Hibs face the prospect of being without top scorer Dominique Malonga for at least one match this month as the striker ponders whether or not to accept a call-up from the Congo national team for the first time.
The 25-year-old, who was born in France to Congolese parents, represented France Under-19s but has never played full international football. He has been invited several times to join up with the Congo squad, but has always previously declined in order to avoid missing matches for his club.
However, Malonga is currently giving serious consideration to accepting a call-up for Congo’s crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifying double-header at home to Nigeria (Saturday, November 15) and away to Sudan (Wednesday, November 19). Congo sit second in their qualifying group, three points ahead of Nigeria. Four points from their closing two fixtures would secure their place in the finals in Morocco next year.
While tempted to accept the call from his nation, he is also wary of leaving Hibs short of strikers for their home game against Queen of the South on Saturday week. Depending on the exertions of playing and travelling back from Sudan, he could also become a doubt for the trip to Dumbarton the following Saturday. Indications are that Hibs are happy for the striker to go, but the ball is firmly in his court. “It is a tough decision but I will decide with my family in the next few days if I go or stay here,” he told the Evening News. “I spoke with my coach here (Alan Stubbs). I think the club is happy if I go and happy if I don’t go.
“If I go, they are happy because they have the possibility to have an international player in their team. I want to stay here and help my team win but on the other hand I want to go and help my country go to the African Nations. It is something I would be keen to do if it didn’t affect my club. It is a tough decision but it is my decision.
Malonga has never previously set foot in Africa, but has been on Congo’s radar for several years. “Congo ask me all the time to come with them,” he explained.
“Before, I wasn’t ready in my head. I wanted to stay with my club because every time the games are when my club plays and, for me, it was more important to stay with my club. I wasn’t ready yet in my mentality. But now, we will see. It’s a very tough decision.”