- Friday, 23 March 2012
- Written by Modou Lamin Beyai
It was a long journey from The Gambia, West Africa, to the USL’s Los Angeles Blues , but for former Bellevue College soccer player Ebrima “EJ” Jatta, the journey has been well worth it.
Jatta was the first player from his village to be named to the country’s men’s national soccer team and would later come to the United States to continue his career and education.
At Bellevue College, he scored four goals in seven games, including a two-goal, one assist effort against Trinity Lutheran.
Jatta recently signed with the Blues after a quick tryout and took some time with the Reporter to talk about his youth in The Gambia and his continued humanitarian efforts there, his time in Bellevue and what the future holds in professional American soccer.
REPORTER: What do you miss most about The Gambia?
EJ: My family. I have seven sisters and one brother. I was last there in December for three weeks.
REPORTER: After being the first person from your village to make the country’s national soccer team, are you somewhat of a celebrity when you return?
EJ: A little bit, it really was a big deal in the village. We have a couple players that have come up since then and made the team and I'm kind of a mentor to them.
REPORTER: Why is going back to The Gambia and taking part in humanitarian efforts important to you?
EJ: It is something I’ve been doing that since I made the national team. I met a couple from the United Kingdom that had been coming to the country for a lot of years and we started talking and they found out I was a soccer player and asked me how I started playing. I told them there was a soccer academy and they said they wanted to help. From there, they’ve been helping out with balls and cleats and stuff like that.
REPORTER: How much of an impact do those kinds of projects have?
EJ: When I was growing up no one believed anyone would play soccer and make it out. I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going to do it. So now I give back through the school. They see if I made it, they can make it. Most of the kids who have made it, I have worked with. We have a lot more players from my village making money playing soccer now.
REPORTER: How did you end up at Bellevue College?
EJ: I was going to play for the Kitsap Pumas, but I came late. A friend asked me if I was going to college and said his son went to Bellevue College and said they had a great soccer program. I decided to go back and get my education. I'm still there taking classes for sports management.
REPORTER: Having seen how soccer is received on a local, national and international level, how would you characterize the enthusiasm for soccer here in Seattle and the United States?
EJ: I’ve been all around the world for soccer. The passion for soccer is really big in the US. Not everyone loves soccer but the people who love it really are passionate. In countries where it’s the number one sport obviously people are passionate about it as well. I love everything about it here; the people are good and make me feel comfortable.
REPORTER: Describe the feeling when you were offered the contract with the Blues.
EJ: I came down two months ago for a tryout and after two days they offered me a contract and I was just really happy. I thought maybe it might happen but when I made it, I called my family back home and said I signed a contract and they were very happy too.
REPORTER: Do you hope to continue in the professional ranks?
EJ: Definitely, that is what I want to do, if not in the MLS then Europe somewhere, whatever comes my way.
REPORTER: Could you see yourself returning to the area and playing for Sounders FC?
EJ: Yeah, definitely, I would love to. Even if I didn’t play with Sounders, I would love to come back if we played against them. But Seattle is my home, so I would want to play for Sounders.