When Yoane Wissa played a key role for the Democratic Republic of Congo in a vital match on Friday, 25 March, he joined two select groups. Congo DR are playing Morocco for a place in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in a two-legged Play-Off tie. Wissa scored for his country in the first leg, which ended 1-1, and set a couple of Brentford FC milestones.
The final stage of qualification for the World Cup for African nations involves ten teams drawn to play two-legged ties with five winners reaching the tournament, which will take place in Qatar at the end of the year. Congo DR play Morocco in one of those ties and the first leg ended 1-1 with Wissa scoring. The second leg will be played on Tuesday, 29 March, in Morocco.
Since Brentford entered the Football League more than a century ago, more than 1,000 players have appeared in our colours. When Wissa played on Friday, he became only the 51st to have won a full international cap while on our books. And in scoring, he joined an even more select group – becoming the 14th Brentford player have found the net for their countries while contracted to The Bees.
Wissa was first called up by Congo DR in October 2020. He made his debut against Burkina Faso and scored on his second appearance, his last before this week, coincidentally in a friendly against Morocco. He had not played for his country since joining Brentford until Friday but now has two goals in three appearances for his nation.
Brentford players have been involved in international football for longer than The Bees have been a Football League side. Brentford’s first international was Joe Connor, who played twice for the Ireland national football team, which represented the island of Ireland from 1882 until 1950, in 1903, scoring once. Tommy Shanks also represented Ireland in 1905 and it was then almost 30 years until Dai Hopkins became Brentford’s third international, representing Wales.
Brentford played in the upper echelons of the First Division in the late 1930s and nine players won international honours, including the Club’s only two England internationals to date – Billy Scott and Leslie Smith. Only Dai made a real impact while on Brentford’s books, with his 12 caps remaining a Club Record for more than 50 years. Dai’s two goals were a Club Record for more than 80 years.
Archie Macaulay won Scotland honours in 1947 and Jimmy D’Arcy earned caps for Northern Ireland in the early 1950s, but it was then almost 40 years until Brentford’s next, 14th, international player – John Buttigieg of Malta. John signed for Brentford in November 1988 and spent just under three years with The Bees, leaving at the end of the 1990/91 season. In that period, John made 20 international appearances, which was a Club Record for almost 30 years.
Brentford players were selected for their countries throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with former captain Paul Evans becoming our 20th international when he played for Wales in 2002. Ólafur Ingi Skúlason, of Iceland, was our 25th international, with Andreas Bjelland of Denmark number 30 on the list. Two of our most capped players come in at 35 and 36 on the chronological list.
Kamohelo Mokotjo and Henrik Dalsgaard both joined Brentford in 2017 and were part of their international squads while with The Bees. Henrik earned 22 of his 26 Denmark caps while with The Bees, which makes him the Club’s most capped player. He was the first Brentford player to appear in a World Cup, helping Denmark reach the last 16 in Russia in 2018.
Kamohelo played 15 times for South Africa while with Brentford and he, along with Julian Jeanvier for Guinea, played in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He is one of only a few Brentford players - a list that also includes Mathias Jensen, Christian Nørgaard, Henrik, Marcus Forss, Halil Dervişoğlu and Frank Onyeka - to have appeared in an international tournament.
The list has grown quickly since 2017 with Chris Mepham becoming the first player to come through Brentford B and win international caps. Mathias and Christian played for Denmark in the Semi-Final of the UEFA European Championships 2020, delayed until last summer by the COVID-19 pandemic. Frank became our 50th international late last year and is also involved in the ongoing World Cup qualification process in Africa, playing for Nigeria.
Between them, Brentford’s international players have approaching 300 caps, but goals by those men are rare. Wissa became the 14th to score for his country while with The Bees after 12 minutes of the match against Morocco. He cut in off the left and let fly with a shot that took a deflection and flew in. International goals are becoming more common for Brentford players with the Club Record held by Halil, currently with The Bees. He has four goals for Turkey.