Gambia in tears as ex-football coach passes away

BANJUL, July  30, 2019 – The death of Peter Bonu Johnson, an ex-coach of The Gambia’s U-17, U-20, U-23 and senior national football teams, was announced on Sunday. Bonu died at the country’s main referral hospital in Banjul after a long illness. He was 56 years old.

Peter Bonu Johnson was born on 10th May 1963 in Banjul and played for The Gambia National Team between 1983 and 1994. Bonu was a one-club man, who played his entire league football with Flammins as a defender.

As a man whose name is synonymous with football, Bonu was one of the architects of Gambia’s U-17 triumph in 2005 in Banjul, assisting then coach, Ghanaian Osam Dodou. The team qualified and participated in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, beating Brazil 3-1 in their opening game.

Two years later, Bonu, as he was known in football circles, guided Gambia’s U-20 team to a third-place finish at the African Youth Championship in Congo. The Junior Scorpions beat Zambia 3-1 in the third-place play-off. In that same year, the team made their first appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, where they exited at the knockout stage, losing to Austria, who went on to finish fourth.

The President of The Gambia Football Federation, Lamin Kaba Bajo, remembers Bonu Johnson as the first Gambian to have presented him with a Gambian jersey, while serving as Gambian Ambassador in Morocco. He describes Bonu’s passing as a great loss to Gambian football.

During his coaching career, the late Bonu Johnson also led the senior national team between 2012 and 2013. The man, who was not out for the big pay and privileges, wanted nothing but to serve his country. Among those he coached at the U-17, U-20 and senior levels is Gambia’s midfielder, Ebrima Sohna. Sohna said Bonu’s legacy will remain. “He has helped groom many players.”

Despite coming under attack from those who did not agree with his approach to games, Bonu would not say “No” when his country needed him.  In 2015, he accepted an offer to manage the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) team, which he left after three months, following the team’s exit at the hands of Senegal.

Sang Ndong, a former teammate to Bonu Johnson at senior level, said Bonu Johnson was a well-disciplined and kind teammate. Ndong, who is also the current Technical Director of The Gambia Football, added that the passing of coaches like Bonu will, no doubt, have a negative impact on the game.

At the entrance of Bonu’s compound in the community of Sanchaba Sulay Jobe, one could see an out-of-use basketball court, which Bonu had for his kids. Family members and neighbors converged at his compound on Monday to console the bereaved family.

Aunty Monika, as she is called, is Bonu’s widow. She describes her husband as not only a football lover, but a devoted Christian.

Madlen Jallow and Marie Johnson, both relatives of Bonu, added that the he was someone who had a big heart for the family, and who would go the extreme to unite them.

Zeral Chow, a long-time neighbour, said Bonu was someone who had a cordial relationship with the neighbours.

To many Gambians, “Bonu is gone, but his legacy will remain.”

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