Young lads across the globe dream of playing for their country, but when Liverpool born-and-bred Ibou Touray goes on international duty, it’s a home away from home. Away from the microcosm of English football, there is a whole world of footballing talent out there, as the 26-year-old has come to learn.
Since his first call up in 2015, when the Gambian Football Federation sent the scouts out to look for young talent, Touray received an email that made that dream possible. With his father having spent the early years of his life in the African country, the talented left-back has had the chance to leap onto the international stage and represent his heritage in their national sport.
“My dad was born and raised in the Gambia, he probably left when he was about 16 to come to England. Literally, all of his family still live there so it’s nice to be able to represent his side of the family.
“I was just a young lad playing non-league football at the time and they were looking for new players so I got an email asking if I fancied representing them. I was just over the moon, it was a crazy experience when I first went when I was about 19, it was so surreal.”
Tucked away on the west coast of Africa it is the smallest mainland country on the continent and is home to 2.4 million people which is about 10 times greater than the population of Salford. Bound by the neighbouring country Senegal, The Gambia’s borders mirror the flow of the meandering Gambia River with its capital and economic hub Banjul resting on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Touray has notched up nine competitive appearances since his debut against Uganda in 2015 and has played against some of the world’s best in competitions such as The African Cup of Nations and World Cup Qualifiers.
The Scropions will hold their final training session this afternoon in El Jadida ahead of their international friendly with South Sudan on Tuesday. The training starts at 4pm local time and 3pm in Banjul. pic.twitter.com/320Fz8CKmW
— Official GFF 🇬🇲 (@TheGambiaFF) October 11, 2021
His most recent continental endeavour came in the last international break where he was re-called to the national team squad. It is a rarity for League Two footballers to be given the opportunity to play at international level but the 26-year-old is one of the few and has represented The Scorpions along with Ebou Adams, who could line-up for Saturday’s opponents Forest Green Rovers. Alongside them, there is some top talent including players from Roma, Atalanta and Hamburger SV.
“We went over for two games; they were both FIFA Friendlies against Sierra Leone and South Sudan. We lost 2-1 in the first game unfortunately, I think we should have won the game.
“It’s a lot different from playing in England. I think international football itself is a lot more tactical and a lot slower but nonetheless it’s very difficult playing against the best players. Obviously, the African style of play is a lot different so it’s tough but you learn a lot every time you go.
“We’ve got two lads that play in Serie A and a few that play in La Liga so they’re playing at the top level in very good footballing countries so the standard is very high.”
His proudest moment for his country, he says, came in March 2019 – a few months before his and Salford’s Wembley success in the play-off final. The Gambia had one of their most inspired performances to date holding African giants Algeria to a 1-1 draw away from home, equalising in injury time.
The opposition squad consisted of some of the world’s best including current Premier League superstars Riyad Mahrez and Said Benrahma, alongside a handful of talent from Europe’s top leagues.
“I don’t think they had lost a game in two years; we went there and drew away. I played a full 90 minutes and had a great game, we all did. All the big boys were there for Algeria so to get a result was definitely one of my proudest moments.”
Since returning to Moor Lane Touray has slotted back into Salford’s left-back spot, as he nears 200 Club appearances, and played in the last two games at The Peninsula Stadium against Hartlepool and Rochdale. Next up is a visit to Forest Green Rovers where he scored the opening goal in January 2020 as Salford won 2-1.