There is probably no better example of how badly African athletes are treated than the story recently come to light of the Gambia’s national women’s football team goalie, Fatim Jawara, who died crossing the Mediterranean in the hope of starting a new life in Europe.
The prevailing question right now is how come the goalkeeper of a National team would feel the need to get on a boat and strike out for what can only be seen as an uncertain future as an immigrant in another country.
The answer is suggested in the fact that Gambia’s Red Scorpion players do not receive a monthly salary but rather rely on voluntary contributions to meet their needs.
Fatim Jawara, believed to be just 19 years old, was the goalkeeper of Gambia’s national team but was on board a boat that ran into trouble in the Mediterranean last month while crossing from Libya to Europe.
With that, Fatim Jawara joined over 3,300 migrants who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Fatim Jawara made her debut in the national team just a little over a year ago in a friendly against a team from Glasgow.
Chorro Mbenga, who was the assistant coach of the national under-17 side, said of her;
“Her death is untimely, but we will remember her for her great performances on the pitch.”
The president of the Gambian football federation, Lamin Kabba Bajo, also said of her tragic passing:
“We are grieving at the moment as this is a great loss to the national soccer team and the nation.”
Despite the condolences being spouted currently, Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, dismissed the economic worries of Gambian migrants last year. He argued in a televised address that any ‘true Muslims’ would encourage their sons and daughters to take up job opportunities which were available at home.
It seems like the job opportunities the President referred to are just not enough. According to IOM, Gambians are the fourth-largest group of arrivals to Italy by number despite the fact that the country is one of the smallest nation’s in Africa. The UN also says that 60% of the population live in poverty, and a third survive on $1.25 or less a day.