Arthur Masuaku has expressed his pride after receiving his maiden call-up for The Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The West Ham United left-back has been included in the Leopards’ squad for a vital 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification double-header with Tunisia.
DR Congo sit top of CAF Group A and know two victories over their North African rivals will secure the nation’s second-ever trip to a World Cup finals, and first since qualifying as Zaire in 1974. Florent Ibenge’s squad travel to Rades on Friday before welcoming the Carthage Eagles to Kinshasa next Tuesday.
Born in the French city of Lille to Congolese parentes, Masuaku played age-group football for France before switching his international allegiance to the Central African country in June this year.
“I’m very proud to have the opportunity to play for the country where my parents were born,” said West Ham’s No26. “My mother and father and all my family and friends are very proud, too.
“I’m looking forward to the next two weeks and the games with Tunisia, as we have a big target, which is qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.”
I’m very proud to have the opportunity to play for the country where my parents were born
Masuaku will become the second Hammer to represent DR Congo at international level, following fellow left-back Herita Ilunga, who appeared five times for Leopards between 2008-10.
The 23-year-old is one of six English-based players named in Ibenge’s squad for the Tunisia ties, alongside Fulham’s Neeskens Kebano, Gillingham’s Gabriel Zakuani, Newcastle United’s Chancel Mbemba, Birmingham City winger Jacques Maghoma, AFC Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe and Huddersfield Town forward Elias Kachunga.
DR Congo’s star names include Villarreal forward Cedric Bakambu and Junior Kabananga, who started both legs of Kazakh side Astana’s recent UEFA Champions League qualifiers with Scottish club Celtic.
“I think we have a very good group of players who can achieve our goals,” Masuaku confirmed.
DR Congo and Tunisia go into the double-header with six points apiece from two matches, with the former sitting top on goal difference. Group A also consists of Guinea and Libya, who have both games they have played so far.
The Leopards travel to Libya in October before completing their qualification campaign at home to Guinea in November.