Eligible Foreign Players Powers dreams of prosperity For Nigeria — And Fears For Home Grown Players


Kevin Akpoguma ran on to the pitch for his super eagles debut, taking the place of Tyronne Ebuehi in the 67th minute of the international friendly against Algeria on October nine, 2020.

A symbolic substitution for Nigeria as the two players switched allegiance from Holland and Germany respectively, to play for the country of their parents.

kevin in tyrone out
Nigeria Sub, kevin in tyrone out

From being Rejected by John Fashanu in the 80s to fielding the first foreign-born Nigerian in the super eagles, Reuben Agboola on 13th April 1991, Nigeria has suddenly found a new appetite for foreign-born footballers, and they are not about to stop.

Reuben Agboola
Reuben Agboola debuted for Nigeria in the 90s

Nigeria As Fall Back Option.

Not all the players that chose Nigeria did it for altruism.

A lot of the players chose Nigeria as a last resort or, as a chance to taste international football and, after they are done they turn their backs on the country, going back to being Foreigners all over again.

Just before a round of 16 games against Nigeria at the 2015 FIFA U20 world cup in New Zealand, Kevin Akpoguma, the captain of the German team in an interview with FIFA media was sure of his career path and the country he pledged his allegiance.

“I’m very grateful to him,” he said, “but I also know that I’ll go into this match like I do every other. I was born and grew up in Germany, so I consider myself to be German.”

Kevin Akpoguma going up against Isaac Success at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Gdermany Colours.

After the U20 world cup adventure and a no show from the German senior national team, Kevin this time adjusted his fail-proof career path to a scale of preference, finally giving Nigeria a look in

“I want to leave it open because Germany can still call me. But if I have no other option to play for Germany, then I can consider playing for Nigeria because my dad is from Nigeria.

Kevin, Leon, Dessers
Kevin Akpoguma alongside Leon Balogun, and Cyril Dessers at the Nigerian team camp in Austria.

For others like former German international, Sidney Sam he looks back with regrets after falling short of going to the world cup with his country of birth despite pleas from former Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi to switch allegiance.

Patrick Owomoyela made a u-turn after a delay in getting a Nigerian passport gave him a chance to heed the call from the German national team.

Not A Nigerian Thing

At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, five African countries participated in the finals. Morocco had 15 European-born players, plus another two who grew up in Europe. Tunisia and Senegal each had nine while Nigeria had four (plus two more who grew up in Europe). In total, 38 players for these five countries were born in Europe, the majority in France (25).

Also, of the 552 players registered for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, 129 were born outside the country they were representing and, 86 of these were born in France.

A further 30 players grew up in a country other than the one in which they were born.

Nineteen members of Morocco squad were born outside the country, 10 of them in France; 14 members of Algeria squad were born in France.

The Biggest Losers

For the different coaches in Africa, it is about winning and keeping their contract so, its fair game to use players as long as they identify with their various African countries.

Gernot Rohr
Super Eagles coach, Rohr at the media parley.

Nigerian coach, Gernot Rohr in a recent press parley revealed that he is less concerned about Super Eagles players born abroad;

“When we want to make our list, we look at quality not where they were born. I am also happy to hear Nigerians born abroad make the decision to play for us.”

The national league players for African countries with a high number of second-generation players born abroad are the biggest losers with big odds stacked against them.

Last Defence Of the Dying Local Breed

If local players are to get a fighting chance in the national teams, it will have to be the players from various academies who make their way through the various youth tournaments to mainstream Europe.

Super eagles line up
Super eagles line up against Algeria

The road for these youngsters are usually long: from the streets to academies and then through a process of screening with the various national teams which sometimes have over 40 to 60 players trying out.

Iheanacho, Alampasu, Chukwueze, Omeruo, Osimhen, Ndidi, Yakubu Mathew are holding the forth for homegrown players.

Local Quota System?

Africa regularly suffers brain drain with their best human resources relocating for a better life outside the continent, creating a litany of possible talents that may or may not choose the mother continent back.

Amaju Pinnick
NFF president Amaju Pinnick

These have not gone unnoticed for the Nigerian Football Federation as the president, Amaju Pinnick revealed that he included a clause in the renewed contract of its national team coach, Gernot Rohr.

“We have told him. He MUST live in Nigeria. His salary will be in Naira. He must go around the leagues and see how he can nurture the players. If he can accept it, we have a deal. There are a lot of coaches that want to coach Nigeria.”

NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, was quoted as saying during a live interview on Arise TV on 13th April 2020.

The Oyinbo wall
The Oyinbo wall(Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong) with Goal Keeper, Maduka Okoye in the middle in the game against Algeria.

Out of the five defenders Nigeria used in the game against Algeria, four were players of Nigerian descent; William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Tyronne Ebuehi, and, Kevin Akpoguma.

More are still coming.

The last U20 team had three foreign-born stars while the U17 had two.

How can Nigeria combine getting their fill of ready-made players from Europe and help their league players to dream of a national team invitation?


  1. […] The 2013 and 2015 U17 and U20 squads provide the backdrop of the super eagles except for integrated foreign players of Nigerian descent. […]

  2. […] He also claimed Europe is the only continent where players can reach their potential.  […]

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