African Nations Cup call for Hastings winger

Hastings United and former Haywards Heath Town winger Gil Carvalho has been called up to the São Tomé and Príncipe international squad as the team get their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign under way for next year's competition.

Carvalho was born in Portugal and settled in London when he was a young boy, and he qualifies for the nation through his father, who is originally from the island that sits on the equator south of Nigeria.

He explained how the call came about: “I had a good season at Haywards Heath and the national team’s Federation saw my recent highlight video for last season on social media and that’s how it all started.”

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Carvalho notched eight goals and nine assists in the league for the Blues of Haywards Heath in the Isthmian south-east last season before his move to the recently-promoted Hastings United.

Gil Carvalho on his way to goal for Haywards Heath last season / Picture: Ray Turner

His goals will be essential to the prospects of a nation that has yet to make an appearance at the internationally-recognised tournament, but just representing São Tomé and Príncipe is a source of great pride already:

"It’s a huge honour to represent my father’s country, everything has happened so fast. I am enjoying the experience and I believe I am the first in my family to play international football and I’m very proud of that, too,” he said.

While his international debut ended in defeat to Guinea-Bissau on Thursday he will hope to get the chance to play against Nigeria Monday night with a team that includes Premier League players Alex Iwobi, Ademola Lookman and Emmanuel Dennis. They also have players from the Scottish, French and Italian top-flight that make up a blockbuster team full of talent.

Carvalho, though, will himself line up with the country’s top-scoring striker Luis Leal who has played in the Portuguese and Turkish top divisions and who currently plays for Bolivian Primera Division side Guabirá.

Carvalho will be hoping to fire ‘The Falcons’ to victory alongside him on Monday at the nation's Estádio Nacional 12 de Julho in what would be a historic campaign for the country.