LOUDONVILLE, NY – Despite not having taken the field yet this season in Green and Gold, Siena Men’s Soccer freshman Bilal Hersi will be representing his collegiate team overseas this week in a national capacity. The forward from Decatur, Georgia was chosen to compete for his home country of Somalia with its U-20 National Team in the 2021 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations (AFCON) Qualifiers in Karatu, Tanzania, which began on November 21 and is scheduled to run until November 27.
“Being selected for the Somalian U-20 National Team is an amazing and exciting time for myself and my family,” Hersi said. “It is personally the greatest honor to play for the country that I represent, and this experience is a dream come true.”
Hersi makes up part of just three players who currently attend college in the United States that were selected for the 22-man squad. The team features players that are currently living in nine different countries, including the US, England, Canada, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, and the team’s country of origin. The Somalian U-20 National Team is competing in the Central-East Zone and will compete as part of Group A against fellow African nations Tanzania and Djibouti. Rwanda previously withdrew from Group A competition. Somalia will face off against Djibouti on November 24th and will face host Tanzania on the 26th.
“This is a great opportunity for Bilal,” Siena Men’s Soccer Head Coach Graciano Brito said. “Representing your country is always a great achievement, and we are very proud of him. It’s also a great opportunity for him to continue to grow as a player.”
The selection marks the first time that Hersi has been selected to play with the Somalian National Team. The expedited process began with a call from a team recruiter in late October and led to Hersi traveling to Tanzania to prepare for national competition just three weeks later. Like most major events taking place around the globe, the AFCON U-20 Qualifiers are subject to fan restrictions and screenings due to COVID-19.
“My making the team was pretty short notice, but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Hersi added. “We have a very diverse team, and I believe our chances to be successful and advance are very good.”
The top two teams out of the Central-East Zone will represent the Zone as part of 12 total teams in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. The 2021 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations will be the 16th edition of the event and is set to be played during February and March of 2021 in the country of Mauritania. The top four performers at AFCON 2021 will advance to the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be played next summer in Indonesia.