Tribute: Alhaji Babou Sowe, the demise of a hero

By George Gomez
The news of the demise of Alhaji Babou Sowe was one of the greatest shocks in my life.Alhaji Babou Sowe

He was a true and genuine friend, a great sportsman, a motivator, a radio commentator, a youth leader and a respected Banjul elder.

Babou was the third son of Alhaji Sulay Sowe, a well-known and respected Banjulian businessman who was a groundnut trader based in Fatoto in the Upper River Region. His mother was Mam Fatim Faal, a well-known women mobiliser at Hagan Street.

He started team football when he played on the St Mary’s school team in 1953, as a centre forward.

He was captain of the school team up to the end of 1954. Upon completing school, Babou made his league football debut at Rainbow Football club in 1955. That same year, he transferred to Blackpool football club which was then newly formed. In 1957, Babou moved again, this time to form yet what turned out to be a talented team, Sterling football club,where he achieved huge recognition and success.

In 1959 Babou Sowe was persuaded by his friend George Gomez, myself, to move to Augustinians football club where he settled for several years and rose to attain a glittering and outstanding football career.

It was from this team that he was selected for his first international match against Guinea-Bissau in 1965. Thereafter, he played on different occasions for the national team until his retirement in 1973.

In 1974, Babou became coach of the junior national team winning a regional football championship by winning the Gold cup and gold medal awards for endurance and discipline, thus becoming the first team manager and coach to bring gold medals to the country.

The late Babou Sowe was also a member of the Football Veterans Association and had served on the association’s executive committee for several years.

A sports all-rounder, Babou Sowe was twice Zonal boxing champion for Banjul Central for two years consecutively, in 1957 and 1958 and reached the final in 1960.

He also served as treasurer in the first executive committee of the National Boxing Association, NBA, when it was formed in 1993.

In cycling, Babou Sowe was club champion from 1960 to 1963 competing for Banjul Roxy Vous Club.

He was also on the club’s 4 x 100 meters athletics relay team, which won several trophies at the then McCarthy Square.

Under his presidency at the Roxy Vous, the first Beauty pageant in The Gambia, the Miss Banjul, was held in 1963. Miss Joanna Jahumpa then of Hagan Street, won that pageant with myself as secretary general of the vous.

Babou Sowe was the president of the Augustinians footballers’ social club which organised the first international football match outside The Gambia on their own, The social club was made up of the players themselves supported by few fans.

They organised their own fundraising programmes to help the effort of team officials in the running of the affairs of the club, such as purchasing jerseys for the team thereby relieving the club management from other financial commitments.

As secretary general I was part of Augustinians’ twelve-day tour of Sierra Leone, where we played football at Makeni, Bo and Freetown

When I was on my teaching practise in Basse in 1958, Babou Sowe came and stayed with me for few weeks and suggested that Basse play a challenge match against Wellingara, the closest Senegalese town to Basse. We went and spoke to the then commissioner of Upper River Region, the late Lamin Saho, who later became Minister of Justice in the First Republic.

Saho was interested in the suggestion and sponsored the event by providing a PWD Dennis Pax to take the team captained by Babou Sowe to Wellingara. Basse won two goals to zero.

The late Babou Sowe was also a member of the Banjul Drama society and together with giants of the Arts like Alhaji Mbye Chow and Alhaji Sering Secka, entertained the people of The Gambia and helped promote Gambian culture all over the world. He was a good actor and dancer. He helped a lot of young Gambians like Oussou Njie senior in their pursuit for excellence in music with advice and financial support.

Alhaji Babou Sowe was also inducted in to the Sports Hall of Fame of the Gambia National Olympics Committee on the 19th May in the year of Our Lord 2001.

What else can I say about this gentleman who impacted the lives of so many people and the youths of this country?

Let me share this Facebook comments by Kumba Conateh former deputy PS at the Ministry of Sports and daughter of Alhagie O B Conateh: ‘Inna Li Lahi Wa Inna Li Lahi Rajioon. We have today lost one of the founding fathers of Wallidan FC, Uncle Alh Babou Sowe of Primet Street. Throughout his life he harboured unrivalled and undeterred commitment to Wallidan. The pain of being relegated to Division II took a giant toll on him last year. One could feel the pain listening to him over the radio when he was invited to discuss the matter on West Coast Radio.

Our condolences go out to his family and to the chairman of Wallidan FC, uncle Alh OB Conateh (Fisco), Alh Biri Njie, Maweyia Deen and the executive, management and fans here at home and abroad. May his soul rest in peace.”

In conclusion I pray that Allah place his absolute grace and comfort through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) on my late great friend and confidant, Alhagie Babou Sowe.