Home or Away: The Nigerian Players’ Dilemma


For talented, young Nigerian players with English connections or English-born players with Nigerian heritage, there is often a difficult decision as to who they choose to represent at the international level.


So much so, that England Under 21 Manager Aidy Boothroyd  is concerned that the strength of his current squad might mean he loses some players if they don’t get a regular start.

It has happened before with Chelsea defender Victor Moses, Hull defender Ola Aina, Reading forward Sone Aluko, Notts County forward Shola Amoebi and Arsenal midfield man Alex Iwobi, who has already made the switch from the England youth setup to the Nigerian senior team.

With so many premiership and EFL players playing regularly for the Nigerian side, it is hardly a culture shock for players to make the trip to Africa. Under the rules, however, as long as you haven’t represented a country at the senior level, you can still switch allegiances, but as soon as you do, that is it. Your decision is made.

It can be quite frustrating for English managers who believe that their players would be better suited for the England team (or perhaps simply want to keep their talent at home).


“He should be playing for England,” said Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger of Iwobi. And with him having made 11 appearances with England, working his way up through the age groups, you can understand why. Yet when Iwobi wasn’t picked at under 19, it was only fair for him to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Unfortunately for Nigeria, their latest target Tammy Abraham has restated his long-term commitment to England after an intense campaign to recruit him for the national side.

Though born in London, Tammy, or to give him his magnificent full name Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham qualifies to play for Nigeria by way of his Nigerian father.

Amaju Pinnick, the president of the Nigeria Football Federation, has been open about his ambitions for the player; at one point even claiming that “all is looking good” in his negotiations to recruit Abrahams.

The fact that his father is a friend of Pinnick only complicates things further, especially when the press sees the pair together. “I can confirm I met the president of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday, given he is a friend of my father,” said Abraham, after a flurry of recent press speculation.

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“However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect. I have informed the FA that I remain available for England.”

In the past, the decision might have been a much easier one, with England setup far ahead of Nigeria in terms of quality, facilities and management, but that has changed in recent years, and Nigeria has become a serious force in the world of football.

Having reached the last 16 in the 2014 World Cup while England failed to even make it out of the group stage with just one draw and two losses, the Super Eagles will be watched closely next year. “I believe that this team will cause a big stir in Russia,” says Pinnick.

In the end, whoever takes flight as an Eagle and who decides to stay with the Three Lions could go a long way in determining both teams’ odds of lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy.