The Super Eagles booked their ticket to Russia 2018 on Saturday with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zambia. In that Eagles’ team that qualified were Victor Moses, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Alex Iwobi and Ola Aina – players who never played in the Nigerian league. All of these five, but Moses, who was taken out of Nigeria at age six, were born abroad.
Last month, there was a furore over Tammy Abraham declaring allegiance to Nigeria. It has been a policy thrust for the Amaju Pinnick-led Nigeria Football Federation, NFF to ensure more Nigerians, born and bred abroad switch allegiance to Nigeria.
Pinnick had declared Abraham was going to switch.
“I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week. It’s been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England. He and his parents have started the necessary documentation to effect the switch,” he declared.
Abraham later denied this: “I can confirm, I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark. I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England.”
Abraham was duly called up for the England U-21 and he scored against Scotland after which his England manager, Aidy Boothroyd proclaimed England “is at risk of losing some of their talented youngsters to countries like Nigeria.”
Boothroyd told the Daily Mail, “Nigeria is trying to get as many players as they can and you can’t blame them because we’ve got some good players. Sheyi Ojo is another. It’s a hard one because I can’t guarantee they are going to play, as the group is so good. Perhaps other countries might see that and promise the world and get them in the first team before you know it.”
Moses is still the most high-profile capture from the Queen’s territory and he has since been joined by Iwobi and Aina.
Against Scotland, three young Nigerians scored all the England goals. Tottenham’s loanee Josh Onomah scored the first, followed by a penalty from Abraham and then Dominic Solanke scored the third.
While boasting about Abraham’s switch, Pinnick advocated a clear truth. “Clearly he understands he stands a better chance playing for the Super Eagles. With his talent, he has the ability to fight for a place in the Nigeria squad and if we make it to Russia, he would contest for a chance to represent his fatherland.”
Now that the ticket has been secured – would the likes of Abraham, Solanke, Onomah and Ademola Lookman be thinking that this is a once in a lifetime chance to play at the World Cup – a dream for every footballer?
Over the next few months, we should expect some Lions to shed their fur for some Eagles’ feathers!