Wokingham & Emmbrook’s incredible link with Gambian Football Club

Squad photo.
Squad photo.

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On 16th June, Wokingham & Emmbrook posted details of ‘the Gambian Sumas’ on the clubs Facebook page and how they won their first post-Covid-19 match 2-1.

Playing BMC Bakoteh, Junction BA Football Academy led 2-0 in the first half through Buba Fadia and Zakaria Saine but were denied a clean sheet with a 75th minute consolation from Ebrima Ceesay.

At Football in Berkshire, the post piqued our curiosity about how the Sumas in Berkshire had built a link with the West African country located south of Senegal. We spoke to club chairman Steve Williams who revealed all.

We have been involved with providing recycled Wokingham & Emmbrook Football Club kit to the Junction Ba Football Academy in The Gambia now for around 5-6 years. It started with Anne Laleman, the mum of a WEFC player from one of our girl’s teams some years ago, asking what we did with our old kit. It turns out, through her job travelling overseas, she had links with certain African countries providing things they could not get, one being football kit.

The first time we sent kit over to The Gambia in 2015, Anne actually took it in her suitcase personally on a trip she had already scheduled, with her own belongings packed in a carry on case. That’s how we started. When she returned she told us how thrilled they were to get the kit and it was the first time they ever put out a team with matching shirts! However, she did say that many of the boys did not have boots and they only had a couple of proper footballs within the whole academy. We received a letter of thanks (Football in Berkshire has published the letter in full below).

So through the club we put the word out to parents, players, managers etc for any old, (but reusable), boots, bibs, balls, pads etc that we could send out there and in January 2017 we collected enough kit to send, this time two pallets of kit, care of Intersurgical, including, boots, balls etc over to them.

Sumas donations to The Gambia.
Sumas donations to The Gambia.

The following September 2018 we sent out another kit delivery and one is currently en route right now…actually stuck in Brussels it seems!

The Junction Ba Football Academy senior coach Siaka Jatta keeps us updated by WhatsApp with what they are doing out there, matches are few and far between I believe, and they often have to travel long distances, and games are sometimes played in a tournament format to get a number of games in at once.

They have a number of teams by age, but I do not believe it is so much about how old you are over their (no player registration cards) but about how big or skilled at football. The photos on our Facebook page showed their first match after The Gambia COVID-19 lockdown and that was their U15 team – look at the size of the players!

The Gambian Sumas.
The Gambian Sumas.
Ready for the game.
Warming up.
Squad photo.

The letter

Junction Baa Football Academy, Sukuta Village, Kombo North District, West Coast Region, Serekunda, The Gambia.

Dear Parents of Wokingham and Emmbrook Football Club,

Greetings from the smiling coast of Africa (The Gambia) from the people of our community. Its indeed with profound gratitude and great humility that I am writing you this piece.

The Junction Baa football Academy was formally established as a footballing institution on the 31st of December, 2013. It was formed to train kids, to be a footballer in later years, keep them off the streets and help them realise their potentials in the sport of football. 

It started with a sparse number of kids but with time that figure steadily rise to a large number. It was all rosy in the beginning because difficulties were encountered with lack of football materials (kits and balls) but as we move on, with help of philanthropists and organisations, like Wokingham and Emmbrook football club via Mrs. Anne Laleman our dreams are slowly but surely moving forward and keep alive. 

The academy have on its books about 76 registered children and youths from all walk of life. The age category lays from 5 to 14 years, youth players of about 22 and a senior team consisting of about 26 players. The academy kids are demarcated in to three age groups of under 5, under 8 and under 14. There is also a youth team and a senior team and all teams do take part in regular football competitions of their various categories.

There is a coaching staff and academy trainers consisting of six personnel who are all active sport men and competent in their various capabilities. Training schedule varies depending on the age group, concerning the kids training are only on Saturdays and Sundays due to academic commitments during week days but during school vacations training is done five times a week. The youth and senior team train five times a week and take part in annual football tournament locally known as ‘‘Nawetan’’. With all this commitments involving all the categories of the academy, lot of problems are encountered, key among those, lack of football shoes, training kits, balls, cones and markers. 

The team do get involved in friendly games with other setups of our kind but it is pretty difficult to finance trips for away test games and to pay registration fees for football tournaments and finance the team during the course of contribution. 

The academy was setup with a vision to train players to turn Professionals in the future. Many of the kids and youth players also want to take up football as a career and harbour dreams of becoming professional players in the future. We have a large pool of talented kids who with the right support, management and proper assistance can reach the highest of the game. Such is the raw talent and skills posses by this lads and their willingness to learn new things is the most promising. The entirety of this community still remember your previous gifts from Wokingham and Emmbrook football club and we will always be appreciative of the kind of gesture forever, and always to more of that kind.

Special words of thanks and appreciation also goes to Mrs. Anne Laleman and Wokingham and Embrook Football club. Words alone cannot express how soft our hearts are in thanking you for each and every little gesture that came our way via your selfless and never-ending trying to make our academy the best. We hope for more of the same kind in the not too distant future.

On behalf of the whole community, players (kids, youth and senior) parents and all. Secondly I once again take this humble opportunity afforded to me, to thank you for everything good that comes our way.

Thank you.

You can find out more about Junction-Ba Football Academy on their Facebook page.

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