Hearts defender Faycal Rherras handed late AFCON call-up

Faycal Rherras has been called up by Morocco
Faycal Rherras has been called up by Morocco
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Hearts defender Faycal Rherras faces a frantic dash out of Edinburgh after a late call-up to Morocco’s Africa Cup of Nations squad.

The full-back was omitted from the initial 23-man group, but Hearts officials were notified only today that he is wanted for the tournament – which starts tomorrow in Gabon.

Rherras trained at Riccarton this morning but was then told that Morocco wanted him to head to Africa immediately.

He was given permission to travel by his club but will now miss the Scottish Cup tie against Raith Rovers a week on Sunday. If Morocco reach the knockout phase, he may miss vital league games against Celtic, Rangers and Motherwell.

The call-up leaves him little time for travelling or acclimatisation. The Africa Cup of Nations group games start tomorrow, although Morocco are not in action until Monday night. They face DR Congo in their opening group match.

Rherras dropped out of the starting line-up at Hearts recently but is still held in high regard by his national association.

His Tynecastle team-mate Arnaud Djoum is already in Gabon as part of the Cameroon squad. They face Burkina Faso in their first group match tomorrow evening.