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Open door for players with dual Citizenship

Aina and Iwobi

After the impressive debut of Leon Balogun for Nigeria recently, ’TANA AIYEJINA looks at more players with dual citizenship, who can bring more competition to the national teams 

Fortuna Dusseldorf defender, Leon Balogun, received rave reviews in the Nigerian sporting media after his debut for Nigeria in a friendly match in Atlanta, USA, on March 5.

Born in Germany to a Nigerian father and German mother, the 25-year-old Balogun was eligible to play for both countries but he opted to play for his fatherland instead.

Though he copped an injury that would keep him out for eight weeks during the game against Mexico, he showed during the few minutes he came on for right-back Efe Ambrose that he could bring more competition to the backline of the Super Eagles.

Balogun’s well-timed tackles and rugged play received commendations from Nigerians with ex-international Folorunsho Okenla tipping him for a place in the Eagles squad to the World Cup in Brazil.

Head, Technical Department of the Nigeria Football Federation, Chris Green, said the player was outstanding on his debut.

He said, “Balogun mixed freely with the players on his arrival in Atlanta even though he doesn’t speak any of the Nigerian languages. There was a warm reception from the players. On his debut, he did very well but unfortunately, he sustained an injury.”

The former Werder Bremen player’s performance has probably opened the doors for more players with dual nationalities to stage a claim for places in not just the Super Eagles but also in the age grade national teams.

“Everything rests with the coach; if he desires to use any Nigerian eligible to play for the national team, so be it. Once a player is eligible to play for Nigeria, there should be no discrimination or segregation; such a player should be given the opportunity to play,” Green said.

“The player must be a Nigerian; he should be ready to play for Nigeria. Our citizenship is very simple; you must be born of one parent from Nigeria. But it depends on your dominant country. If you have dual citizenship, you can’t play for both countries, so the one you have decided to play for becomes your dominant country.”

Eagles media officer, Ben Alaiya, also said the national team door is open to every Nigerian player, but added that it would be risky to invite too many players with the World Cup just few weeks away.

He said, “It depends on the quality of the player. If he is good enough, why not? The World Cup is just few months away. If you bring so many players into the team now, you will only confuse yourself. If some positions are lacking, that is when the coach will call players to complement the team, maybe after the World Cup.”

SUNDAY PUNCH takes a look at some of the players with dual nationalities who could add bite to the country’s national teams, if they commit their futures to Nigeria.

 Dominic Solanke (September 14, 1997)

Born to a Nigerian father, 16-year-old Chelsea forward Solanke has shown promises of a future star. He joined Chelsea from the U-8 level, and he has been capped by England at U-16 and U-17 levels but is still eligible to play for Nigeria at senior level.

England under-17s beat Belgium 2-1 in a friendly match in January and it was Solanke, who came to the rescue of the Englishmen. The Belgians scored first but Solanke produced two clinical finishes to win the game for the Three Lions.

He ended 2013 in style, when he notched two successive hat-tricks for the Chelsea U-18 side.

 Chinedu Ede (Midfielder, Kaiserslautern)

Son of a Nigerian father and German mother, Ede has gone ahead to play for Germany at youth level, winning the European Championship in 2009. Rugged and noted for his versatility, he joined Mainz in the Bundesliga on a four-year contract in 2012 but he has been loaned out to 2 Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern.

Ede is remarkably quick, has good dribbling ability, can play in several positions and is hugely influential in moving forward.

 Ola Aina (October 8, 1996)

Ola, who started as a winger, joined Chelsea at Under-11 level, but now plays as as a highly mobile right-back, who can also play at centre-back and left-back.  He has been capped by England at Under-16 and Under-17 levels and has trained with Chelsea’s first team.

Chelsea Academy manager Jim Fraser told chelseafc.com of the talents of the young Nigerian, “Ola signed for us as an Under-11 after one of our summer camps and started as a right winger. He used to roast people down the line with his pace and score lots of goals, but during his time here, we have moved him back and he fits the modern right-back role.”

That sums up the potential of the hugely talented and rising defender. An England Under-17 regular, he’s very much one to watch by the Nigerian officials.

 Kenny Otigba (August 29, 1992)

Born in Kaduna to a Nigerian father and Hungarian mother, 21-year-old Heerenveen centre-back, Otigba, has played for the U-21 team of Hungary but he is yet to commit his international career to Nigeria or Hungary.

He rejected a second invitation to play for the Hungarian U-21s thus sparking reactions that he may want to commit his future to Nigeria.

The Nigerian started his European career at  Gyulai Termál FC in Hungary in 2000 before moving to Békéscsaba in 2004, from where he joined Heerenveen six years ago.

Otigba has scored four goals in 12 games from his defensive position in the Dutch topflight this term and playing regularly under coach Marco van Basten is a testament to the player’s huge potential.

 Derik Osede (February 21, 1993)

Born in Madrid to a Nigerian father and a Spanish mother, Osede has represented Spain at U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-20 levels, winning the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship with the U-19 side.

The Real Madrid B centre-back, who also represented Spain at the 2013 U-20 World Cup, could bring more competition to Keshi’s central defence.

The 20-year-old is a centre-back with many qualities. He is quick, decisive and a very well-rounded player, both physically and technically. He’s a clear example of a product of Madrid’s academy, having joined at the age of nine and advanced through almost all the categories.

 Tiago Ilori (February 26, 1993)

Liverpool central defender Ilori, has a Nigerian father and Portuguese mother but represented his mother’s country at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.

Ilori’s assets are his technique, composure and tactical reading of the game. He is currently on loan at La Liga side Granada.

 Chuks Aneke (July 3, 1993)

Arsenal youngster, Aneke, could become an invaluable asset to Stephen Keshi. The 20-year-old has played for England at U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-19 levels. He has a long term future with the Eagles if he switches allegiance to Nigeria.

Currently on loan at Crewe Alexandra, the midfielder has been likened to Gunners legend Patrick Vieira.

He has shown a great deal of versatility at Crewe, where he has played as a centre-back and defensive midfielder. Aneke has all the makings of a future star; he has quality, creativity and goal-scoring ability.

 Semi Ajayi (November 9, 1993)

London-born Ajayi came through the Charlton Athletic Academy, before joining the Arsenal Academy. The 19-year-old however opted to play for Nigeria and was part of the Flying Eagles squad at last year’s U-20 World Cup in Turkey. He may come in useful for the national U-23 team.

Jordon Ibe (December 8, 1995)

Ibe has represented England at Under-18 and 19 age grades. The Liverpool winger made his Premier League debut for the Reds last season.

Alex Iwobi (May 3, 1996)

Born in Lagos, Iwobi has represented England at youth level. The versatile forward has been with Arsenal since the age of eight. The talented youngster is capable of playing anywhere in the attack.

 Chuba Akpom (October 9, 1995)

Akpom is an English footballer of Nigerian descent who plays as a striker for Arsenal. Gunners boss, Arsene Wenger, has not hidden his admiration for the player, who can play anywhere across the frontline. Akpom has represented England at U-16, U-17 and U-19 age grades.

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