- Jatta fled Gambia in the summer of 2015.
- Honed footballing talent at Akademie von Lothar Kannenberg in Bothel.
- HSV beat competition from Bremen for his signature.
Five months are a long time in the fast-moving world of professional football. In that timeframe plans can change and transfers can fall through, but that was not the case for Bakery Jatta and Hamburger SV, who were happy to wait to bring the now 18-year-old on board.
Jatta has been in Germany for a year now and has already made a name for himself. His arrival sparked interest from a host of Bundesliga clubs. SV Werder Bremen handed him a trial, yet it was northern rivals HSV who ultimately won the race for his signature.
It says a lot about Jatta's potential that, despite his tender age, sporting directors up and down the country were clamouring to get him to put pen to paper. In his native Gambia, it is rumoured that the youngster never played for a football club, either professional or amateur. Before moving to Germany, life was never easy for the prospect. Jatta, who grew up without parents, battled both physically and emotionally to start a new life. "I knew that I had to take this difficult and dangerous path of fleeing upon myself if I wanted to have a chance at a future," he explained in an interview that the Red Shorts published upon announcing the conclusion of Jatta's transfer saga.
Upon arriving in Germany he was inducted into the Akademie von Lothar Kannenberg. Former boxer Kannenberg not only helps to rehabilitate adolescent criminals, but also offers support to refugees attempting to integrate into foreign communities.
In Kannenberg's academy sport is part of a daily routine and it was here that Jatta's footballing talent quickly became apparent. It was helpful, then, that Kannenberg had a few contacts within the footballing world. That was how Jatta found his own agent, who set the rising star on a path that culminated in him joining HSV.
'Very special atmosphere'
It did not take long for Jatta to settle in at Hamburg. "The first time I was in Hamburg, visiting the club, I felt a very special atmosphere," explained Jatta. "Dietmar Beiersdorfer and Bruno Labbadia were friendly, willing to help and interested. That was all despite the fact that I hadn't even trained with the team yet."
Head coach Labbadia and chairman Beiersdorfer wasted little time in agreeing that they wanted to have Jatta under contract at the club. FIFA statutes, however, prevented to deal from being completed until he turned 18. Beiersdorfer for one was delighted when that finally came to pass: "We have great belief in his qualities and will give him all the support he needs to settle, both in a sporting and social sense, in Hamburg and to take his first steps as a professional footballer with HSV."
Watch: Jatta's new home, the Volksparkstadion
Where Jatta fits in on the field is still unclear as the club or the player are yet to clarify what position he plays in. What we do know is that Labbadia has plans to make use of him somewhere in his frontline. Fitting then that Jatta named Brazilian superstar Neymar as his idol in a recent interview with German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Mario Götze also left an impression after making the jump up from Borussia Dortmund's youth ranks into the first team, according to the youngster.
Now he's raring to go. The wait is finally over. When the new Bundesliga season kicks off in late August, Jatta will have the chance to prove that Hamburg's patience was well founded.
Tim Müller/James Thorogood