Will Nigeria-eligible players get a chance to represent the Super Eagles under Finidi George?

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In international football, the phenomenon of players with Nigerian roots donning the colours of other nations has been a recurring theme, reports.

On the other side, some players born in other countries have opted to represent Nigeria as well with Efe Sodje, Ola Aina, and newly crowned UEFA Europa League champion, Ademola Lookman spearheading players born abroad choosing to return to their roots to play for Nigeria.

However, it appears the crux of these talents only want to play for Nigeria as a last option, not from sheer will. Players like Jamal Musiala, Fikayo Tomori, Bukayo Saka and Michael Folorunsho have opted to represent other nations while Joshua Zirkzee and Michael Olise are still waiting on a call-up from other nations.

Some of these footballers are torn between the cross-cultural decision of the national team to play for, while some players born outside of Nigeria like Luton town duo, Elijah Adebayo and Gabriel Osho are willing to don the green and white colours of the Super Eagles.

Will they get a chance under the new Super Eagles coach?

Finidi George who is three-time Dutch Eredivisie winner wants to return Nigeria to the glory days, starting with their World Cup qualifiers against South Africa next month.

Speaking at his media parlay at Eko Hotel and Suites yesterday, the former Ajax winger laid down his plans for the team. Quizzed about his plans for the inclusion of foreign players who stand a chance to represent Nigeria, he highlighted that his team for the upcoming qualifiers will be built around the players who secured a silver medal at the AFCON 2023 tournament in Ivory Coast.

“Following the brilliant display of our team at AFCON, we’ll be building on that. Most of our players will be from the last tournament as well, we don’t want to change too much so they don’t disintegrate as a unit. We saw the unity from them in Ivory Coast as well, and we want that to continue as well, so that should give you an idea of the players we’ll have in the squad. We will have about two to three new faces. Now is not the time to gamble,” the 53-year-old told journalists yesterday at his media parlay in Lagos.

Finidi highlighted that the seriousness of the upcoming qualifiers will not allow him to take certain risks, but he is willing to invite these players in the future, as long as they’re good enough.

“If they’re good enough, why not? Although these things are not easy. It’s not like you’ll just see a player you like and tell him to come and play for Nigeria. For the most part, what I can do is keep on watching the games, and if I see a good player and upon further enquiry, has Nigerian roots, then we can start discussing. A lot goes into these things, and that is not my job, we have people at the NFF for that. We will work together as a team, talk to these players, and see if they’re willing. Primarily, I have to work with what I have to achieve our goal,” the Super Eagles coach added.

Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo, Chelsea’s Lesely Ugochukwu, Werder Bremen’s Justin Njinmah and Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke are all eligible to represent Nigeria.

The Glory Days?

Arguably, Nigeria’s best outing at a World Cup was in 1994 under Clemens Westerhof, where they almost got to the quarter-final in the USA. It was also the first time ever the Super Eagles participated in the FIFA World Cup.

Emmanuel Amuneke broke the deadlock for Nigeria in their round of sixteen tie against Italy, but a Roberto Baggio brace knocked them out of their debut tournament. Nigeria won the AFCON in that same year.

Jay Jay Okocha at the 1994 World Cup.

Finidi, comparing his current team to the 1994 squad, believes the current team can do much better, hinting they have the potential to achieve more as a unit.

“We talked about the 1994 squad, but I think this squad can even do better. They are getting there. The 1994 team came through from 1988 and constantly grew together as a team before they climaxed in 1994. So, this team won bronze in 2019 and won the silver last year, so it’s just one more push, and we’ll be good,” the former Real Betis man added.

Admiration for Pelé

Findi’s football icon is Brazilian legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé. Widely revered and honoured as the greatest of all time, Pelé won the World Cup thrice with Brazil and scored over 700 goals in a career that spanned almost two decades.

“Unfortunately he’s late, but I’ll say Pele. He’s someone I looked up to as a kid. We always heard “King Pele of Brazil, but I was not opportune to meet him,” Finidi highlighted.

The Super Eagles will play against South Africa on the 7th of June at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium Uyo, 8 pm WAT, before travelling to The Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Ivory Coast to face Benin Republic on June 10th.

N.B: What do you think of Finidi’s comments on Nigeria-eligible players? Share your thoughts in the comments.