OBETZ, Ohio – Despite becoming a US citizen in 2013, Tony Tchani has said that his heart remains in Cameroon. And if all goes as planned for the Columbus Crew SC midfielder, he’ll be pulling on the shirt of his homeland next week.
The Cameroon Soccer Federation announced late Monday night that the midfielder had been called up for the national team for the first time. He will join 22 other players in camp under new brand new manager Alexandre Belinga Acting. The Lions have World Cup qualifiers scheduled against Niger on Nov. 13 and 17.
“I was really excited,” Tchani said of the call. “It’s something I was looking forward to. I always told myself, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’ It finally happened.”
Tchani joins a plethora of other internationals on the Columbus roster, including Wil Trapp and Justin Meram, who previously earned calls for the US and Iraq national teams for the first time under head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter.
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Unprompted, Tchani credited Berhalter for his own call.
“Without Gregg these things wouldn’t happen,” he said. “I don’t think he makes phone calls. But it’s the fact that he has confidence in us pretty much every game. And with the style of play we’re playing, everybody gets involved. So I feel like we get more recognition from the national teams.”
Berhalter said the Tchani call is “good recognition” for the player, who he’s said has been an important piece for Columbus over the last two years.
“Any time a player puts in a solid two years of performing in a league, you hope things like that come,” Berhalter said. “It’s nice to see that it has.”
But the call does come at a less-than-convenient time. Tchani is scheduled to leave Monday to join the national team, just one day after Crew SC play the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinals match-up against the Montreal Impact (5 pm ET, ESPN).
Tchani is also dealing with a muscle strain sustained in the first-leg showdown last Sunday. Berhalter says the club will be evaluating the midfielder throughout the week, both for the match Sunday and for international duty.
Tchani says he’s only thinking about Montreal at this point, but what will go through his head if and when he wears his country’s colors for the first time?
“I have no answer for that,” he said with a smile. “I’ve never worn that shirt before. So it’s going to be pretty exciting."