Dominique Malonga will return to the Hibs attack against Alloa today eager to make amends for the rush of blood that cost his team their top scorer for last weekend’s defeat at Falkirk.
The Congo internationalist was sent off late in the Scottish Cup victory over the Wasps a fortnight ago after lashing out at Ben Gordon, who, according to Malonga, had spent much of the match attempting to provoke him. The striker insists his retaliation was out of character and, after the subsequent suspension left him helpless to prevent his side’s eight-game unbeaten run coming to an end at Falkirk last weekend, he has vowed that there will be no repeat if the Alloa players resort to similar distraction tactics at Easter Road today.
“It’s good to be back because last week it was hard to see my team lose like that,” he explained. “I made a mistake against Alloa. He pushed me and I reacted to that. I have to set an example on the pitch, especially to younger people, so it was bad. But it happened and now I am looking forward.
“I am not a hothead, I am always calm on the pitch, I just reacted badly. He really made me crazy, but I have learned my lesson. It’s normal that defenders will push and provoke me because I score goals.
“I didn’t have to react like that, I just need to enjoy my game and score more goals. If other defenders want to try the same thing with me I will look forward to it. I take it as a compliment. I am alright with that. I will just try to stay calm and focus on my game.”
Malonga has only four more games to try and bolster Hibs’ promotion challenge before jetting off to meet up with the Congo squad ahead of next month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.
Congo have been drawn in a favourable section alongside Burkina Faso, Gabon and hosts Equatorial Guinea, raising the prospect of Malonga’s team making it through the group stages and the striker being unavailable to Hibs well into February. “We have been very lucky with the draw,” he said. “We are a little country (4.6million people) but we are hopeful we can get through this group.”
Malonga goes to the tournament with his outlook on life having been altered by a humbling first visit to Congo ahead of his debut for the national team last month. The 25-year-old grew up in Paris and had never previously set foot in his parents’ homeland.
“It was a very emotional trip for me,” he explained. “I saw things over there I had never seen in my life before. It stirred up many feelings inside of me. It is very hard there for the people in the country. The conditions are really, really hard. What you see on TV is nothing like what you discover when you actually go there.
“It didn’t change me, but it did make me realise how lucky I am. When you play football you don’t realise how lucky a life you have. I am just proud to play football and I realise I am very, very lucky to do so. And I am just happy to live here and with my family in Paris.
“My parents left Congo for Paris when they were 20 years old and I have always lived in France. They wanted to me to play for France and I played for all the French youth teams growing up. But now my parents are very happy I chose the Congo, it is good for my family.
“Congo first contacted me when I was 21. I just said I wasn’t sure. But I think now was a good opportunity for me because we have the African Nations Cup. I think I have made a good choice and I am happy with it. My family in Congo live in the capital Brazzaville and I was able to go there. I was able to see people I had never seen before. I met my father’s sister and my grandmother, who I had never met before. I also met my cousins.”
The Ebola outbreak in Africa prompted Morocco to withdraw from hosting the tournament and raised fears over whether it would go ahead. However, Malonga has been assured that both Congo and Equatorial Guinea are safe to visit with regard to the deadly virus. “Congo is okay with Ebola, it has not been affected,” he said. “It was difficult for me because when I had to make a choice, I had to check what was happening. If there was an issue I don’t think I would have gone there. For my family and myself it would have been very dangerous. But all the people there reassured me and told me it was not an issue there. When I went to Congo it was okay, there were no problems.”