John Bass is a Gambian professional footballer living in Lamin. He was a defender for The Gambian national football team and before that he was playing in a under 23 team. He represented Gambia in various occasions. His club now is Brikama United where he trains young footballers.
He started playing football on the streets like so many other children in The Gambia. There are not many academies where young football talents would get a chance to train with professionals. Small local clubs get engaged in smaller or bigger tournaments like Nawetan where some of the greatest talents get discovered, selected, and invited to play for bigger clubs.
This is how John Bass’s talents have been recognized and he was scouted by Gambia Ports Authority, which is first division team. He was playing there for 4 years then he moved on to Brikama United. This is also his current club. He got a national call in 2018. He was
invited by coach Sang Dong to join national team, and this is where his professional career began.
On his preparation trainings for African Cup of Nation Qualifiers with the national team and EFA Cup with Brikama United he started to feel discomfort while training. His legs were burning, and he felt tired very easily. So, he decided to go to the hospital which was a turning point of his career. He was diagnosed of kidney failure. He had to accept that his football career was over, and he had to concentrate on his health.
He was easier to accept that he was sick then that his progressing football career was suddenly finished. His agent was preparing him to go to play overseas which would make his dreams come true. He worked very hard to become a good footballer, so it was hard and painful to accept that his career had to stop.
While going to hospital for dialysis procedure 3 times per week, he was feeling very tired and weak. Doctors told him that if he would have kidney transplant surgery, he may live his life normal again. He involved his family, friends, and football club to help him to look for kidney donor.
At first, he thought it was impossible to find a person who will donate him a body organ. Being faithful and trusting God kept his mind positive until he got a call from him cousin Vincent Paul Mendy who said he was ready to donate his kidney to him.
They went for a check-up and found out that he is a suitable donor. Then fundraising of 20.000$ for operation and traveling to India began. Everyone got involved in fundraising. From family and friends to the football club, football federation, Ministry of health and a football club from Casamance.
They successfully raised funds and went to India for operation.
Recovery after operation took a while. His cousin had to take medication for 2 weeks, but John will have to take some of medication all his life. They returned from India February 2019.
The trouble that he had to face when he was back was where to get his medicine. He can not buy medicine which he needs in The Gambia so he has to order them from India which is very expensive. There was time that his account was empty so he could not afford to buy medicine.
Before they came from India he sat with cousin and told him an idea of establishing foundation to help people with the same sickness, spread awareness and help to get more kidney transplants.
He agreed that this is what they should do so they shared an idea with his family, friends, and coach as well. So, after they came back home, they formed the John Bass Kidney Foundation. Since then, they are very actively raising awareness about this disease and fundraising for kidney transplant for patients in The Gambia who have donor and are waiting to travel.
Fundraising has not been easy. They wated to organize big football tournament to raise funds for patients who are waiting to have an operation but because of COVID-19 everything has been on hold now. They hope they will be soon able to organize some bigger campaigns to help patients.
Although it is not easy, he is thankful for everything and he has big plans. One of the biggest is to build a hospital where kidney transplant could be done in The Gambia.
If you want to donate, you can visit gofundme website. You can follow their activities through social pages listed below.
We also had an opportunity to talk to head coach of Brikama United and John’s former head coach Mr. Modou Lamin Nyassi who scouted John from GPA football club. He has been very supportive of John even before he got sick. And after he was diagnosed with disease, he played an important part in the fundraising campaign together with all the others. He also helped him to build John Bass Kidney foundation.
Before John got sick, Mr. Modou Lamin recognized talent and quality of leadership in him so he registered him in West Coast Region Football Coach Association. After an operation John wanted to return to football field but coach suggested to rather begin his career as a trainer in Brikama United. All the management team of the club welcomed this idea, so John Bass is now working together with him.
The coach added: “When John was playing active football, he was the most committed and disciplined footballers in the team. He is respectful. Everywhere he goes, he is down to earth. He is very calm and very committed in everything he is doing. Every day he is here on time. He was the most committed player before and now he is becoming the most committed coach too. He is definitely a leader who everyone will be looking for”.
We are grateful to also get an opportunity to talk to John’s cousin, Vincent Paul Mendy. He explained how difficult it was for him to watch John suffering. He was very close to John and was escorting him to hospital and faced all the difficulties John went through.
When he was informed that he could be a potential donor, he went to hospital to check and was told that he can do it. He went home, did his own research, and decided to give him a kidney. After an operation he immediately asked for John. He felt relieved when he realized John was OK.
Vincent does not feel any change since the operation. He is doing the same work as he was doing before. Life has not changed for him.
He is helping John to spread an awareness about disease, kidney transplant, blood giving, etc.
Giving somebody a second chance is seen in his society which John did since he was operated. Having an opportunity to help John is now making a change in many peoples’ lives. Helping does not mean that you need to get paid. Once you offer help, next time you receive help from somebody.
He believes John’s message to society is raising awareness and saving peoples lives. That is why he is so happy that he helped to John. He is encouraging everyone to do their part to stop this disease.
John is very thankful to his cousin and he always remembers him in his prayers. Every time he sees him, he feels that he is part of him. What he did for him is very hard to come across. It is because of him, there more people willing to donate their kidney. Because of him, he can live his life again.
John’s message to the world is: “We should live to care; we should make sure we are always there for the next person. Because you should not always think about yourself. If everyone would think about himself, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. If my cousin Vincent were thinking about only himself, I would not be here today. So, it is very important to think about next person. It is also important to stay safe, stay healthy because if you stay healthy it is not only about you, if you are helping someone might need you. Because Vincent was healthy, I am here today.