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Mo Bettamer: Aldershot Town striker prepares for senior Libya debut

Aldershot Town striker Mo Bettamer
Mo Bettamer made a permanent move to Aldershot Town after leaving Barnet in October

Switching a National League campaign for international football in a different continent is a big step for a professional footballer at the best of times.

Add in a global pandemic with matches being played in neutral venues and Aldershot Town striker Mo Bettamer could be in line for a unique senior debut for Libya.

The 27-year-old, who has already represented his country at under-18, under-20 and under-23 level, is now hoping to face Equatorial Guinea in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Wednesday in Tunis.

London-born to a Libyan father and a Moroccan mother, Bettamer has already had a colourful career that has taken in the top two tiers of English non-league football but also the African Champions League during his time with Libyan side Al-Ahly Benghazi.

But what is the most striking difference in atmosphere between the dressing room at Aldershot Town and the Libya senior team?

“People in Libya are a bit lively,” Bettamer smiled as he spoke to BBC Radio Surrey. “North African countries aren’t too much different from each other in terms of their culture – lots of singing, lots of dancing.

“Libyan people are one of the nicest and welcoming I’ve met in the world.

“I remember the first time I travelled to Tripoli aged 11 with my family, it was an incredible experience. The sheer heat just hit you when the plane doors first opened and the sights and sounds across the whole country when we travelled around were incredible.

“I just love going back there every year.”

Bettamer is a former Watford trainee who rubbed shoulders in the Hornets’ academy with the likes of Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga and Wigan Athletic winger Gavin Massey.

After failing to win a professional contract at Vicarage Road, he began to plough his furrow in non-league with clubs including Hayes & Yeading and Hampton & Richmond.

The lure of returning to play in Libya took him to Al-Ahly in 2013 where he helped the club reach the quarter-finals of the African Champions League.

Mo Bettamer in action for Aldershot against Woking
Mo Bettamer (left) has scored three goal in six appearances for Aldershot Town so far this season

National recognition followed in both the under-23s and Olympic squads and with himself on the cusp of playing for the first time at senior level, Bettamer hopes to put smiles on faces both at home in London and across Libya.

“I know it’s a country that’s been struggling for so long,” he said. “I don’t know too much or pay a huge amount of attention to the politics, but the people are just so passionate about football and getting behind their teams both at club level and internationally.

“It’s a huge mix of talent in that squad too. While I’m obviously playing in the fifth tier of English football, there’s some real quality.

“There’s players from the top flight in Portugal and Serie A in the latest squad. Under normal circumstances, a bunch of players from Major League Soccer would also be allowed to travel and meet up too.

“Hopefully I can go there, continue my club form and make the Libyan people really proud.”

Bettamer has already travelled to join the rest of the squad in Cairo before heading across to Tunis for Wednesday’s first Group J qualifier against Equatorial Guinea.

The two countries meet again in a reverse fixture on Sunday in the Central African country’s capital Bata and it will be a marked change of scenery from an originally-scheduled league trip to Altrincham for the Aldershot striker.

“It’s obviously a strange time at the moment,” Bettamer said. “The country is in a second lockdown, but football continues around the world.

“I just don’t think you can say no when your country comes calling in football. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll get like this.

“Hopefully I can go there, do well and then bring some of that back to Aldershot for what is going to be a tough season ahead.”

Mo Bettamer was speaking to BBC Radio Surrey’s Tim Durrans.

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