One of the hottest things in the English game at the time, Cherno Samba left majority Gambians shocked when he starred for England at youth level.
In the Junior Three Lions’ set up, he had the calibre Wayne Rooney who would later become a Manchester United great, sitting on the bench for him.
His involvement with England, where he grew up all his life, delighted fans there but also infuriated Gambian supporters, some of whom to this day, question his patriotism, throwing derides at him in any interview he is featured.
Samba was one of those tipped to win England the 2006 World Cup during his formative years amid pressure hovering over his head coupled with his tough battle to get over his failed move to join Liverpool leading to his decision to seek change of scenery -transferring to Spain at Tenerife where he was the side’s best paid star.
At the canary island though, he would battle loneliness, depression after seeing most of his peers -Rooney and co – knocking it in the English Premiership compared to second division level he had found himself in. Homesickness added to his compounding problems triggering his attempt to want to commit suicide by downing pills and collapsing at his lonely home before he got found.
Samba would later switch allegiance to The Gambia, starring for the Scorpions in 2008 under Paul Put’s tenure. Most fans in Banjul feel the gifted striker settled for the West African nation as a last resort after his dream to play for England at senior level faded hence their inbuilt resentment.
However, Che understands this upset and bothered to clarify even further hoping to put the matter to rest for good.
“I’m glad we’re talking about this actually because I know a lot of people are upset why I was playing for England and not Gambia,” he said.
He continued in detailed elaboration: “I think one needs to be realistic and no disrespect to the country of my birth (The Gambia). If anyone among these people (angry with me) were called by England (o play for them) they would pick England because of the infrastructure at the time, because of the opportunity at the time, I will even say financial gain at the time. So you have to understand if it was you, you will do the same. So when I was in England, the players I was competing with Micheal Owen, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and Emily Heskey; these people were playing in the premiership week in week out while I was playing in Finland. No disrespect. I had no chance to reach them.
“So I decided, it’s time for me to play for Gambia that is why I chose to play for Gambia in 2008 and I understand the frustration of Gambians and their perception of me because I was born in Gambia but lived my whole life in England. If I had started playing in Gambia, then maybe I would have played for Gambia. But when I started playing at age of 13, 14 England called me to their youth national team and I continued playing for them. So I couldn’t just automatically stop playing for England and play for Gambia so this is the reason,” he told Fatoumatta Rahman Corker in an interview on Thursday evening.
Che has one goal for Gambia, a head in the 2-1 away win over Tunisia and is currently a Uefa A coaching license holder and has intentions of coaching Gambia.