Football was supposed to be the game for Mariama Ginadou. Her dad played football and her mother loves football. She joined City Girls football club, her first team when she was 14. So naturally, every expected her excel as a footballer. And she tried to be a footballer but there was a problem and that put her off.
“Each time I tried to show aggression in the game, I’d end up fouling another player. I hated being touched, especially being fouled by a fellow girl,” she says.
However, a conversation with a volleyball referee at her high school opened up another avenue she never considered initially. Urged to try out for the Interior volleyball team, Mariama was reluctant.
“To be honest I didn’t want to try volleyball. I knew nothing about it.”
But within a week with Interior volleyball team, Mariama fell in love with the game in which the block party never ends. Volleyball fired her up to be competitive.
“Only there was a net in between,” she says. “You can put in all this aggression towards one object and let it out.”
Football’s loss became volleyball’s gain. Mariama is today one of the biggest volleyball players in the country and was part of the Gambia’s team at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Algeria. She and her Interior FC team were Sunday won the women beach volleyball gold medal after beating arch rivals, Gambia Armed Forces.
‘’The relationships you build, how together you are, set it apart from football. You come together after every point. I wanted to compete against someone, but I didn’t want that physical contact,” she tells The Chronicle.
“Volleyball allows you to be a little more of a girl. You get to wear the ribbons, wear your hair whatever way you want and still be elegant when you play the sport. That draws a lot of young female athletes to the sport.”
She is a very fragile player and easily adapts to all the training programs, says her coach, Marie Wada.
“I would never say Football is more of a masculine sport than volleyball. You’re not playing men’s football, instead you’re playing women’s football,” she adds. “The bows and the hair and the way the uniforms fit don’t affect the way the sport is played. Playing volleyball, you’re not told to play like a lady. You’re told to play tough and play hard and be aggressive. Whether it’s football or volleyball, you hear the same things from coaches.”
Meanwhile, for a Volleyball fan like Isatou Cham, the sport needs wider media coverage to reach to the young ones, to inspire them.
“I have a little cousin who loves volleyball and she will always be practicing it at home. She didn’t know anything about the sport until she saw it once on TV. So having it out there for more young girls to watch allows them to be more drawn into the game.”
Volleyball is a game of the mind, the 4-foot-11 Mariama says. “It takes strategy. It’s not easy, but it’s not hard. Football seems like the same thing every time. I don’t like to stand under the goal. I don’t like running at all. It’s the same repetitive thing. In volleyball, it’s something new, every set, and every game.”