You may not have heard his name or know who he is but the life of Bakery Jatta is about to change drastically – after signing a contract worth an estimated 100k per year with one of the biggest and oldest clubs in Germany, Hamburger SV.
The 17-year-old refugee fled his native home of Gambia without his family last summer and after a journey of almost 6,000 kilometers from Gambia to Germany Jatta ended up in Rothenburg, Bavaria where he spent some time in a supervised youth welfare and education system.
Since Jatta arrived in Germany last August, he has trained and studied at a youth academy run by former boxer Lothar Kannenberg in the northern city of Bremen, as well as training with a number of local amateur clubs. Kannenberg’s academy offers a temporary home for troubled youths, but also for migrants who are helped to integrate into society through language training, schooling and sports.
His dream had always to be a professional footballer and despite his background and never having played for a professional club he managed to convince Bundesliga giant Hamburg to give him a trial. Jatta grew up without parents, and his playing experience in Gambia was limited to playing in the streets and some supervised play on weekends.
Hamburg’s veteran coach, Bruno Labbadia, immediately recognized the young African’s talent. His pace and crossing ability stood out immediately, even when training with first team players. “Bakery has strong playing instincts,” HSV coach Bruno Labbadia told Germany’s Bild daily. “We looked strictly at performance. There’ll be no refugee bonus with us.”
The team from Northern Germany was quick to reach an agreement with the player however FIFA rules prevented this from happening due to his status as a refugee and the fact he arrived in Germany without a legal guardian. Rules state that a youngster is unable to sign a professional contract until he turns 18.
And young Mr. Jatta is happy, very happy….for a number of reasons, especially the immediate acceptance he received at HSV. Jatta remarked
When I arrived in Hamburg and at HSV, I felt a very special atmosphere. Dietmar Beiersdorfer (HSV CEO) and Bruno Labbadia were friendly, helpful, interesting – and all of that before I had even trained a single time with the team. It was a great feeling for me that they have received me from the first moment with open arms. And the team has really welcomed me very well. I have, at HSV, the feeling of being in the right place.
Jatta has indeed been very busy since coming to Germany. He has been involved in strength, conditioning and aqua training Monday through Friday. Association football club Bremer SV allowed him to use their facilities in the evening. Jatta has also been studying, pushing himself to learn the German language at school and in his free time. The youngster understands the value of being proficient in German.
I work a lot, to learn German as quickly as possible, because I know the importance of language. To become a part of society and to understand the culture of Germany, I have to speak the language. Therefore I work just as hard as I do training every day
Jatta is looking forward, not back to the hardships of his life in Africa, and dares to think of his future.
I have experienced a lot. Therefore, I do not want to look back, but instead to look forward. I just want to live, to live as do the people in Germany. For that I will give everything and work hard. I am grateful that I can do this in the future at HSV. I’m ready for this big job, I am physically and mentally fit. And I’m very, very happy.
And somehow, one thinks that the HSV family are very happy to have Bakery Jatta amongst them, whatever the future brings. It is without doubt that the red-shorts are changing the life of a very special young man at a crucial time in his life, and that he will never forget that.
Jatta joins American international Bobby Wood (23/F/Union Berlin) and German Christian Mathenia (24/GK/Darmstadt) as Hamburg’s 3rd signing of the summer. He will join up with his new teammates when Hamburg begin preseason training on 27th June. And many fans will be following his progress with hope.
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