Sulayman Jallow, popular known as Cho Jallow, was on the path to become one of the Gambia’s greatest footballers in the early 1990s until fate became cruel to him. Born and raised in Serekunda, his football career began at Serekunda Primary School which produced a long list of outstanding footballers. Playing for the school team was a great deal for him.
At the age of 16, Cho signed for local Kansala Football Club following an impressive sportsmanship at Serekunda Primary School.
“It was the beginning of a rewarding career. It was a fulfilling moment for me because Kansala was a team I always admired.”
Cho went on to win multiple trophies with the local nawettan team. He moved to World XI, another nawettan team he and his friends in the neighbourhood formed. “I must admit that it was the most enjoyable soccer moment of my career. I love those guys to the bottom of my heart. It was a joy to watch world XI play,” he recalls.
After a short stint at World XI, Cho’s career moved to another level after he was signed by then popular first division club, Mass Sosseh Shipyard. He was appointed the team captain at the age of 18. By this time, Cho succeeded in building a reputation for himself as an aggressive and temperamental defensive midfielder, with sheer athleticism and ferocity. He was known for his exceptional timing skills in tackling and his flair in running box-to-box with the ball.
Cho enjoyed his biggest MVP status when his Serekunda East played against Banjul in a zonal final. In that game, he got the attention of football fans across the country after 90 minutes of incredible ball recovery, rampant hassling and harrying in the midfield and dominance in the air. Serekunda East were a player down for most part of the game but managed to win the game.
“Fans always adored me. People would approach me from nowhere and offer me prayers all the time. It was surreal. I had so many highlights that I can recall during my career but the one that stands out is the zonal final between S/K East and Banjul.
In the national squad, Cho continued to win the hearts and minds of fans in the country. He’d be remembered for his incredible leadership and commanding role in Gambia’s 3-0 thrashing of Ghana’s Black Stars in a 1993 Zone II championship match. By this time, Cho Jallow was a sun on the rise but as fate would have it, his career experienced a premature sunset.
At the peak of his career, he sustained a serious knee injury during a divisional game between his Mass Sosseh Shipyard and Flamings that would send him to early retirement. That was his last competitive football game.
“I remember being in so much pain and I couldn’t move my right leg. I knew it was a nasty one but I didn’t know it was going to be my final professional game,” he told The Chronicle.
“What I’d do after football never crossed my mind. But then I quickly realized that my injury wasn’t healing the way I expected it to. So I decided to come to America for greener pastures with the help of Allah and my brother-in-law, Musa Demba who was already here. I’m here in America working hard like everybody else, trying to survive (laugh) and to raise my family in these challenging times, but Alhamdulilah.”
Now 46, Cho takes a memory down lane to his football days with fond memories. “Of course I miss playing competitive football. That’s the only thing I had then and it gave me everything. Remember I left the game I loved so much before turning 21. It was so disappointing that I couldn’t play anymore. My fondest memory is being around teammates, from newettan to the national team. It was so nice. I always felt being appreciated by my teammates for always working so hard on the pitch.”
Gambian football has not progressed significantly since Cho Jallow was forced to quit. And he blames the problem on the lack of long term plans.
“I’m not in any way claiming to be an expert, but we all know that today’s Gambian soccer is not where it needs to be. It’s obvious that we are not doing well at all. We need to come up with a long term fix to this problem and stop the short term patches. Although our boys are doing their best – hats off to them- we need to have a long term solution and to stop changing coaches every time we lose.”
Life After the Final Whistle features two ex-Gambian footballers every week.