Ahmedou juggles university and international football
When Ahmed Di Ahmedou received a note from the University of Sussex last week that he had been granted permission to write his Engineering Mechanics exam - originally scheduled for May 28 - at a later date, the student breathed a sigh of relief.

The approval meant that the 20-year-old could join the Mauritania squad for the return-leg of their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Equatorial Guinea.
The defender is one of only a few players who juggle international football with full-time university study. He told African Football Media that combining the two was not always an easy undertaking.

“It was difficult at the beginning, but I have to do it, and I don’t have any free time, so I can’t go out, nor can I see my friends. All I can do is study and train. I dedicate all my time for that. Morning and afternoon studying, and nights for training. I try to get my work done before the weekend so that away games aren’t affected by my work schedule.”alt

He said that if faced with a choice between being a footballer and studying, he would have little hesitation. “I’d definitely take football, but my family want me to study and get a degree. In less than one and a half  years I’ll be graduating and then I can free up my time for football.”

Ahmedou was first called up for the Mauritanian team last year for a friendly international against Canada. “I was really excited. I was proud to be called up for my national side.”

Although he was an unused substitute for that game, he received his first cap earlier this year. “It was an amazing experience to play at home on your home soil for the national team at only 20 years old. The stadium was full and I couldn’t be happier. My whole family came to watch the game. My father, who doesn’t live in Mauritania came to watch it too.”

Playing with seasoned professionals

Ahmedou plays his club football in England for the youth team of Three Bridges FC, who campaign in the Isthmian League Division One South – the eighth tier of English football.

Thus playing for Les Mourabitones  gives him an opportunity of testing himself with – and against – seasoned professionals who play for top flight clubs. He says that he is privileged to be able to play with them. “I learn a lot from them, I am always asking advice from them, wanting to benefit from their experience and knowledge.”

Although Mauritania has not been a force on the African football stage, Ahmedou believes the team is improving and recent results have proved him right. “We built a new football federation from scratch, with a new president who made everything happen. He handpicked the coach, and invested a lot of time, money, and effort into the sport.

“We have a young squad with good players and a great coach. The fans really are behind us and that helps us a lot. Now that we have good results, the president of Mauritania has gotten behind us even more.”

Mauritania won the first leg game against Equatorial Guinea 1-0 and Ahmedou is aware that the side will have to dig deep in the return leg. “It’s going to be a really hard game. They have a quality squad that lost to Spain by only 2-1.

“But we will do everything to go through, we have the quality.”

Should the country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa advance past the Nzalang Nacional they would be just two games away from advancing to the group phase of the qualifying campaign.

Should they manage to get there, Ahmedou could well be writing letters to the university again, as there are two group games scheduled in September – the very time when he should be sitting for his Engineering Mechanics exam.