African All Stars

Senegal's Koulibaly regrets snubbing France and defends Mendy over Afcon and Champions League comments

15:16 EAT 06/05/2022
The 30-year-old remembers the time he had a chance to play for the current world champions under Didier Deschamps

Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly has admitted he still bites his fingers after he turned down a call to feature for France in international matches.

Born on 20 June 1991, to Senegalese parents in Saint-Die-des-Vosges, France, the 30-year-old could have worn the colors of the French team but after hesitating for a long time he decided to play for the Lions of Teranga at the age of 24.

At one time, he played for the French U20 team starting in 2011 and played six times during the Fifa U20 World Cup finals in Colombia. However, in early September 2015, Koulibaly changed federations and joined Senegal, despite keen interest to call him for Les Bleus from Didier Deschamps.

“Those who hesitate? I put myself in the box because I am part of it too. I came late, I joined the national team of Senegal at 24 years old when I had already been asked one or two years before,” Koulibaly, who currently turns out for Napoli in Serie A, told Onze Mondial as quoted by Foot Mercato.

“It is true that it is a reflection to have, everyone wants to play for the French national selections. But afterwards, when you realise that you've wasted your time, you bite your fingers.

“Personally, I really bit my fingers. I knew Senegal could give me the chance to play internationally, and despite that, I waited two years. And two years, that's about thirty games. I was unable to play for 30 games with my national team and I still bite my fingers today.”

In January 2022, he was named in Senegal’s 23-man squad for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon, as captain, winning it - scoring the first penalty against Egypt during a penalty shootout in the final.

Meanwhile, Koulibaly has defended Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy’s claims winning the Afcon trophy was 10 times stronger than winning the Champions League.

“They don't understand, because they haven't experienced it. You have to live it to understand. Winning a title with your country, your homeland, for millions of people who follow you, is indescribable,” Koulibaly told the same portal.

“Throughout our journey, the country has stopped for us. It's hard to stop a whole country. When the whole country stops to watch the final, and at the end of the match, they see the colors of the flag on the roof of the African continent, it is something exceptional. Edward is right.

“Win something in club, you can do it with several clubs, on the other hand, win a trophy with your national team, you can do it only with your selection. To feel the strength and the fervor of the country when we returned to Senegal was magical. I had never experienced that.”

Koulibaly continued: “Occasionally, I close my eyes and I think back to those thousands of people who were there, running behind our bus, I lose my words. We did seven or eight hours by bus to get to the presidential palace, it was tiring, but at the same time brilliant and magnificent.

“I don't think it's something I won't be experiencing again anytime soon.”