November 4 – The 19-year-old goalkeeper of Gambia’s national women’s football team has tragically drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe amidst the horror of the ongoing migrant crisis.
Fatim Jawara was on board a boat that was hit by storms while crossing from Libya to Italy, her family have confirmed, according to Gambian FA president Lamin Kaba Bajo.
Jawara made her debut with the national women’s side a year ago after playing in the junior team. “She will be remembered for saving a penalty kick in a friendly encounter involving the national soccer team and the Glasgow Girls from Scotland,” Bajo told AFP.
Jawara’s absence apparently came to light when The Gambian women’s team was scheduled to play Senegalese club Casa Sports. She played for a local club Red Scorpions FC in Serekunda town, just outside the capital Banjul. Rumours circulated that she had gone on the ‘Back Way’, the name given to the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean to Italy, according to Red Scorpions captain Fatu Fatty.
“A few days later we confirmed from her family that an agent had contacted them to say Fatim was among those on the boat that capsized,” Fatty explained .
Officials in The Gambia said Jawara left her home in the crowded city of Serrekunda in September to cross the Sahara and head for Libya, where most African migrants begin the sea crossing to Europe. She then reportedly spent at least three weeks waiting for the crossing in a ‘camp’ run by traffickers before embarking to Lampedusa, travelling with a 19-year-old friend who also died.
Jawara had apparently told her family she wanted to “follow her destiny” and play for a major European club “whatever the risks”. In one of her last conversations with relatives, she rejected their appeals to return home, according to a close friend. “They spoke to her from the middle of the desert, all the time as she travelled. They were begging her to abandon the journey, but she said she wanted to go on and follow her destiny,” said Sainey Sissoho, a former team-mate.
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