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Stanley's Toto set to be a hit in Africa
ONE famous Toto made his name at the World Cup some 22 years ago, and now Accrington Stanley defender Toto Nsiala is dreaming of an appearance at the 2014 tournament after returning from his international debut with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nsiala may still have plenty to do to catch up on the career achievements of the rather better known Toto Schillaci, the top scorer at Italia 90, with the 20-year-old’s 29 senior appearances during his club career so far all coming at League Two level.
But the centre back, who will play for Stanley again this season after completing a permanent move from Everton, could have a realistic chance of playing at both the World Cup and next year’s Africa Cup of Nations after being called into the DR Congo squad by Claude Le Roy for their summer qualifying matches.
Nsiala had caught the eye of scouts during a loan spell at the Crown Ground at the end of last season and made his debut as a substitute in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Seychelles, taking up a new role as a defensive midfielder.
Having signed a one-year deal at Stanley, he knows he has a real incentive to continue his development as a player in the months to come and admits it was a special moment to make his debut for the country where he was born, before moving to Liverpool as a youngster.
“On the bench I’d never had a feeling like it, I was sweating before I came on because I was so nervous,” said Nsiala, who also qualified to play for England or Wales.
“The coach just said to enjoy it, he put me on in midfield and he said afterwards that I had done well and the crowd were pleased with me.
“They had a game against Cameroon but I couldn’t play in that because I didn’t have a Congo passport by then.
“I was on the bench against Togo but the coach said to me that I was too young for a tough match of that importance but that in the next match I would get a half, and I did come on for a half against the Seychelles.
“It meant a lot to play and to be involved. They were African Nations and World Cup qualifiers so they were big games.
“Before I’d been to a Wales under 19s training camp and I was on standby for the England under 16 squad but I didn’t have a passport.
“But when Congo came in for me I wasn’t going to turn down a chance like that.
“They have a scout based in Liverpool and I think he came to watch me a few times.
“The coach is looking to bring in a lot of young players so I think he’s going to keep the same squad now.
“We have to win one and draw one to qualify for the African Nations and that would be a really good experience for me.
“And I think we only have to win maybe two games to qualify for the World Cup.
“That would be amazing for a player of my age to play at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.”
Nsiala follows in the footsteps of Rommy Boco, who played for fellow African nation Benin during his time at Stanley, and the 6ft 4in defender hopes it could also help him progress.
“That’s what I’m hoping now, that getting experience like this helps me get better as a player,” he said.
“It’s a great experience because the football is a lot different, the players are so athletic.
“I just want to do as well as I can next season. Signing for Accrington was something that I did want to happen but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. But it seems that they like me.
“And midfield is somewhere I’d love to play. I think I can protect the centre backs. I’ve played at centre back so I know what they need.
“I’ve already been on the phone to the manager here about it and he’s said I could do a job!”