Soumahoro Bangaly is targeting a place in the Ivory Coast national team. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix
It might sound absurd, especially since he is struggling to even get regular game time at Mamelodi Sundowns, but Soumahoro Bangaly has his sights on breaking into the star-studded Ivory Coast squad, known as the Elephantrs, saying he knows how to achieve that.

The 26-year-old is not oblivious of the mammoth task that lies ahead for him if he is to represent the mighty Elephants, who are in a rebuilding phase after the retirement of key players.

“It’s not easy for players who play in Africa,” Bangaly said.

“The national team looks at players who are playing in Europe. But Sundowns is a big club. If we do well in the Caf Champions League then I can be in the national team. The coach (Pitso Mosimane) always tells me that. He wants me to go there.

"I have to play every game as if it’s a final. That will see me force myself into the team. I have to work hard to do that. I have to double my effort to achieve that.”

But that won’t be easy. He first has to muscle his way into a Sundowns’ central defence pairing that has been dominated by Ricardo Nascimento and Wayne Arendse recently, with Motjeka Madisha ahead of him among those on the side-lines. Bangaly’s progress at the Brazilians was stunted by the groin strain he picked up earlier this season.

He is fully fit and will fight for a place in the starting XI and the match-day 18 of the Sundowns’ team that will take on Maritzburg United in the Nedbank Cup semifinal at Harry Gwala Stadium tomorrow. Bangaly’s advantage is that he is mentally strong enough to swim when thrown in the deep end. He came from nowhere to play a leading role in the second leg of the 2016 Champions League final in a packed Borg-El Arab Stadium against five-time African champions Zamalek.

“If you play for a big team, you are constantly fighting regardless of whether you are playing or not. In the final, the coach told me that ‘I know that you are a good player, go out there and show me.’ I showed him. I was happy, he was happy and we won the Champions League.”

The Brazilians haven’t won a major trophy since that success two years ago. They only won the 2017 Caf Super Cup after that, which is nothing more than an appetiser before the start of the Champions League and Confederation Cup. Sundowns are in pole position to change that. They sit pretty at the summit of the Absa Premiership, six points clear of their closest challengers with three games to go. They are also in the Nedbank Cup semifinal and next month they kick off the group stage of the Champions League against the reigning African champions Wydad Casablanca.

“We will go on to win the Champions League,” Bangaly said. “The last time we won the league, we went on to win the Champions League. Why can’t we repeat that? I believe in this team. This is a good team and in Africa all the teams are afraid of Sundowns. We are working hard and we will win the Champions League.”


Saturday Star

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