Kevin Akpoguma: Trust in ‘Project Eagles’

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Nigeria Football Federation’s VIP Scouting has passed another litmus test after German-born Nigerian; Kevin Akpoguma chooses to represent the country of his father over Germany despite having represented the latter at the age-grade level
TSG Hoffenheim centre-back, Kevin Akpoguma, has announced his decision to represent the Nigeria national team instead of Germany.
Born to a German mother and a Nigerian father, Akpoguma, is eligible to play for both countries.

The 25-year-old played for the German national team in most youth levels, from U-16 all the way through the U-21.
Despite becoming an invaluable part of his side since his return from his loan spell with Hannover 96, Akpoguma never received a first team call-up.
Therefore, he decided to take on another challenge as he will represent the Super Eagles from now on.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I am now at an age where I have already gained experience at European level with TSG and feel ready to play for my homeland,” he told Hoffenheim’s official website.

“It makes me incredibly proud and I am positively excited. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the team,” he concluded.
Akpoguma will however have to wait for some time before he gets his first taste of international football as he has yet to receive the legal clearance to enable him be part of the Super Eagles team that will face Algeria and Tunisia on October 9 and 13 respectively.

Meanwhile, Nigeria senior team Manager, Gernot Rohr has attributed his Super Eagles’ vision to Akpoguma’s decision to opt to play for Nigeria.
According to Rohr, it was his vision for Nigeria that persuaded former Germany youth captain to commit his international future to the Super Eagles.

Akpoguma, 25, has a German mother and a Nigerian father-making him eligible to play for the three-time African champions.
Despite 62 Germany caps from U-16 to U-21 level, the defender has opted to capitalise on the Fifa rules which allows him to switch allegiances.
“It was not my job to convince Akpoguma to come and play for Nigeria,” Rohr told BBC Sport.

“I had a good conversation with him and his family while watching several games in Hoffenheim.
“After the matches we met and could talk. I presented our projects and I could speak about the team, about this incredible period in the Super Eagles and my vision for the team.
“He was sold on this and would love to be a part of the team and play in big international competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations or even the World Cup.”
Rohr’s policy of picking foreign-born players has angered some observers in Nigeria, but he remains unfazed as he continues to increase the selection pool for the Super Eagles.

Since the German took charge in August 2016, the number of players born overseas has risen with the arrivals of Ola Aina, Brian Idowu, Tyronne Ebuehi, Joe Aribo, Maduka Okoye, Kingsley Ehizibue and Cyril Dessers.
Akpoguma’s commitment gives the coach an extra option as he looks for a long-term addition to the regular centre-back quartet of Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong and Semi Ajayi.
Amid Rohr’s excitement about the prospect of working with the defender, he admits that he will have to wait before welcoming him into the Super Eagles fold.

“We are very happy about the decision of Kevin Akpoguma to switch from Germany to Nigeria,” Rohr said.
“Because he played for Germany at youth levels, the process is not finished yet because Fifa must give the authorisation.
“He has fulfilled the written request to switch and we only await the good news that he can finally play for us.

“It’s too soon to expect him to play our two friendlies in October, but hopefully for the Nations Cup qualifiers in November.”
Born in the western town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Akpoguma started his professional career at Karlsruhe SC and also played for Fortuna Düsseldorf.
The 2014 European U-19 Championship winner captained Germany at the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, helping them beat Nigeria 1-0 in the second round.

Interestingly, Akpoguma was part of the Hoffenheim team that stunned Bundesliga and Champions League holders Bayern Munich 4-1 in Sunday’s Bundesliga game.
Akpoguma featured for 90 minutes as Hoffenheim inflicted Bayern with a first defeat since they lost 2-1 to Monchengladbach in December 2019.