Zaha’s U-turn to play for CIV: Could this be the turning points for players of Nigerian descent

By Augustine Akhilomen
Nobody would have ever imagined that Wilfried Zaha would be changing allegiance to don the colours of the Cote d’Ivoire national team despite featuring for the Three Lions of England in two international friendly games in 2012 and 2013.

This development may come as good news to the Nigeria Football Federation considering the fact that some quality players of Nigerian descent could use this platform to have a change of thought as per representing the Super Eagles at the highest level instead of been used as friendly materials.

The Crystal Palace winger who was touted to become a super star immediately he joined the star studded Manchester United squad, had the dream of achieving great success not only with the Red Devils but also using that platform to launch himself into the senior national team.

Zaha, a creative, skillful and an out and out winger, whose pace and energy has always been a nightmare for defenders in the English Premier League, is sure to give the Ivorian team lots of options at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations slated for Gabon and the 2018 World Cup qualifier, of which the team are second on the table.

The Ivory Coast Football Federation (IFF) announced in a statement on Sunday night: ‘The Ivorian-English attacking midfielder Wilfried Zaha has chosen to play for the Elephants, under the colours of the Ivory Coast, his country of origin.’

Perhaps, the former Manchester United player must have looked at the dimmed prospect of still representing England, something that seem unrealistic before making up his mind.

It would be recalled that the NFF under the leadership of Amaju Pinnick has been making frantic efforts to not only lure but to convince players of Nigerian descent who are plying their football career in Europe to play for the Super Eagles.

With players such as Victor Moses, Carl Ikeme, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun and Alex Iwobi having changed allegiance to play for Nigeria and playing regularly for the team, it is expected that other players such as Chelsea trio of Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Ola Aina, Liverpool’s Ovie Ejaria, Ado Den Haag’s Tyronne Ebuehi, Arsenal’s Chuba Akpom, Tottenham’s Joshua Onomah, Wolves’ Dominic Iofa and Jordan Ibe can also follow on their footsteps.

There is no doubt that it’s the dream of every player to play for England, however, their chances are slim most especially if they don’t possess that exceptional skills that could separate them from other fringe players. Perhaps, if Marcos Rashford wasn’t playing for Man United, it could be unlikely he would be given a chance with the Three Lions.

In the past, Nigeria have lost players to England who are made to play one or two competitive games before been frozen from the team. Such players include, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Nedum Onuoha, Ugo Ehiogu, Carlton Cole, Dele Alli, Ross Barkley and a few to mention. Others playing for different nationalities are, Sidney Sam, Dennis Aogo, Patrick Owomeyela, Tiago Ilori and Stefano Okaka.

In all, this could just be the perfect time for some players of Nigerian descent to reconsider their decision by looking at the prospect of playing for the Super Eagles ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

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