State send-off for late Gambian football icon

Gambia's late football legend Momodou Njie (Biri) will be given a state funeral and buried later on Wednesday, according to…

Gambia’s late football legend Momodou Njie (Biri) will be given a state funeral and buried later on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Office of the President.Biri died in the Senegalese capital Dakar on Sunday at the age of 72, following an unsuccessful operation to remedy a medical complication.

President Adama Barrow will lead eulogies in memory of the late skipper during a funeral ceremony to held on Wednesday afternoon.

He will be laid to rest at the Jeshwang cemetery, 10km outside the capital Banjul after the state funeral.  

His footballer son Yusupha Njie who plays for Boavista in the Portuguese top tier paid tribute to his father, saying he was lost for words. 

The Gambian international wrote on his instagram: “You’re my superhero and my biggest life blessing. I’m happy and opportune to be your son.”

Biri belonged to the first generation of African professional footballers to have plied their trade in Europe with Danish, English and Spanish sides B1901, Derby County and Sevilla respectively.

He became something of a cult hero in Sevilla who paid tribute to their former winger as a unforgettable ambassador of the game during his five years at the club in the 1970s.

As a mark of respect to the legacy of Gambia’s best known international football export, Sevilla and Valencia players wore black armbands during their La Liga match on Sunday.

Biri’s goals played a crucial part in Sevilla winning promotion to the Spanish top flight in 1975 and played 109 times for the club, scoring 34 times.

“Many players have a better record in the club’s history, but few have left such a mark on the fans like him. Those five years meant that the Gambian international left a legacy in the hearts of Sevilla fans which will never be forgotten, as both a legend and idol. He would go onto receive the gold insignia of the club in front of a packed Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán in 2017” said the club in a tribute.

Sevilla’s Spanish rivals Real Madrid also paid tribute to the Gambian as an iconic footballer of the 1970s.

Biri represented his country more than 50  times before retiring in the mid 1980s but continued to play club football with Wallidan.

He finally hung up his football boots in 1987.

In later years he would go on to become deputy mayor of Banjul  between 1994 and 2005 and served as the manager of the Royal Albert market in the city. 

In 2000, then President Yahya Jammeh in recognition of his services to his country bestowed on him a national order of merit.

Six years ago he was voted Gambia’s “greatest footballer of the last millennium and of all time”