Known for his immaculate finishing, epic ball control and aerial strength, Edrissa Sonko is a legendary footballer known for his big match performance for clubs and country, especially when it mattered.
Born and raised in Essau in Niumi where his passion for football started, Sonko began his career with Elephants Football Club in the Essau nawettan before moving to Bakau to play for Culture F.C.
As a student of Saint Augustine’s High School in Banjul, he played for the football team.
Upon graduation, Sonko joined Steve Biko. He transferred to first division side Real de Banjul in 1995 and immediately became fans’ favourite because of his flair and technical abilities. The winger guided the team to a treble in the 1995-1996 season, an achievement that would propel him to the national team.
“I had a successful time at Real de Banjul. It was so great winning the super cup, FA and league cup,” he tells The Chronicle.
Upon joining the national team, Sonko quickly won the hearts of his coaches. “Though I met so many skillful players in the national team, I became a first team player. We had so many talented players and every one of us was just hungry for victory. We love winning for The Gambia.”
Sonko describes the Scorpions’ closest chance to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 2008 as the saddest day of his career. “We drew with Senegal in Dakar and finished second in our group. However, we ended up finding out that CAF have changed their rules in the last minutes and we were out,” Sonko recalls.
“I remember that even though we were out, the entire country was in jubilant mood and the President of the Republic invited us to thank us. We were just unlucky that year.”
The lively and commanding winger scored nine goals for the Scorpions in 37 games. He signed his first professional contract outside The Gambia in 1999 with Belgian side Anderlecht. He moved to Dutch side Roda JC in 2000 before having a short spell at Greek side Xanthi in 2007.
Between 2007 and 2010, Sonko played for three English sides; Walsall, Tranmere and Hereford United.
In September 2010, he joined Ras AlKhaima Club in the United Arab Emirates.
The 39-year-old is currently pursuing his coaching career in the United Arab Emirates where he is heading top flight side Emirates Football Club. After successful completion of his UEFA B coaching license course, Sonko was appointed as the head coach of both the U-14 and U-19 of the UAE national teams. He is also expected to complete his UEFA A license in June.
On the current state of Gambian football, Sonko urges the country to draw lessons from Senegal, Caper Verde and Guinea Bissau who all qualified for next African Nations Cup tournament in Egypt. ‘’Let’s study how these countries recently made it to the top and do the same and even better.”
“Gambian football should have passed this stage. Instead, it is dying gradually. We were doing better than all these countries,” he says.