ARSENAL fullback Bukayo Saka has been told by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) that they will only consider inviting him to the Super Eagles camp if he shows a willingness to switch his nationality through Fifa.
Saka, 18, who recently broke into the Arsenal first team, was born and bred in the UK to Nigerian parents, so is eligible to represent both nations at international level. So far, he has represented England at under-16, under-17, under-18 and under-19 level, so to play for Nigeria as a fully fledged senior international, he will have to switch nationality through Fifa.
This switching process takes about a year and in the past, Nigeria has been able to successfully get the likes of Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Ola Aina to switch from England after having represented the country at youth level. However, there have also been a few players of Nigerian extraction like Dele Alli, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, who opted to play for England instead.
NFF president Amaju Pinnick has come under pressure to approach Saka to see if the player is interested in featuring for Nigeria but is he is wary of embarking on another wild goose chase. Mr Pinnick embarked on a recruitment drive last year as he attempted to lure the Chelsea duo Abraham and Tomori but his trip to London was unsuccessful.
After ending up with egg on his face over Abraham whom he courted publicly, Mr Pinnick said he will not coerce players to switch their nationality to Nigeria going forward. It is believed that England manager Gareth Southgate already has his sights on Saka and will be watching the 18-year-old this Saturday when Arsenal face Manchester City in the FA Cup, with a view to a senior squad call-up in September.
Mr Pinnick said: “Saka is an excellent prospect but we have other players in his position who are playing so well. We have talents everywhere so we won’t beg people to play for Nigeria but if it’s their desire and they merit it, they’ll be given chance to represent Nigeria.”
Other players with dual nationality Mr Pinnick is currently chasing include Ebere Eze of Queens Park Rangers and Reading’s Ovie Ejaria. Both playmakers will have to undergo nationality switches through Fifa, having featured for England at youth level.