Emerging Rangers talent Serge Atakayi has been called up by DR Congo…the country he fled nine years ago to seek asylum in Europe.
The 20-year-old made his Rangers debut earlier this season as a sub in a 7-1 demolition of Motherwell.
He’s previously played for Finland at all age levels and has also been named on standby for their Under 21s squad for matches this month.
However, he’s also been called up for DR Congo’s Olympic team and is included for qualifiers against Morocco later this month too.
And what makes the call-up remarkable is that Atakayi abandoned the African country entirely when he sought asylum after a series of football tournaments in Scandinavia nine years ago and was awarded Finnish citizenship.
Atakayi was born in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, but a youth tournament in 2010 would change his life.
He later explained: “I had an uncle who lives in England and he urged me to take an opportunity to represent the best Congo players in the region at three tournament in Europe.
“We went from the capital Kinshasa, via Rome to Stockholm where we travelled by boat to Turku for the first tournament. The second tournament was in Latvia and the third tournament was the Helsinki Cup and the plan was to return to Congo via Stockholm.
“But we decided, ‘No, we stay here’. We knew that only a difficult life awaited us back home and that Finland was probably better. We would be able to help our relatives if we succeeded.
“So we walked into a police station to apply for asylum. The players were all broken up and are in Holland, Belgium, France and other Finnish cities such as Tampere, Oulu, Turku and Helsinki.
“At first it was really difficult. I cried all the time. I didn’t have my mother’s phone number. My head was aching all the time because I just cried. I didn’t go to school for three months.
“Eventually I got through to my mother and she talked to me and I listened.
I returned to school. My mum said that if I cried then she would also cry every day. But eventually it got easier.”
He signed for FF Jaro and then-Rangers boss Mark Warbuton snapped him up in 2016. He signed a contract extension last year that ties him to the Ibrox club until 2020.
Now DR Congo want him to return to the fold and play in the two-legged qualifiers in Kinshasa and Rabat and the 20-year-old has a massive decision to make.