By Sulayman Bah
Pa Konateh does not ring a bell to Gambia football fans but he’s one such emerging sensation looking to make just the right fuss in this year’s Uefa Champions League.
His Swedish club Malmo qualified to the Champions League after seeing off Austrian club Salzburg in a two-legged play-off. Malmo lost the first-leg 2-1 but has the upper hand with an away goal advantage and needed just to avoid conceding to make the cut.
However, the second-leg -played Thursday evening- saw a different Malmo comfortably tearing to shreds Zalsburg as final result ticked 3-0. Malmo faces Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Olympiacos in the CL group stage.
Konateh who’d been mainly overlooked in the CL qualifier matches was given a run down helping keep a clean sheet the full ninety. Konateh could give Gambian fans cause to stay transfixed over the television when Champions League group games start. The 20-year-old stopper attached to Swedish 2014 league champions Malmo on a long term contract is one person to be considered for the future with a bright modicum of talent and is so far showing signs of outliving the hype.
Signing his first-team contract albeit on a youth basis in 2012, it was not until five months later that the towering ace stamped his foot mark wowing spectators and pundits alike in his league debut against Malmo’s rival title contenders AIK in April last year.
Pa would go on to make six more appearances climbing off the substitutes’ bench in three of those as a replacement of Brazil’s Richardinho.
Clearly he’d caught Norwegian gaffer Hareide’s fancy, who spoiled for choice at the back-four, was forced to let out the Gambian on loan to rake in the minutes with Swedish second tier Oster while instilling a strong clause to recall him to provide cover just when the need arises.
Stifling attacks with exact required meticulousness and with an unquestionable timely tackles, the Malmo-born took just a single competitive match to wad his way in Oster’s starting line up and went on to make an impressive fifteen starts.
His displays were the subject of rave reviews with a raft of top flight clubs hovering to snap him up forcing parent club Malmo to fend off the overtures by tabling an improved contract for the starlet with a vigorous promise of first-team football.
Good as his words, Hareide offered Pa a spot in the A team while also getting the ace included in the club registered roster for the Uefa Champions League qualifiers.
His gaze is firmly glued to the Champions League as he aims to justify adulations thrown at him from the Swedish media.
Konate is born to a Guinean father but is fully eligible to play for Gambia through his Gambian mother. Sweden –his country of birth – is also understood to be interested in drafting the defender in its U-21 outfit.