Two years ago, then on loan to Swansea, the Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick met with Tammy Abraham in England on the possibility of donning the colours of the Super Eagles especially with Nigeria just one leg to Russia 2018 World Cup. His verdict was, “I want to carry on playing for England.” However, having falied hugely in the pecking order for a place in the English national team, the Chelsea striker is not ruling out the possibility of switching his international allegiance to the three-time African champions
“I can confirm I met the President of the NFF given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide off the mark. I have informed the FA that I remain available for selection for England.”
These were the words of Abraham two years ago
Which contradicted Pinnick, who had claimed then that: “I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week. It has been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively that he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England. Clearly, he understands he stands a better chance playing for the Super Eagles. With his talent, he has the ability to fight for a place in the Nigeria squad,” Pinnick had said.
Two years on, Abraham has now refused to rule out the possibility of switching his international allegiance to Nigeria in spite of having made two appearances for the Three Lions in friendly matches but the caps earned against Brazil and Germany do not tie him down to England for the rest of his career.
The 21-year-old has not been invited to the senior national team of England for close to two years but remains a key member of the U21 team.
Speaking to ACL Sports on the possibility of representing Nigeria, Abraham said: ‘’Anything is still possible. I have not ruled it out completely but we will see!’’
Abraham has recently been subjected to racist abuse by Chelsea fans after his penalty loss against Liverpool in the Super Cup but his manager, Frank Lampard had come to his defence.
Lampard offered his support to the striker, saying: “Obviously Tammy is more than disappointed – who wouldn’t be?
“I am disgusted by a so-called Chelsea fan. Tammy asked me to take the fifth penalty because he wanted to stand up on a big night when the world was watching.
“Moments afterwards, somebody sitting behind a keyboard or a phone has said the most disgusting things possible.
“I don’t know how it’s allowed; it’s too easy. Something needs to be done, as well as obviously changing mind-sets completely.
“I’m so angry for Tammy and angry for us as a club, because that’s not what we’re about. The club does a lot of work against discrimination at all levels and it’s a setback when these things happen.”
“Tammy is always desperate to score and that’s one of the things I love about him. He’s hungry, he wants to score in training, in five-a-sides, in shooting practice,” said Lampard.
After firing Aston Villa back into the Premier League, the 21-year old declared his intention to the egg heads of Chelsea he was ready to lead the line for The Blues next season and when asked if he believed he was ready to lead the line for the Blues this season, Abraham said: “I do. I am still young, I am still improving.
“The aim is to be at the highest level and playing the best football, and if Chelsea say they need me there, I will put 100 per cent in.
“Every player wants to start. Obviously, it is always difficult at a club like Chelsea because they have got world-class players. But, for me, it is about believing in myself and just keeping doing what I do. I do believe in myself, so wherever I am I believe I will score goals.”
Abraham joined Chelsea at U-8 level and progressed through the clubs academy system. He was part of the Chelsea youth side which recorded back to back triumphs in both the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup in 2015 and 2016. In the 2016 edition of the UEFA Youth League, Abraham pitched in with a return of eight goals in nine matches, making him the tournament’s second highest goal scorer. He carried his form over in to the FA Youth Cup and scored the winning goal in Chelsea’s victory over Manchester City. During the 2014–15 and 2015–16 seasons he scored 74 goals in 98 matches across all competitions for Chelsea’s various youth sides.
His form at youth level caught the attention of interim manager, Guus Hiddink, who invited him to train with the senior team at the back end of the 2015-16 Season.
Since assuming office as the President of the NFF, Pinnick had never hidden his intention to woo players with Nigerian background who have featured only in age-group competitions for foreign countries.
“The initial plan was to take our players in the various clubs, but now, what we are trying to do is what we call VIP scouting – talking to these young players that are playing abroad to play for their father land.
I am yet to see a Nigerian that is regretting being a Nigerian. No Nigerian, even if they have four or five passports, they are always excited being Nigerians. I can assure you that we shall get them to play for us at appropriate time,” Pinnick had said.
However, former national team head-coach, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde did not subscribe to the idea of wooing players with Nigeria background to don the national team colours, berating the NFF for always going after already-made stars abroad instead of developing the abundant talents in Nigeria. He wondered why the federation would wish to reap where it did not sow, saying that Abraham was born and developed in England and should be obliged to play for England.
“Yes, we should beg them since there is no meaningful, functional developmental programme at home. It’s the football federation’s fault. If we have a functional development programme, no player would be in position to take the country for a ride. Ideally, the nucleus of the national team should be home-based. That is what I have always said, but nobody seems to be interested in listening to my advice,” a furious Onigbinde said.
It however remains to be seen if Abraham has finally made a U-turn on England.