If there is one area in Super Eagles team that was always giving Manager Gernot Rohr cause for concern, it is the goalkeeping department. That is why he would be wishing more than ever that Tottenham Hotspur whiz kid, Joshua Oluwayemi commits his international future to Nigeria over England in spite of having represented the English at the age-grade level
Born in Waltham Forest 19 years ago, Oluwayemi comes from a family of goalkeepers as his father, Abiodun Ogunyemi, was a goalkeeper for Ogun State University and attended Federal Government College Odogbolu, while his sibling, Tobi is also a goalkeeper at Glasgow Celtic.
Oluwayemi has represented England at U-15 and U-16 levels and has said that he would accept an invitation to play for the Nigeria teams if approached by Nigeria Football Federation.
Speaking after Tottenham Hotspur U-18s beat Southampton 3-1 in the first game hosted at New Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on last year, Oluwayemi told mafisportsmedia.com: ‘’If Nigeria comes for me, then I’ll go but at the moment I am focusing on England youth, and then Nigeria first.’’
Oluwayemi has played non-binding games for England at U-15 and U-16 levels, meaning he can play for Nigeria’s youth teams straightaway without applying for a one-time change of association.
The promising goalkeeper hinted recently that informal talks had taken place regarding pledging his allegiance to Nigeria, following a chance meeting between Super Eagles legend Nwankwo Kanu and his dad.
In an Instagram conversation with Team Nigeria UK on Monday evening, Oluwayemi said: “I have never actually travelled to Nigeria but the thing with London, the community, is like I have been to Nigeria.
“I am surrounded by some Nigerian uncles coming around but I’ve never actually been to Nigeria. Definitely, there are plans to visit Nigeria with my parents.”
When quizzed on whether he had been approached by the Nigerian Federation to play for their youth teams, he responded: “I have had couple of Nigerian people after games. I saw Kanu one time, he was at one of our games, he was talking to my dad, but not really like that.
“Definitely I’ll be looking at Nigeria but my options are open.”
On playing the first game at the new Spurs Stadium last year, the third-year scholar said: ‘’It’s a very good experience, I am happy to see a lot of fans and the crowd coming over to support us. It was a good result.’’
Oulwayemi is learning to be a top goalkeeper under the tutelage of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal legend Pat Jennings.
Oluwayemi alongside Jubril Okedina in 2017 extended their stay at English Premier League side, Tottenham. Both players, born in the UK but eligible for Nigeria, have signed two-year extensions to their scholarship at the North London club and are among the 16 new intakes ahead of the 2017/18 football season.
They have been promoted to the Tottenham Hotspur U-18 team, and are eligible to feature in this season’s UEFA Youth League.
Since the controversial retirement of former Super Eagles goalkeeper and captain, Vincent Enyeama, the goalkeeping department had been one problematic area for senior national team until the arrival of Carl Ikeme, who steadied the ship.
He did not however, last long as the Wolverhampton Wanderers FC safe hands was diagnosed with acute leukemia in July 2017, culminating in his early retirement from football.
Ikeme was in goal for Nigeria’s first three matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying series (home and away against Swaziland in the preliminary stage, and away to Zambia in the opener to the group phase campaign) before being diagnosed of acute leukemia. His first cap was in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in September 2015.
During the 2018 World Cup qualifying matches, three goalkeepers were on parade- Ikeme, who lost out to acute Leukaemia, Daniel Akpeyi, who was shaky against Algeria in Uyo and Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who Rohr has no total conviction in. Dele Ajiboye and Dele Alampasu were outsiders, forcing Rohr to turn his searchlight on the then 18-year-old Deportivo La Coruna’s Francis Uzoho.
If Oluwayemi can commit his international future to his fatherland one can only hope that the problem in the goalkeeping department of the Super Eagles won’t last longer.