By Sulayman Bah
Djibouti is an East African nation blessed with everything except expatriate footballers.
Being obvious minnows in the global game, their domestic leagues rarely get noticed from locals talkless of an appearance in the Caf Champions League or Confederation Cup (CCC), tournaments where even the lowest of the clubs get assigned in the preliminaries.
AS Port, the East Africans’ four-time domestic national league winners, got crowned champions after just eighteen matches, a deduction explaining state of their football which has gone onto hamper their squad’s output, considering national team players are poached from this national division.
Warsama Hassan is the sole man from the over 956000 country population playing abroad and who, just managed this height because he was born in Belgium to Djiboutian parents.
For this, he has found himself being looked up to by home-based compatriots and living to the billing of being the answers to a nation’s longing for a football super star.
Stardom is recognition accorded to players at the pinnacle of the sport and while Hassan’s current football level –third division football in Belgium -is by no means close to that league, to Djiboutian he remains more than relevant.
They will be hoping he sprinkles some portion of whatever football magic he possesses in his armoury this week as they eye relying on him to either swagger over or hold off a visiting Gambian side today for what’s first of an Africa Cup of Nations double-legged tie.
Coach Julien Mette knows to expect his 20-year-old single-handedly marshall Gambia will tantamount to asking for the impossible, there however, is no denying he would be an invaluable.
For a start on Warsama’s club progress, he boasts of an impressive beginning in his career, coming off the production line of Standard Liege, bronze winners of the Belgian First Division A.
The European nation would call him up into its youth national teams as he steadily climbed the ranks of Liege culminating into a move to KRC Genk’s reserves.
His development stagnated here leading to his agitation for a change of scenery, making a bold move to drop level signing for RFC Seraing, a third division outfit on a two-year deal in the quest for playing minutes.
This nation’s hero and his compatriots go into today’s game against Gambia’s Scorpions with zero pressure to deliver.
The Djiboutian FA are not trigger-happy nor demanding and place gaffer Hulien Mette under clear terms –to develop the national team for the long term but with genuine concern of not conceding heavily.
Inspired by the jaw-dropping ascension of Madagascar in the Egypt Nation’s Cup, Djibouti under, Mette, a tactician devoid of international football coaching experience, model their game around the Islanders.
And up against the Scorpions, they would target unleashing their first upset emboldened by their 2-1 win over Eswatini in the World Cup qualifiers.
Camaraderie is one trait the East Africans do not lack spanning back from their involvement in the CHAN (a competition for home-national team players).
Gambia have high profile players who in recent times have proven to be lacking hunger, Nonetheless, the Scorpions remain favourites in the lead up to this crucial game but a little known Djibouti can potentially pull off a shock.