New Look Super Eagles: How "the White Boys" Are Turning Around the Fortune of Nigeria National Team

...and as the Super Eagles file out, you can't help but wonder,  "who are these white boys: Carl Ikeme,  Leon Balogun, William Troost - Ekong, Tyronne Ebuehi...lining up for a country regarded as the largest black nation in the world. Why is Gernot Rohr shopping more for Europe-born Nigerian players, to bring them into the national team?

In this report , we take a look at the growing list of Europe - born players of Nigerian descent and the dimension they bring to the new-look Super Eagles.

Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi scored twice while debutant Brian Idowu grabbed a goal as the Super Eagles hammered star -studded Argentina 4- 2 in a friendly in Krasnodar , recently. Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho grabbed the other goal as the Argentines , who paraded superstars Angel di Maria , Sergio Aguero , Ever Banega , Nicolas Otamendi and others , were put to the sword in Russia. But the performances of Iwobi, raised in England , Russia -born Idowu and several other players of Nigerian descent born abroad caught the eye on the night.

Unlike in the past , when all national team players could sing the national anthem, what you have in this new era of Eagles are probably just five or six players in the starting line- up who can render the Nigerian anthem. Fact is , those who can ’t sing the anthem weren't born here and perhaps never knew it before pledging their international careers to the country of their fathers .

One of the major achievements of the Amaju Pinnick - led Nigerian Football Federation is perhaps the opportunity they have given to these footballers , born or raised abroad , to feature for the Eagles .
And their impact in turning around the Eagles ’ fortunes have been amazing.

Iwobi and Chelsea star Victor Moses, also born in Nigeria, raised in England and played for the English at junior levels ( like Iwobi) , accounted for five of the Eagles ’ 12 goals as they sealed qualification for the 2018 World Cup .

Mainz centre- back Leon Balogun and William Troost - Ekong were also solid in the heart of defence, with the Eagles conceding just four goals in six qualifiers , thanks largely to the duo ’ s efficiency.

All over the world , a new trend has seen players born or raised overseas returning to represent their parents’ countries . For instance , of Morocco ’s 11 players for their final World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast in Abidjan, four players were born in Holland , four born in France , two in Spain, while just one was born in Morocco – and he grew up in Belgium .

Last year , Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha switched allegiance to Ivory Coast after playing for England at senior level .

But it hasn't been rosy trying to convince some of these players to pledge their futures to Nigeria . Recently , Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke, both born in England to Nigerian fathers , dumped the Eagles for the Three Lions .

However, history has shown that apart from Tottenham Hotspurs ’ Dele Alli , recently , most players of Nigerian descent, especially those born in England , only managed fringe roles for their adopted countries .
John Fashanu, John Salako , Ugo Ehiogu and Gabby Agbonlahor are few examples of how some of these players were sidelined after just few caps for the Three Lions . The likes of Sidney Sam ( Germany ) , Stefano Okaka ( Italy) , Patrick Owomoyela ( Germany ) , Dennis Aogo ( Germany ) also didn’ t realise their full potential playing for their European nations.

Facts show that those who chose to represent Nigeria hardly had cause to regret the action , even though financial issues some times caused problems between the players and officials . From Reuben Agboola , the ex -Southampton right -back , who won a 1992 Africa Cup of Nations bronze medal , to Osaze Odemwingie , Victor Anichebe and on to the present crop of players, there has always been something to cheer wearing the colours of Nigeria .

From Moses to the latest kid on the block, Idowu, overseas- born and raised players are gradually dictating the fortunes of the new- era Eagles , thanks largely in part to the team ’ s coach , Gernot Rohr , who intensified efforts to bring in these players to fortify the squad .

No comments