Ebrima Darboe during the match Sampdoria-Roma on May 2, 2021 | Photo: AS ROMA via ANSA
Ebrima Darboe during the match Sampdoria-Roma on May 2, 2021 | Photo: AS ROMA via ANSA

Gambian midfielder Ebrima Darboe reached Italy by boat from Libya as a teen. On May 2, he debuted in Serie A with the Italian capital's football team AS Roma.

Ebrima Darboe, who was born in 2001 in Gambia, left his country when he was 14. He said there wasn't enough food for the family and there were lots of problems. He bid farewell to his mother, a brother and two sisters (his father had died a few years earlier) and left with a heavy heart, in search for a better future.

He was tortured and abused at a detention camp in Libya before he was able to board a migrant ship to reach Sicily.

His journey had a happy ending with his first match in Serie A, Italy's top football league, on Sunday, April 2. Darboe, playing for AS Roma, debuted at Genoa's Marassi stadium against Sampdoria.

A journey of sacrifice and violence

In between his departure from Bakoteh and his debut in Serie A in Genoa, the athlete experienced an incredible journey that started in an overcrowded bus that took him to Libya. Here, he was taken to a camp by human traffickers and endured abuse and violence. He was subsequently able to leave on a boat to Sicily along with many others fleeing famine and war.

On the island, as a minor, he was taken to one of many SPRAR centers (Protection System for Refugees and Asylum Seekers). At the time, Darboe, who is 1.8-meter tall, only weighed 50 kilos.

He was then transferred to live with a family in Rieti, in the Lazio region, where he started playing soccer again, a sport he also practiced in Gambia.

A dream turns into reality

During a match, organized by Ask Young Rieti, he was noticed by a talent scout of the Roma team, who started to follow his games, convincing the club then owned by James Pallotta to invest in this young midfielder. Darboe started training in the AS Roma Trigoria camp, then debuted with the under-21 team in Coppa Italia, after a slow start due to red tape: in order to become a member of Roma, the team had to wait for him to be granted refugee status.

FIFA had to intervene, along with a social worker who was appointed by a tribunal to be his tutor. Now Ebrima Darboe is officially a Roma player. He earns €50,000 a year, which he sends almost entirely home to his mother. He weighs 70 kilos and has debuted in Serie A with Roma, where he hopes to have a future. (The photo shows )


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