- Manneh's second half strike handed Bremen a 2-1 win over Leverkusen.
- The Gambian striker scored for the first time in his fourth Bundesliga game.
- Manneh came to Germany two years ago as a refugee and has made a rapid rise to the top.
The first Bundesliga goal is a milestone for any player. It takes hard work to fight through a thicket of other young hopefuls to get to the first team, and even more effort to get sent onto the pitch. The first time a young player’s shot beats the opposing keeper, he fulfills a childhood dream. Except for Ousman Manneh, it’s much bigger than that.
Manneh spent the first 17 years of his life in Gambia, a tiny and poor West African nation ruled by a dictator who’s been in power since before Manneh was born. A talented footballer, Manneh knew that his troubled home country held no future for him.
Watch: Manneh reacts after scoring his first Bundesliga goal:
Leaving his family behind, he set out for Europe, ending up as an asylum seeker in Germany, where he settled in a home for refugees in Bremen. He played football with Blumenthaler SV, a club in Bremen’s local amateur league, but his obvious talent as a goalscorer soon drew attention from much bigger clubs.
SV Werder Bremen won the race to sign Manneh, and after a season with coach Alexander Nouri in the club’s youth ranks, both men have moved up to the senior side - with success. In the last four games under Nouri’s charge - all four of which Manneh has started - Werder have picked up seven points and Manneh has notched two assists... and now a goal.
bundesliga.com caught up with Manneh after he scored the winner in Werder's latest triumph, a 2-1 victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen...
bundesliga.com: Congratulations on your first Bundesliga goal. Can you describe how you’re feeling at the moment?
Ousman Manneh: First off I have to thank the fans. I’m standing here and I don’t even know what’s happened. I don’t know if I really did score a goal or if that was just a dream. It’s an indescribable feeling, especially to score the winner against a team as good as Bayer Leverkusen. I just can’t believe it.
bundesliga.com: Did you know that you are the first player from Gambia to score a goal in the Bundesliga?
Manneh: Yes, and that makes me very proud. It’s hard to describe my feelings. I’ve been so proud to be the first Gambian to play four games, and now I’m proud to be the first one to score!
bundesliga.com: Before Zlatko Junuzovic made it 1-0, you had a chance to break the deadlock yourself. You were one-on-one with the keeper, Bernd Leno, and that chance might actually have been easier to convert than the one you did score on, don’t you think?
Manneh: Yeah, that one did look easier, but Leno is a super keeper. He knew exactly what I was trying to do and he was very clever in shutting down that chance.
bundesliga.com: Tell me a bit about the last few weeks. Your coach, Alexander Nouri has shown a lot of faith in you ever since he took over. He’s played you in every game and now you’ve scored a goal...
Manneh: I’m so surprised at how everything has gone. I really have to thank coach Nouri for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play on the big stage. And I need to thank the whole club for all the support they’ve given me too.
bundesliga.com: Do you have any idols or role models in football? Whose game do you try to take things from?
Manneh: I’ve got a lot of them, and I played against one today in Chicharito. I still can’t believe I just played against him. Otherwise, I’ve always been a big fan of Robin van Persie. Another one is my teammate: Claudio Pizarro.
bundesliga.com: What does your family have to say about your success in Germany? Are you in touch with them?
Manneh: I talk to my mother every day. She’s very proud of me, but she doesn’t really understand football. Other people explain to her what I’m up to here, and she worries about me. But I’m okay, it’s going great for me here (laughs).
Interviewed by Alexander Barklage