Exploring Garawol (URR): Unearthing Unique Sporting Traditions and Cultural Diversity

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By: Adama Sanneh

Garawol, a village in the Upper River Region located approximately 650 kilometers from the Gambia’s capital, Banjul, holds a deep-rooted culture that spans from traditions to sports, presenting barriers among athletes.

The village, primarily inhabited by the Sarahule tribe, possesses a cultural legacy of both nobles and slaves.

Having the opportunity to visit this village, I had an unforgettable experience while communicating with individuals from the same tribe but with differing cultural backgrounds.

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In Garawol, an uncommon discovery consists of various football pitches situated amidst hills covered in pebbles.

Football is the most renowned sport in Gambia, with a great number of individuals aspiring to participate and potentially pursue it as a career.

Contrary to the general belief shared by all Gambians that football pitches are typically found on flat and visible surfaces, the district of Garawol in Kantora presents a distinct location for their football pitches.

While exploring the area during our visit, we stumbled upon approximately thirteen football pitches dispersed across small hills, where football enthusiasts and aspiring players gathered to engage in matches while being watched by others.

These pitches are situated on top of a hill, on the outskirts of the town, divided among the clans (kabilos) of the community.

Although the locals have made efforts to clear the inadequate structures for football playing, cultural disparities play a significant role in determining the separate playing areas for each group.

Each group possesses their own strengths and plays football in specific regions, influenced by their cultural inheritance of nobles and slaves, who are culturally restricted from interacting to a certain level.

At half-past four o’clock (4:30 pm), the young inhabitants of the town excitedly leave the village, prepared to ascend the scenic hills and head towards their respective pitches.

The pitches are named after renowned European league clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Athletico Madrid, Manchester United, and various other prominent clubs.

One fascinating aspect of this place is the existence of a special pitch exclusively reserved for noble families in the town, notably known as Real Madrid.

Consequently, only those belonging to noble families are allowed to participate on this particular pitch.

Garawol is predominantly a Serahule town, characterized by a longstanding caste system that shows minimal to no signs of dissipating, and has gained acceptance among almost everyone in the community.