Amputee Football in The Gambia

Chris Ingram / Football, Gambia

There’s not much that will get anybody up at 7.30 on a Sunday morning. Yet for members of the Gambian Amputee Football Team this is standard practice, as they’re itching to head down to the beautiful surroundings of Senegambia Beach in the back of Bob Jabbie’s car to train.

The team was initially brought together through Legs4Africa and the Gambian Amputee Association, who through a DFID project discovered that amputee football was something people wanted to play, but nothing had been organised. Football is huge in The Gambia, and for some of the amputee players – including Muhamed Samasa (see player profile) – their amputations were a result of football related injuries. With this real desire to return to the game, it didn’t take much to get the (foot)ball rolling.

What began four months ago as 4-5 players meeting once a week for a kickabout has grown into a solid team of 14 training twice a week. Not only do they want to do more but there are players further afield too who would love to play. This is all because of the determination and passion of the players  – even when faced with challenges like lack of amputee football infrastructure, equipment, funding and transport connections – things that are often straight forwards in Europe – they still push on. They see the likes of Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana competing internationally and ask, “if other West Africans – and 39 other nations –  can do it, why can’t we?”

Led by player/trainers Lamin Jammeh and Backary Colley, coach Fatou Sanneh and manager Bubucarr Jabbie, their skills, teamwork and coordination are going from strength to strength, with both local Gambians and tourists alike often stopping to watch and enjoy the fast pace and intense action of the sessions. Not only is the sport an opportunity for amputees to enjoy something they didn’t think possible, it’s a chance to change the perceptions of people in The Gambia, who often see people with disabilities as unable to succeed.

Inspired by the great amputee football teams like England and Turkey and professional players like Mesut Ozil, Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi they’re dreaming of bringing World Cup, AFCON and Paralympic success to The Gambia where the association football team has struggled. With the potential and drive that I’ve seen so far, trophies will definitely be coming home to The Gambia.

Muhamed Samasa - Amputee Footballer

Player Profile

Name: Muhamed Samasa

Age: 26

Position: Midfield

Key skills: Close ball control and Oscar winning dramatics

Favourite player – Christiano Ronaldo. Would love to play like him as he never tires.

Opponent he’d like to play – John Terry. I want to meet with him, skin him and score a goal.

Favorite footballer haircut – Patrice Evra, I want mine to look like that also.

Which African amputee team would you like to play against – Angola, because they talk a lot on the amputee football forums and they won the last Amputee World Cup. I want to beat them 10-0.

Which amputee team would you like to play against – England Amputee Football Team. When it comes to sport I like the English sports and they have a club level amputee football league.

Which professional team would you like to play against – Manchester United

Which professional team would you like to play for – Liverpool FC

What do you think of women’s football – It’s good. It’s very good to see them compete. I would like to see a women’s amputee football team too.

What do you like about playing amputee football? I like the training, I want to do it everyday. I like being on the training ground, I never want to miss a session.