VANCOUVER, BC – Kekuta Manneh’s goal against FC Dallas on Saturday was a special one.
It was Manneh’s first goal of the season and it ended Vancouver’s open play drought – if you don’t count the own goal. But you already knew that. Turns out it was a little more personal for Manneh.
Earlier this month, he got a new pair of shinpads with the name of his mom, Mariama, displayed on them. She passed away back in their native Gambia when Manneh was just 10 years old.
And this was his first goal wearing the new shinpads.
“I know life is not fair and things happen,” Manneh told whitecapsfc.com. “We all have to go through it, but I wish she was still here. And those are the little things I can do to remind myself the things that she did for me and my brothers. So these shinpads mean the world to me.”
Manneh said his mother was a “great woman.”
As a kid, he remembers going to the market with her in the mornings since he had school in the afternoon. Back then, he would just go so he could pick out the things he wanted.
Nowadays, those are some of his most precious memories.
“She would say, ‘What are you doing? I thought you were here to help me out,’” Manneh joked.
After going to the market, Manneh said he’d often help his mom out in the kitchen. She always cooked big meals for the family – and for others in the area.
That’s the kind of person she was.
“She had no hard feelings for anyone,” Manneh said. “She would welcome anyone with open arms, even strangers. One of the things she always said was to respect women. Treat them like fine china. She always said that. Treat women the way you’d want me to be treated. That’s always stuck with me.”
Manneh, now 21, left The Gambia when he was 15 years old and eventually settled with an adoptive family in Texas. He’s currently in the process of getting his U.S. citizenship, but he still holds The Gambia close to his heart.
That’s why he chose the Gambian flag colours for his shinpads.
“That’s never going to change,” he said. “I’m a Gambian. Gambia is always going to be in my heart. I’m working on my citizenship. Hopefully I can get it. We’ll see what happens, but Gambia is still with me.”
And so is his mom.
“Seeing that every day before a game is a motivation for me,” Manneh said of his new shinpads.
“I want to make her proud.”
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