Shock Tunisia call for Bohs winger Ben Mohamed
Bohemians winger Ayman Ben Mohamed is preparing for a shock introduction to international football after receiving a call-up to the Tunisia national team for next month's African Cup of Nations qualifier with Djibouti.
The 21-year-old ex-Longford player - who was born in London and grew up in Dublin - qualifies through his Tunis-born father Lotfi.
His call-up came after officials in Tunisia became aware of the talented performer's eligibility. Ben Mohamed has been the subject of stories in their local media amid concerns he could end up playing for Ireland.
Ben Mohamed is studying in Trinity in tandem with his Bohs commitments and has just completed his second year exams as part of his Business, Economics and Social Studies (BESS) degree. He is thrilled by a call-up to join an 18-man squad that includes Sunderland regular and £9m purchase Wahbi Khazri and players from a range of top leagues.
"It's one of the biggest challenges I've ever faced in football," said Ben Mohamed yesterday. "I'll be training and competing with players from the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga.
"That is an incredible opportunity for me and it is good for the profile of the club and league."
Ben Mohamed's mother is from Palmerstown and the family moved to Ireland when he was two. His talent was spotted by Mokhtar Addani of the South Dublin Football Academy who had a role in recommending him to the Tunisian FA. He played schoolboy football with Wayside Celtic and St Joseph's Boys before moving onto UCD.
Tunisia are ranked 47th in the world and will be expected to comfortably beat Djibouti. They are currently joint second in their qualifying group with Togo two points behind leaders Liberia with the winners of each pool and the two best ranked second placed countries advancing to the finals.
Ben Mohamed has become a favourite with Bohs fans despite their difficult start to the new campaign and he will be absent for league games with St Patrick's Athletic and Wexford Youths.
"He'll miss two games for us but it's great for him and the club," says manager Keith Long. "He's been a real breath of fresh air - he's a real throwback to an old-school winger."
After their poor league efforts, Bohs are under pressure to deliver when they host Galway tonight in the only all-Premier Division tie in the FAI Cup second round.