What is Cha Cha Goulay ?

posted May 19, 2014, 11:11 AM by admin@ starrsmillsoccer.com   [ updated Nov 23, 2016, 5:56 PM by John Bowen ]
Original story by Randy Woodhead

You've heard it if you've ever been to a Starr's Mill Varsity Girls game. Since the first Starr's Mill team took the field in 1998, Cha Cha Goulay has been the chant of choice for the Panthers. In the huddle before kickoff you will hear it rise up and drive the Lady Panthers to battle. Over the course of 19 years, eight (8) state championships - 2 Boys' and 6 Girls', Cha Cha Goulay has echoed loudly through Panther Stadium. But who started it? Where did it come from? What does it mean? All good questions. But I have to tak you on a long journey back in time and to another continent to get the answers.

The year was 1978 and that other continent was Africa - in the tiny nation-state of The Gambia in western Africa, to be precise.  A young man by the name of Momodou Conteh embarked from his homeland to begin his American education at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.  In addition to his clothes and his belongings, he brought with him prodigious soccer talents that he would employ to set goal-scoring records not only at Berry College, but in all the NAIA – records that would stand to this day almost 38 years later. 

Momodou was an unstoppable force on the soccer pitch.  His speed and acceleration were stunning.  His moves left defenders tangled and sometimes prone as he juked and confused them.  Then he would finish his assaults to beat opposing keepers with precision and pace.  Conteh would go on to have a stellar career at Berry scoring 106 goals for the Viking Fury in his four seasons – an average of more than 26 goals per year - and go on to be named as an NAIA All-American twice during his tenure.  His career goal-scoring mark remains the Berry College record and ties him for #7 all-time in the NAIA

Nevertheless, Mr. Conteh’s legacy is greater than his goal-scoring record because his soccer spirit lives on in the hearts of Starr's Mill Panther players each and every time they take the field.  You see, Momodou Conteh brought Cha Cha Goulay to America when he arrived in 1978.  He introduced it to his teammates at Berry and the chant Momodou brought with him from his Gambian village was adopted by the Berry Viking Fury to begin each of their games as well.  You happen to know his goalkeeper during that momentous run –he was none other than Coach Mike Hanie – short shorts and all.  Mike Hanie remembered that chant and brought it with him when he arrived in Fayette County and took the reins of the Starr’s Mill Soccer program. Momodou shared with Mike and the rest of his teammates the meaning of the chant as translated into English.

We play with our heads. We play with our hearts. We play with our legs. To win. To win. To win.

Momodou’s athletic prowess extended beyond the soccer pitch.  In The Gambia, he was a member of the national table tennis team.  Regularly after lunch, Momodou would take on members of the Berry tennis team (including yours truly) in intense ping-pong matches at the dining hall.  As far as I can remember, none of us ever beat him and few ever even got close.  And after he finished mopping the floor with us at the ping-pong table, we would all meet up at the soccer field behind Memorial Gym, sit on the hill near the Faculty Residences, listen to Cha Cha Goulay and then watch as Momodou and Hanie and the rest of the Viking Fury tore through the opposition. Momodou Conteh probably doesn’t yet know the legacy he’s left, but when he finds out, I’m certain my old friend will chuckle and smile proudly!



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