Players of Nigerian Descent Set to Light up the World Cup in Qatar
When the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar on tomorrow, Nigeria’s flag will not be hoisted in the Asian country, but several Nigerian names will be on parade at the Mundial in the colours of other competing Nations. Interestingly too, MultiChoice has finalised plans to ensure that viewers can watch all the 64 matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup live and in high definition on both DStv and GOtv. Not only will they be able to watch all the matches, for the first time, MultiChoice will be broadcasting the matches in local languages such as Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and pidgin English
Nigeria soccer fans were hoping for a fourth consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and when the Super Eagles drew the Black Stars of Ghana in the first leg of the last qualifier match at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Kumasi, hope of a Mundial appearance had reached its crescendo but it was not to be as the Ghanaians had other ideas.
The Black Stars marshalled by Arsenal midfielder, Thomas Partey pulled a 1-1 draw in the second leg encounter at the National Stadium, Abuja, to qualify on goal aggregate to end the Super Eagles dream of joining the Qatar party.
Most Nigerians may not yet have felt the impact of not qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, until when the world football showpiece kicks off at Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, on tomorrow.
Nigerians can however take consolation in the fact that several players of Nigerian descent will be on parade when the Mundial begins.
As the Three Lions of England would be hoping to better their semi-final feat at the last edition of the Mundial in Russia four years ago, one of the players they will be counting on is Bukayo Saka. The 21-year-old, who was born in London to Nigerian parents, was eligible to play for the Super Eagles but chose the Three Lions instead.
He has since made 22 appearances for Gareth Southgate’s side, scoring four goals in the process since making his debut in 2020. He scored thrice during the qualification to Qatar. Under Mikel Arteta’s tutelage, the Arsenal youngster burst onto the scene two seasons ago and has grown to be one of the Gunners’ key players. He is expected to extend his fine form at Arsenal to the national team aiming to go further than their semi-final finish four years ago.
Another player with Nigerian roots that will be starring in Qatar is Manuel Akanji, who will be flying the flag of Switzerland. The 27-year-old was born in Neftenbach, Switzerland, to a Nigerian father and a Swiss mother, but has chosen to represent the Red Crosses.
The Manchester City defender is not a stranger to the world’s biggest football competition as he was in Russia four years ago. He has represented the European country 42 times. Akanji was heavily touted to represent Nigeria before pitching his tent with his the country of his birth.
Aside from Akanji, the Swiss national team will be represented at the World Cup by another player of Nigerian descent. Like Akanji, Noah Okafor was born to a Nigerian father and a Swiss mother. The Binningen-born 22-year-old forward represented Switzerland at every youth level before making his senior debut in 2019.
Another country that would be parading two players of Nigerian descent is Germany with Jamal Musiala and Karim Adeyemi in their fold.
Musiala was born to a British-Nigerian father in Stuttgart and has a German mother. He moved to England at seven and has featured for the English U-17 side but also made the decision to play for his mother’s nation at the senior level instead of Nigeria.
One-time Nigeria manager, Gernot Rohr had attempted to convince the 19-year-old to play for the Super Eagles in 2020, but Musiala turned down his offer, choosing the Mannschaft instead. He made his debut for the Europeans in March 2021 and has since then played 16 more games for the side with one goal to his credit. Hansi Flick will be banking on the youth sensation to help the Germans win their first World Cup after 2014.
Just like Musiala, the German team will be fielding 20-year-old Adeyemi after Flick listed him in the squad for the quadrennial competition. Adeyemi was born to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother in the German city of Munich. Having played for the European nation at all age-grade levels, he made his senior team debut in a World Cup qualification against Armenia on September 5, 2021.
The forward, who plays for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, joined the German side in May 2022. Before then, the striker scored 19 times for Red Bull Salzburg in the 2021-2022 campaign. Since switching to Germany, he has played four times for the side.
Two players with Nigerian roots- Ike Ugbo and Samuel Adekugbe made the cut for the Canadian national team.
Ugbo, who plays for Ligue 1 team Troyes was born in London to Nigerian parents but the family moved to Canada when he was around five. The 24-year-old forward was eligible to represent the three nations, but he committed his future to Canada. The former Chelsea youth player then made his debut for the North Americans in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica on November 12. Overall, he has played eight times for the Reds since then.
Adekugbe was born in England to Nigerian parents and the 27-year-old defender’s family later moved to Canada and the player who features for Turkish Super Lig club Hatayspor is on the plane to the Middle East nation hoping to make an impact with Canada.
Interestingly, these players of Nigerian descent are no strangers to soccer loving Nigerians courtesy of MultiChoice that has been consistently airing live matches of the 2022/23 season to the homes of viewers. Nigerians have had the rare opportunity of watching their Super Eagles stars taking Europe by storm every week courtesy of MultiChoice.
In Italy, where Victor Osimhen has been soldiering Napoli’s quest for a first Scudetto in 42 years, Ademola Lookman on his part has scored in three consecutive Serie A matches for Atalanta in their pursuit for a Champions League spot.
Everton are enjoying a new lease of life this new season after escaping relegation by the skin of the teeth last season majorly to Alex Iwobi’s newfound form. In the La Liga, Samuel Chukwueze remains the powerhouse of Villareal.
One legacy to be recognized from immediate past President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Pinnick was having successfully wooed players of Nigerian descent to star for the Super Eagles in spite of having played for their countries of birth at the junior cadre and the list is endless from Victor Moses to Leon Balogun to Henry Onyekuru to Sheyi Ojo, and most recently Lookman, to mention but a few.
Yet, there are still many more potential players the NFF ‘VIP Scouting’ could still woo. Crystal Palace duo of Ebere Eze and Michael Olise could still be convinced to opt to play for Nigeria. Arnaut Danjuma of Villarreal, Destiny Udogie of Udinese, Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri, Michael Folorunsho of Bari and Hamburger SV’s Jonas David are all still eligible to star for Nigeria.
The former NFF boss had reiterated severally that youngsters of Nigerian origin who are doing well in England and other leagues will wear the Nigerian colours at the appropriate time.
Adding that the federation was monitoring several Nigerian players that are making waves in the various leagues.
As the official broadcast partner of the FIFA World Cup in Nigeria, MultiChoice will be screening live matches from the tournament and offering live commentary in local languages for viewers to enjoy the tournament guaranteeing all customers the best seat in the house for the 2022 World Cup.