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Mention the name Ousman Basi Conateh fondly called Fisco or OB, to even young people, who have no relation with sports and football in particular, and the probability is that seven out of ten would tell you a thing or two about him.
A Gambian asset and legend, Fisco was born on 1st November 1937 in Banjul, The Gambia. For much of his long life, he was a household name in The Gambia and around the sub-region.
As a young and energetic smart boy, Fisco 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 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.
Cherno Bara Touray, a prominent educationist, sports and public administrator, one of the many people whose story about Fisco could fill a book, said it will take a lifetime to exhaust a detailed biography and contributions of OB Conateh. “Fiscowas a rare person. He was one of the finest cyclists this nation would ever produce and through that inspiration he pioneered the sport in the country,” Touray explained.
According to Cherno Touray, Fisco employed hundreds of men and women in the sports fraternity into his company among them young Gambians and gave them a reason to live and uplift their families. “The beauty about Fisco is that, he is humble and always wished good for everyone irrespective of your origin, background or tribe. Despite his responsibility as founder of Wallidan Football Club, OB never stopped helping other clubs within the league. Who does that; he was so unselfish and notably, an incredible person who had Gambian football and development at his heart.”
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Fisco served as the President of the then The Gambia Football Association from 1993 until his voluntary retirement in 2001. His unflinching efforts in raising football in The Gambia during his stint as its president was reciprocated when he was bestowed with the rare reverence of the honorary life presidency of the national football governing body at a 2001 Congress.
He never played football but had always been a keen admirer and in 1969, through one of his many philanthropic gestures, he founded one of the most successful football clubs in Gambian football, Wallidan FC which many regarded as the Manchester United of The Gambia winning almost everything on stake in the 1970s and 1980s.
Outside of sports, OB was one of the most respected figures in normal Gambian life. He was the Chairman of the Banjul Committee of Elders; member of the Executive Committee of the Banjul Muslim Elders; mentor and role model for many youths; initiator of self-help projects with social associations for community development. OB was also a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF); first vice president of the West African Football Union (WAFU) and honorary consul of the Republic of Cote d’ Ivoire in The Gambia.
Cherno Touray further said when it came to the country’s participation in the continental football, Fisco’s contribution was second to none, financially, morally, and technically. “I recalled OB wouldn’t hesitate to support any club that qualified for the championship even if they were not his team, Wallidan. He would always be the first to render his service and support to the teams in all aspects with an open heart and mind. OB Conateh was a resemblance to late Omar Sey in Gambian sports. I believe Omar knew what this man could become and wasted no time in working with him,” Touray said .
A baron of sports and football in particular, an athlete during his youth days and later a seasoned administrator par excellence, he was a devastating cricketer and an ex-national cycling champion. A true entrepreneur in all definitions, Fisco had done so much for the development of sports, particularly football in The Gambia and beyond and impacted positively on the lives of many.
The founding father of Gambia’s most successful football club, Wallidan, 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 (MRC); 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 his outstanding contribution to the development of youth and sport he also won the Millennium Award for Excellence by The Gambia National Olympic Committee and also awarded 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.
To many Gambians, Fisco was a living icon and inspiration. For Cherno Barra Touray, ‘Fisco was an asset and role model who should be remembered forever. Football and sports cannot pay him but we have to remember him forever We we owe him that.”
..Edited and updated by The Standard and sourced from Gambiaff.com
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