Tuesday Aug 10, 2021. 10:00
Peterborough United forward Idris Kanu has relived the joy he experienced in seeing Sierra Leone qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations.
Kanu, who was born in England to Sierra Leone parents, received his first call-up for the West African nation’s senior team two months ago, joining the squad ahead of their decisive AFCON qualifier against Benin in Conakry on June 15.
The 21-year-old was unable to play in the match due to Covid-19 issues, but was nonetheless delighted to see the Leone Stars win 1-0 to secure a third qualification for the AFCON finals, and a first since 1996.
“The call-up was a very proud moment for me and my family,” Kanu is quoted by the Peterborough Telegraph.
“I didn’t expect it, but I always knew I wanted to take the opportunity when it arrived.
“Before football came along I used to travel to Sierra Leone every December. My mum and dad were married there. My dad still lives there and I hadn’t been there since 2013 so it was great to meet up with him again.
“It was a hectic time with all the travel and then the Covid problems (seven players had to self-isolate), but it was still a great experience and one I will always cherish.
“There are many countries less fortunate than England and life isn’t easy in them so to see the smiles on the faces of so many people after we qualified was incredible. That’s what football can do.
“They play football everywhere over there. Every dirt pitch you see has a game going on and many people will be watching it. People just live for football.
“After the game we were bombarded in the street wherever we went. There were crowds everywhere.
“We left the hotel the night after the game at 9am and got back at 2am the next day. We were given an open-top bus tour and every village came out to cheer us. There was music blaring and people dancing.
“I hadn’t been called up before, but people were telling me they looked me up online to watch my videos and even though I didn’t play I am still getting messages of congratulations.
“It was obviously a big disappointment to miss the match. I was close to playing and to have it snatched away by Covid was horrible, but I decided I couldn’t get angry as I had to give all my support to those who were playing.
“Those of us who didn’t play watched the game on television in a hotel room and it was fantastic.
“When we scored it was bedlam with everyone shouting and jumping up and down and when Benin hit the bar late on we were all on the floor!
“It was great to meet up and mix with players from so many different countries, like Iceland, Finland and the United States and they were all committed to their country. We meshed really well.
“The first six months of this year were amazing with promotion to the Championship, not getting injured and then getting called up by my country and yet there could be an opportunity for even better moments.
“If I can kick on at Peterborough early in the season, who knows what will happen?”
Kanu will hope to be a part of the Sierra Leone squad at the AFCON in Cameroon in January and February 2022, while his immediate focus will be on Peterborough’s EFL Cup clash at home to Plymouth Argyle tonight.