Gael Bigirimana has admitted he never dreamt of representing Burundi at the Africa Cup of Nations after leaving the war-torn country for England as a schoolboy.
Bigirimana, the son of a Burundian father and a Rwandan mother, and his family headed for a new life in Britain when he was 10 years old.
Some 15 years on, he is a key member of the team which will line up against Madagascar in Alexandria on Thursday with their continued presence at the tournament in the balance after an opening 1-0 Group B defeat by Nigeria.
The former Coventry, Newcastle, Motherwell and Hibernian midfielder told www.cafonline.com: "Never, not even in my wildest dreams, did I ever think this day would come. I was just a normal kid born in Burundi playing football bare foot on the streets.
"But then it never occurred to me that even after moving to England I will come back to serve my country in this capacity."
Les Hirondelles are making their Africa Cup of Nations debut in Egypt, as are Madagascar, who banked their first point courtesy of a 2-2 draw with Guinea.
However, Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis is taking nothing for granted as he prepares for a game which could have a major say in whether his team makes it out of the group or not.
Dupuis said: "It would be a great risk if we underestimated the opponent. It's a difficult match and Burundi is a great and stubborn team. We have to be really focused and prepared."