FAIRYTALE

Two years after fleeing Gambia, a teenage refugee is living the dream as a soccer star in Germany

Obsession
Borders
Quartz africa
Obsession
Borders
Quartz africa

When Ousman Manneh arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied 17 year old refugee from Gambia in 2014, he just wanted to survive. Two years later, he’s a professional soccer player and has scored his first league goal for Werder Bremen, a team in Germany’s top soccer division, Bundesliga.

Shortly after arriving Germany, the young striker joined Blumenthaler SV, a fifth tier regional club in Bremen. Manneh scored 15 goals in 11 games for the youth team, quickly making a name for himself. Local scouts noticed his ability and, after he turned 18 and became eligible to sign a professional contract, Manneh joined Werder Bremen. In his first appearance for the senior side, Manneh scored four goals in 15 minutes in a friendly game.

Having earned a place in the senior squad this season, the teenager is set to stay after scoring his first league goal—the winner against Bayer Leverkusen last weekend. “I can’t believe this,” Manneh said after scoring. “Is this real or am I dreaming? This is the greatest moment of my life.”

Alexander Nouri, Werder Bremen manager, asked Manneh to join the team and he’s glad the teenager did. “His story is a special one,” Nouri said. “He’s worked very hard for this and it’s great to see him reap the reward.” Manneh hopes to score more goals, but he’s already a record maker: He’s the first Gambian to score in the German Bundesliga.

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