Real Valladolid’s Janko Reveals Why He Picked Gambia Ahead Of Switzerland

The 26-year-old right-back has explained his motivation for teaming up with the Scorpions despite representing the Red Crosses at youth level.

Saidy Janko claimed Gambia’s qualification for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations aided his decision to represent the Scorpions at senior level.

Born in Zurich to a Gambian father and an Italian mother, the former Manchester United player represented Switzerland at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels.

However, he pledged his international allegiance to the West African country in 2021. He made his bow for the Gambia in their 2-0 defeat to Sierra Leone on October 9 in a friendly encounter.

The 26-year-old has been named in Tom Saintfiet’s squad to take part in the biennial African showpiece, however, he has explained the choice of the Scorpions.

“I’m not going to lie, [Afcon] made it a lot easier – but the coach has been talking to me over the last two years,” Janko told BBC Sport Africa.

“I was already leaning towards coming even before the last call-up, but now it was without a doubt: ‘I have to do this.’

“I had to do it for my dad, as well for my dad’s family, myself and the team. If I can help to achieve something at the tournament, it would be great.”

“I’m 26, so it’s an amazing opportunity. After all these years, to qualify, for such a small country, is outstanding.

“My father has his family over there and he always said: ‘It’s your decision if you play for Switzerland or The Gambia.’

“Now is the right moment to choose Gambia. I’m very close with my father and I talked to him about my decision, and he supports me.”

As per club level, he struggled to establish himself at Celtic and St Etienne, albeit, he has been part of the spine of Valladolid since his switch from FC Porto in January 2020.

Although he featured in 19 Spanish top-flight games last term, that could not rescue the Whites and Violets from getting demoted to the Spanish second-tier.

“I had a really good year after my injury, when I first joined Valladolid, I almost played all the games and I played really well,” he continued.

“Unfortunately, we went down and that was huge for me mentally, and for the whole squad, because with [former Brazil striker] Ronaldo as our president we had high hopes.

“We wanted to maybe come close to the European spots. But now we have to deal with the second-tier and do our best to get promoted and play in La Liga again.”

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