When it comes to pure talent and trickery, no one comes close to Sheikh Ndure, he was a beast. A glorious talent blessed with a host of flicks, tricks and touches designed to deceive opposing defenders, Sheikh was a fan favorite.
Ndure’s love for football started when he was 14 years old in Banjul. As a youngster, he would join his peers in Banjul’s popular Tobacco Road to play street football. “Everything started in the streets of Banjul, Ndure tells The Chronicle. “Growing up, I watched very good footballers in Banjul especially ‘Biri Biri’ and I got inspired by his skills, moves with the ball and hunger for success.”
Ndure attended Albion and St Mary’s Primary Schools in Banjul in the 70s where his career began. It was at Saint Augustine’s under the guidance of renowned educationist and sports coach Father Joseph Gough where he was tipped for greatness. As a student of Saint Augustine’s High School in Banjul, he played for the football team. Sheikh was also a deadly shooting point guard for Roots and Saints Basketball clubs.
In the early 80’s, Sheikh was recruited by the then Secretary General of Roots Football Club Tijan Massaneh Ceesay to join the team in the 3rd division where he suited up rapidly. “Sheikh Ndure is among the school boys I brought together in 1979 to form Roots football club, “said Tijan Massaneh Ceesay. He played the right wing but betrayed us in 1983 and went to Wallidan.”
Upon joining Wallidan, Ndure quickly won the hearts of his coaches. He quickly built a reputation for himself as the best attacker of his generation. His tenacity as a winger was unrivaled, much more his physical capabilities and overall physique which earned him the name, ‘School boy international’. “I had a successful time at Wallidan. We were winning every cup, the squad was just unstoppable, “Ndure tells The Chronicle.
His great goal scoring record with Wallidan translated to national honors. At the age of 17, Sheikh joined the national team in 1983. At the national side, the winger quickly gained legendary status thanks to his exceptionally quick feet, close control and eye for goal. “I’ve always had the desire of winning games and scoring goals, “he said. “I always play with free, never under pressure. I was young and hungry for victory.”
Ndure’s debut for the Scorpions was against Ivory Coast, in an African cup of nations in 1985 at the Independence stadium in Bakau. The tricky attacker, who was the youngest on the pitch on that day, was undoubtedly the star of the match as he scored and assisted to give his team a 3-2 victory. That was also his career highlight.
“I remember the stadium was almost empty on that day due to the fact that Gambia lost heavily to Ghana few days before, so many though that we will be humiliated at home again, “Sheikh explains. Interestingly, I scored and assisted the two goals in the first half, through radio commentary, fans got the news that we are leading and also outplaying, then they started coming and filling the seats to capacity. And that motivated me to play my heart for the country.”
“Sheikh was an agile, innovative, creative winger who definitely excelled with the ball at his feet, “says Wurra Samba, one of Ndure’s fans. “I’ve watched him play and I can say, his style of football is second to known. He was a gifted footballer.”
However, Ndure’s close control, stunning runs and ability to find the net from long range during his four-year spell with the national team separated him from the rest. He recalls it was a lot of fun playing for the Scorpions.
“It was so great playing for the national team. Whenever we enter the pitch, we put our lives on the line for the country. Our dressing room was always lively with the likes of the late Bonu Johnson, Joe Tennis and Lamin Owens.”
Ndure describes the Scorpions’ ‘poor performances’ in a Zone two game in Guinea Bissau in 1987 as the saddest day of his career. “For the fact that we had one of the best teams in the sub region then, we had a very bad preparation, “he said. We used a land rover vehicle to Bissau, we were so tired and couldn’t have a good rest for the game. “We even struggled to draw with teams that we comfortably beat in that competition. We were no march to countries like Guinea Bissau, but we managed to a draw against them and eventually got eliminated. I was so sad.”
In 1988, he left for the U.S. for university education and he pursued his passion by playing college football. Looking back at his career, what remains embedded in Ndure’s heart is the love from the fans. “Fans were so amazing during my games. They’ve showed me love and anytime I work down the streets, they will celebrate me. I want to thank them for the love.”
Now a football consultant, Sheikh offers his knowledge and wisdom to young Gambian players. He’s also the current President of the Serekunda West Sports Development.
On the current state of Gambian football, Ndure said the country needs upgrading. “We have to start moving fast because there’s no excuse for failure in our football nowadays, “he said. What we need now is very good policies especially in the grassroots for the game to develop in this country.