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Guinea Bissau makes headlines for a good reason

The most exciting picture of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Doha, Qatar was neither a victory ceremony, nor a top athlete’s celebration and standing ovation. Braima Dabo, a 26 year-old long distance runner from Guinea Bissau gave his county much more than a medal. Indeed, the West African nation thanks to Dabo made headlines for a good reason after a long, long time.

The opening qualifying heat of men’s 5.000 meters run in Doha saw Dabo, an IAAF invitee athlete, running just for the honor of participation in a world class athletics fiesta. So was Jonathan Busby, an athlete from the tiny Caribbean island of Aruba. After some 11,5 rounds of running under a temperature reaching 40 degrees Celcius, Busby nearly collapsed and was ready to abandon the race. Dabo, as passing by him, decided to stop and help him cross the finish line. The Guinea Bissau athlete almost carried out the Aruban to the end. The two received a rousing ovation at Khalifa Stadium during the last meters of their effort.

“The main objective was to represent my country as well as possible”, Dabo stated after the race. “I knew I wasn’t going to beat my personal record, so when I realised that, it was better to go for the main aim, which was to finish the race. My thoughts were to help him finish, that is the point of the race”.

Dabo couldn’t do more for his country, as many around the world could hardly locate on the map this nation, lying between two former French colonies (Senegal and Guinea). A former Portuguese colony itself, Guinea Bissau became an independent nation only in 1974 and decided to add the capital’s (Bissau) name in their official name, to distinguish from the neighbouring Guinea.

The ultimate sportsmanship gesture of Dabo didn’t have any other motivation than real athletic ethos. They don’t even speak the same language, as Dabo speaks only Portuguese and Busby a Dutch-based Creole along with some English. So, Busby couldn’t even thank his savior for the move.

After independence, Guinea Bissau attracted the world’s attention mainly for bad news. In less than half century of free will, this country of 36.000 square kilometers and less than 2 million inhabitants has come through many difficulties. First came an unsuccessful attempt to merge with the other former Portuguese colony in the region, the Cape Verde islands (still the dominating party’s name is African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, abbreviated as PAIGC).

A series of military coups followed and only one elected president  has successfully served a full five-year term. The country was controlled by a revolutionary council until 1984. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994. An army uprising in May 1998 led to a bloody civil war with many casualties and the president’s ousting in June 1999. Only 14% of the population speaks noncreolised Portuguese.

As Dabo was born and raised up in such environment, it’s obvious that his decision has an adding value.

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