Banjul, Gambia(PANA) - President Adama Barrow Wednesday called on Gambians to be proud of Alhaji Momodou Njie Biri Biri who gave to his motherland all he could when he had to, an official source said here.
“Together, let us pray that the many Gambian football enthusiasts and sponsors who departed this world before him, such as the late Alhaji O.B. Conateh of blessed memory are waiting in Heaven to receive him,” the president said.
President Barrow made these remarks in his tribute to Gambian football legend Alhajie Njie Biri Biri at the Arch 22, Banjul, where Gambians paid their last respects to the late soccer legend.
He was laid to rest at Jeshwang cemetery, 10km outside Banjul.
“I am proud to observe that Biri’s football career, which started at the tender age of fifteen, had developed to a high professional level. He played against the world's greatest players, and made his mark on the world stage. “Today, he leaves behind a unique reputation in Africa and Europe, not to mention his motherland, The Gambia.
“Because of Biri's passion for football and his temperament on the field, the official fan club for Seville in Spain named their group and a portion of the club’s stadium Biri’s Notre,” President Barrow said.
He added: “It is amazing that in a popularity contest in Seville, Biri beat the City Mayor as the most popular person in the city. What a feat, and what a great achievement for a Gambian," he stated.
“Back home, Biri is the only person to suit up with three different generations, having played at the international level in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. He pulled the curtain down in 1987 with a generation he prepared for stardom.”
President Barrow stated that in all, Biri played with grace, honour, passion, commitment and unrivalled patriotism.
He recalled that the late Father Joseph Gough once said: “If Biri was born in Europe or Brazil, he would easily have been the Pele of the world."
In his eyes, no one was a better performer than the much admired personality, whose humble beginnings could be traced to the popular grounds in Banjul, known as Park E Marche.
He pointed out that Alhajie Biri’s character as a patriotic Gambian was demonstrated many times during his sporting career, footballing in particular.
“He sacrificed for his country, and made every effort to fly the Gambian flag high in the football world.
“In recognition of his selfless service to The Gambia and humanity in general, coupled with his untiring effort in the development of football in the country, Alhaji Momodou Njie, alias Biri Biri, is awarded the insignia of the Grand Commander of the Order of The Republic of The Gambia (GCRG) posthumous,” President announced.
Earlier on, Mass Axi Gai, who played in the national team with Biri Biri, said while he and Biri didn’t start their footballing careers in the same team, fate brought them together in the national team.
“I was a defender with the late Leon Prom and Biri was our striker. We continued playing but I left football before him to continue my professional work at the Ports Authority and he continued with his profession as a footballer,” Gai said.
Biri Biri’s brother, Bekai Njie, said his brother lived a life of humility.
“He was so humble that all of his chatting sessions are with kids, not his age mates,” the younger Njie said.
Alagie S. Darboe, lawmaker for Brikama North said: “We mourn and celebrate the death of the legend Biri Biri, an inspirational player for generation of The Gambian players.”
The former Gambian professional, regarded as one of Africa’s greatest footballers of all time, served the nation after his retirement by supporting and assisting the national team coaches and grassroots football across the country. Biri Biri Academy in Niumi is one of such teams, just to mention a few, he said.
“We will not only miss Biri in the field of sports but even in the socio-political arena, especially in the city of Banjul where he served as deputy Mayor from 1994 to 2005 and worked as manager of Albert Market.
“Biri was a kind, generous and friendly fellow, always smiling on everyone,” he said.
-0- PANA MSS/RA 22Jul2020