By Arfang M.S. Camara
The founding father of Wallidan Football Club and former president of the then Gambia Football Association (GFA), late Alh. Ousman Basi Conateh (Fisco) was laid to rest yesterday Sunday morning at the Jeshwang cemetery.
Hundreds of mourners across all sectors paid their last respects on Sunday after the late football patron died on Saturday after battling with long illness.
The late O.B. Conateh, up to the time of his death, was the Honourary President of Gambia Football Federation. He had previously served as the President of the then Gambia Football Association from 1993 until his voluntary retirement in 2001 when he completed two terms in the Presidency.
He served WAFU ten years as Vice President and member of CAF subcommittee for competitions for several years.
Fisco was born on 1 November 1937 in Banjul, The Gambia. A household name in The Gambia and around the sub-region, he was an energetic young man who would later become an icon in Gambian football.
The founding father of Wallidan FC attended St. Augustine’s High School and had a professional training in merchandise, marketing and entrepreneurship at the United Africa Company (UAC) in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was later made the manager of Kingsway supermarket, one of the subsidiaries of UAC.
He was also the Administrative Manager of The Gambia Fisheries Ltd. and the sole owner and Chief Executive Officer of the National Partnership Enterprises (NPE) Sea Food Processing Company and sole owner and chairman of O.B. Trawlers Agency.
Fisco won several awards in and outside of the country. In 1986, he was decorated with the prestigious honour of the Insignia of Member of the Republic of The Gambia (MRG); Officer of the National Order of the Republic of Cote d’ Ivoire in 1995; inducted into the Hall of Fame as National Cycling Champion, International Cricketer.
For the outstanding contribution to the development of youth and sports in 1999; he also won the Millennium Award for Excellence by The Gambia National Olympic Committee in both 2000 and 2001, he was honoured with the Achievement Award for Excellence by The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Insignia of the National Order of the Republic of The Gambia (ORG). In 2007, he was made Commander of the National Order of the Republic of Cote d’ Ivoire.
On January 4th 2020, the late Alh. OB was decorated by the Gambia Football Federation with a Life Time Achievement Award at its first ever Football Recognition Night. Credited for his selfless services to not only football but lives, livelihood and entrepreneurship, the late Fisco will ever be remembered by The Gambia, Africa and the world at large.
The former NPE Chief Executive was also in December 2019 decorated by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) with a Lifetime Achievement award reposed on him as one of the country’s eldest and respected men of repute and philanthropy in both social and entrepreneurship gestures. The GCCI award would be the Chamber’s second on the former GFA capo. Until his death over the weekend, the late OB Conateh was the Chairman of the GFF Legends Identification Committee.
Fisco never played football though but has always been a keen admirer and in 1969, through one of his many philanthropic gestures, founded what is regarded as one of the most successful stories in Gambian football, the birth of Wallidan Football Club. It was in the summer of that year that some boys sought assistance to form a football club and gave the birth of the Blues.
A baron of sports and football in particular, an athlete during his youth days and later an administrator par excellence, he was a devastating cricketer and an ex-national cycling champion. A true entrepreneur in all definitions, the former legend had done so much for the development of sports, particularly football in The Gambia and beyond and has impacted positively on the lives of many.