Alloa defender Fernandy Mendy is excited about his chance to stop Mohamed Salah after an “early Christmas present” gave him the opportunity to match up with the Liverpool forward at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The 27-year-old was a late call-up to the Guinea-Bissau squad for the tournament, which gets underway this weekend, live on Sky Sports.
He was planning for a Boxing Day trip to face Airdrie in Scottish League One when a phone call changed everything.
“I took the call and he told me I was going to AFCON. I was very happy, very surprised,” Mendy told Sky Sports News.
“That was two days before Christmas, I saw it as an early Christmas gift. It’s amazing, I’m just proud to be there.”
Mendy admits it took some time for the news to sink in as he was not on the first squad list.
“I sat on the sofa for 10 minutes not moving, I then called my agent first because my wife was sleeping,” the former Raith Rovers defender said.
“I then called my dad and I think he was happier than me.”
With Egypt in Guinea-Bissau’s group alongside Sudan and Nigeria, the centre-back is relishing the chance of coming up against Salah and is not afraid of facing the two-time African footballer of the year.
“He’s one of the best players in the world so he has his qualities and I have mine,” he said.
“Mo is much better than me so I’ll just try to do my best and try to stop him. I have team mates and they’re going to help me. If I can’t catch him, someone else will catch him.
“Just being in the squad is amazing. I’m just going to enjoy the moment and try to get into the team. Normally players can’t stop Mo Salah but we’re going to try and do our best.”
He could also face Rangers’ midfielder Joe Aribo after his inclusion in the Nigeria squad and Mendy is delighted his call-up for the competition has given his country some extra support at the competition.
“I’m getting messages from Alloa fans saying well done and that they’re going to keep an eye on Guinea-Bissau and you have new Guinea-Bissau fans.
“I think before me they had never heard of Guinea-Bissau in Alloa. That’s made me proud because someone knows my country in the UK.”
Mendy is set to become Alloa’s first international player in 130 years. Their last was James Hepburn who won a Scotland cap against Wales in 1891.
He said: “The club is very happy for me, very proud. It’s just crazy and unbelievable because playing at Alloa you never think it’s going to happen.
“They keep watching games and have given me an opportunity to show that I’m playing at a lower level but I’m still ok for the team.”
The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.
The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.
Twenty-four teams will take part, kicking off on January 9 as hosts Cameroon host Burkina Faso in Yaounde, before culminating in the final on February 6 in the capital.