AS Roma midfielder Ebrima Darboe, who made a perilous journey as a child migrant from Africa across the Mediterranean by boat, has been included in Gambia’s squad for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Darboe, 20, debuted in Serie A last season after arriving as a 14-year-old boat refugee in Sicily, and is among four players from top flight Italian clubs who headline the 28-man squad for Gambia’s debut appearance at the continental championship.
Bologna’s Musa Barrow, Omar Colley of Sampdoria and Spezia winger Ebrima Colley are also all expected to be starters at the tournament in Cameroon.
Coach Tom Saintfiet on Wednesday named an eclectic mix of players, including several from clubs in the lower leagues in England, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.
There are two English-born players in the squad — Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers) and Ibou Touray (Salford City) – plus Swiss-born Saidy Janko, who was at Manchester United and Celtic but now plays for Real Valladolid, and made his Gambia debut last month.
The squad also includes Dembo Darboe, top scorer in Belarus this year for new champions Shakhtyor Soligorsk, and Modou Barrow, who played in the Premier League while at Swansea City but is now in South Korea.
Gambia have been drawn in Group F at the Cup of Nations finals and start against Mauritania on Jan. 12. They also have Mali and Tunisia in their group.
Goalkeepers: Babouccar Gaye (Rot-Weiss Koblenz), Alagie Modou Jobe (Black Leopards) Sheikh Sibi (Virtus Verona)
Defenders: Omar Colley (Sampdoria), James Gomez (Horsens), Pa Modou Jagne (Dietikon), Mohammed Jallow-Mbye (Solvesborg), Saidy Janko (Real Valladolid), Bubacarr Sanneh (unattached), Noah Sonko-Sundberg (Ostersund), Ibou Touray (Salford City)
Midfielders: Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers), Modou Barrow (Jeonbuk Motors), Musa Barrow (Bologna), Yusupha Bobb (Piacenza), Ebrima Colley (Spezia), Ebrima Darboe (Roma), Abdoulie Jallow (RFC Seraing), Sulayman Marreh (Gent), Ebrima Sohna (Fortune FC)
Forwards: Muhammed Badamosi (Kortrijk), Assan Ceesay (FC Zurich), Dembo Darboe (Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Lamin Jallow (Fehervar), Bubacarr Jobe (Norrby), Yusupha Njie (Boavista), Steve Trawally (Ajman).