The rescheduled 2020 European Championship kicked off on Friday, June 11 but because it is Europe does not mean that Nigeria won’t be subtly represented and there are five players of Nigerian descent out of the 622 players registered for the tournament. These five will represent four of the 16 countries that will jostle for the Henri Delaunay trophy to be awarded on July 11, 2021.
David Olatokunbo Alaba
The biggest name in the Austria national team, the 28-year-old defender/midfielder is a multi-winner in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League. Alaba’s father is Yoruba and his mother from the Philippines. He has played 81 times for Austria since making his debut in 2009 and in the process became the youngest ever player to debut for the national team. He has made a free transfer to Real Madrid after the 2020/21 Bundesliga season. Asked in an interview if he would have chosen Nigeria ahead of Austria, Alaba said, “I am proud to play for Austria. I was born and raised up in Austria, so I am proud to represent Austria.” He is also rumoured to have said he wanted to play for an underage team from Nigeria in 2007 but he was not considered. Whatever the case, he is part Nigeria, and he is at the 2020 Euro Championships.
Manuel Obafemi Akanji
Akanji was born to a Nigerian father and Swiss mother Wiesendangen, Switzerland, and he was never considered for the Super Eagles or even contacted. In an interview with Punch in 2018, the 25-year-old Borussia Dortmund defender said, “Nigeria never called me to play (for the Eagles). There was no question where I should play because Switzerland asked me if I wanted to play for them. I heard nothing from Nigeria. So, it was my decision.”
The little-known forward plays in the Bundesliga with Mainz and for the Austria national football team. Onisiwo, like Alaba, has a Nigerian father and an Austrian mother. He made his debut for the Austria team in a friendly match against Switzerland in November 2015 and to date, has 11 caps and one goal.
Saka has had two really excellent seasons at Arsenal and made the England team to Euro 2020 because of this. The Nigeria Football Federation actively pursued Saka, born to two Nigerian parents, but he chose the Three Lions. In an interview with Metro last year, the left-footed 19-year-old said, “I feel like I’m really, really proud of my Nigerian heritage. I always still watch Nigeria’s games where I can and I wish them all the best and support them all the way, but I’ve seen the process of how England are transforming and I think in the future they’re going to do great stuff. I feel like it was right for me to choose England.” Good luck to him at the Euros.
The new star on the cards of Bayern Munich could have played for Nigeria, England, and Germany. He was born to a British-Nigeria father and a German mother and he represented England at the U-17 level but has chosen to now represent Germany. The 19-year-old was born in London and was at the Chelsea Academy until 2019 when he switched to Bayern. He is said to have had a conversation with Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr in 2020 but having chosen the Mannschaft, he could become one of the breakout stars at Euro 2020.
Now that you know the Nigerians, which country will you be supporting at the Euros?
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