Saikou’s story

His mother sold the family home for Saikou to travel to Qatar for work. Here's what he experienced – in his own words – in the host nation of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

By Saikou Colley 

Growing up with a single parent, I shouldered the responsibilities left void by my father who passed away when I was just a few months old. Born and raised in the rural areas of The Gambia, life was often traumatic and challenging, even to just survive. From the age of nine, I was working for a local timber company owned by Chinese businessmen. Together with other villagers, I loaded timber from the forest into trucks. It wasn’t easy, but the only means for my family and I to put food on the table. The small income allowed me to keep my dream of completing my schooling alive and ensure a brighter future for my little sister. After our government suspended the Chinese timber business, I no longer had a job. By the age of fourteen I had to drop out from school because I could not sustain the cost of my living and also pursue my education at the same time. To provide a meal every day, I looked for small jobs – cleaning market areas or growing crops.

The Fifa World Cup in Qatar was fast approaching and we heard news of the countless job opportunities the tournament provided. The World Cup was all about the people coming together from different parts of the world for a special occasion. I could get a well-paid job there. It was shortly after my 15th birthday that my mum and I decided to make the bold decision of selling the only place that we had known as home – the place where my childhood had been made. It wasn’t the most luxurious home in our village but its value was based on the memories it held, their weight worth more than gold. I shared the mattress with m...

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