous courses both at home and abroad, “Faye tells The Chronicle.
In January 1976, Faye was called into the FIFA brass thanks to the guidance of OB Conateh. “Alhagie OB made me a brave and intelligent referee and Gambian football will be always be grateful to him for all he has achieved for the beautiful game.”
The founding father of Gambia’s most successful football club, Wallidan, OB has won several awards in and outside of the country.
In 1986, he was decorated with the prestigious honor of the Insignia of Member of the Republic of The Gambia (MRG); 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.
OB Conateh, 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.
Willy Abraham, President of Real De Banjul football club said Alhagie OB oversaw a lot of monumental occasions in Gambian football. “He personally donated Real De Banjul huge amount of money during one of our CAF Champions league qualifiers, “he said. He was working for my father and he was very close to him. “OB has changed so many lives in the country. Anytime you go to his office, you’ll meet lot of people queuing for his assistance. He was humble and has always seen the interest of this country first especially in terms of football development. “The Gambia have lost a great man.”
For the outstanding contribution to the development of youth and sport in 1999, Alhagie OB also won the Millennium Award for Excellence by The Gambia National Olympic Committee in 2000 and in 2001, he was honored 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.
“He was not just a great person, he was an exceptional human being who shared what he had with all, no matter who you were, “said Tijan Masaneh Ceesay, retired Gambian football commentator now based in the US. “On a nightly basis, his house was packed with people waiting to see him and likewise his Hill Street NPE Office and I don’t recall ever seeing him turn anyone away.
Ousainou Bitteye, friend and admirer of OB Conateh, described him as a “huge source of inspiration.”
“Still today, I am deeply influenced by the advices I’ve received from Alhagie OB, “he tells The Chronicle. “He showed me the way and made me believe in myself.
On January 4th 2020, the late OB was decorated by the Gambia Football Federation with a Life Time Achievement Award at its first ever Football Recognition Night.
Alhagie OB Conateh is described by many as an exemplary man, yet, humble and an honorable Man with few words. “Adieu OB, Heaven is a happier place today and I know for a fact; the first meeting will be a technical committe meeting with Omar Barrou Sey, Fr Gough, Housainou MM Njie, Alagie Babou Sowe, Kebba Njie Master, MI Kabba Jallow, Alagie OAC Njie and Alagie Babou Cisse on the Heavenly Scorpion lineup! Yal nga boka cha nya am cherr fa Yalla. So long Excellency, Consul General, “said Tiajn Masaneh Ceesay.
Tijan Masaneh Ceesay contributed to this story.