Four games into the 2019/2020 Betika Super League (BSL) season Gambian hitman Ebrima Sanneh had struck four times. And by round eight he had seven goals and was the league’s top scorer.
At that rate it looked obvious that the league’s golden boot was his for the taking.
Then the goals dried out for the leap master and header specialist and it took him another month to get goal eight of the season when he sent home a winning penalty against FC Talanta on 8 November 2019.
And that was it. No more goals for the rest of that year and through the months of January and February 2020. What was worse an ankle injury kicked in while in training and from the competitive squad he dropped down the strikers’ pecking order.
“I am worried that I am no longer scoring yet am doing everything in training. I am working very hard but the goals are not coming. I don’t know what the problem is. But I am really working very hard,” he said to club CEO Patrick Korir towards the end of the first leg in December 2019.
The CEO’s response was simple; “Stop trying. Stop working hard; just go and score like you did in the first few games of the season,” was his response that seemed to surprise him.
“Ok CEO, I will do my best,” he said albeit not with certainty
After a whole of four months Sanneh found his leap to connect to a floated Anthony Muki Kimani corner to hand Nairobi City Stars a historic 1-0 win over Nairobi Stima in a top billed clash at Camp Toyoyo on Saturday 14 March 2020.
It was the first ever home win for City Stars over Nairobi Stima in a second-tier game in five games across five seasons.
The workings of three substitutes turned City Stars fortunes in that game. And it was Sanneh with a last mile finish.
Wesley Onguso, who on tactical changes replaced right back Edwin Buliba, lobbed the ball from deep on the left channel to winger John Kamau who took up the place of another flyer David Gateri.
Kamau forced a corner off Nairobi Stima right back Paul Kisiga for Muki to swing it to Sanneh.
That goal certainly spurs him on as the league gets to the final bend;
“It means a lot to me because it has really boosted my morale.”
Even before stepping on to the pitch for the outstanding Azizi Okaka, Sanneh already knew it all rested on him to unlock the game.
Nairobi Stima had been tenacious all through and had the game locked out of the reach of City Stars.
“Sanneeeeh!” Shouted head coach Sanjin Alagic; “You have ten minutes to come on and win us the game,”
This is as Sanneh warmed up alone on the sidelines under the watchful eyes of trainer Grace Wang’ondu.
As he made it to the fourth official ready to make his entry in the 75th minute, Sanjin was on him again. He said; “You will be a hero. Go win us the game,”
As Sanneh hugged Azizi on his way in, Sanjin turned to Kamau and shouted; “Kamau, Sanneh just needs one good cross. Give it to him to finish the game,”
No cross came from Kamau but he delivered the decisive corner and the rest is history.
Seven minutes to time Stima’s defense lynchpin Joseph Shikokoti was ejected from the game after a second bookable offence on City Stars striker Davis Agesa. Absence of the six-foot-seven back-liner left Stima exposed. And Sanneh explored it.
And coach Sanjin was over the moon following his winning goal.
“Sanneh’s return from injury excites me especially the way he reacted positively when he got the chance to play the final 15 minutes. And he scored a nice header for the crucial three points.” He said
This was the umpteenth time that Sanneh had won it for City Stars. Early in the season his brace saw Simba wa Nairobi come from behind to beat host Vihiga Bullets 2-1.
Days later he tapped home for City Stars to end Bidco’s unbeaten check with a single goal.
In October he powered home a very late header for City Stars to sink a resolute AP Bomet at Toyoyo. In the same month he provided assists that saw Noah Abich and Oliver Maloba score winners against Fortune Sacco and Migori Youth, respectively. Then there was the Talanta winner in November 2019.
The team can only hope that Sanneh’s rejuvenation continues all through the final ten games of the season.