A former England youth international has reflected on a career that saw him become a Premier League star but fail to make an impact with a national team
Former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha has revealed his regret at choosing not to represent Nigeria at the international level.
Onuoha confessed that he was twice approached by different handlers of the Super Eagles four years apart, but the fear of losing his shirt at Manchester City made him snub the three-time African champions.
Born in Warri, Delta State, Onuoha and his family emigrated to England when he was young, receiving his British citizenship at seven years old, thus becoming eligible to feature for England.
After his breakthrough at Man City, Onuoha became a regular for the England U20s and 21s, representing them 21 times in four years.
And while the centre-back waited for a dream Three Lions call-up, then Super Eagles coached Berti Vogts contacted him ahead of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
But Onuachu revealed that he snubbed the calls because leaving for an Afcon that was not rated in England would have affected his first-team chances at Manchester City.
Speaking to Sports Mole, Onuoha said, “In the lead up to the AFCON championships, you could hear how people were speaking ill of it, the timing of it, not taking it seriously and the like, and that frustrated me so I was continually pushing back, pushing back against it and initially when I was [at Man City] under Mancini, I said to Berti Vogts, the then Nigeria manager, that I couldn’t go because I wasn’t comfortable in my club position.
“[At the time, I felt] that you would fall down the pecking order if you decided to go and play for your national team. This would never be the case if you were playing for England or if you were playing for another European nation.”
Onuoha was on the payroll of Man City for eight years, featuring in 93 Premier League matches, before finally leaving for Queens Park Rangers in 2012.
That dream England invitation never arrived and, looking back at his career, the ex-QPR defender admits he regrets not wearing the famous green-and-white jersey of the Super Eagles.
Onuoha added: “I had been drinking the Kool-Aid and I fell into that mindset; I think I missed that because if in a late part of my career that option would have ever come, I would have gone.
“If a club wants to punish you for representing your country, I think that’s not a problem for you; that’s a problem for them, that’s their situation, their perception of other countries because at the end of the day, you’re not really picking where you are from, so why should you be criticised because of it?
“In some ways, it was a bit of a regret but then in the same breath [because] I didn’t have those experiences then I wouldn’t be perceiving things the way that I do today. So I do appreciate that and I would have loved to have worn the shirt but I’m just going to have to support from a distance now,” he concluded.
Nedum, it’s good you didn’t have to play for Nigeria at any time in your life, as you thought your career would have been at stake. Would it have made any difference if you had moved on instead of regretting today? After all, you cannot eat your cake and have it. Ask John Fashanu. We had John Chidozie, whose mother was British and a handful of other Nigerian-British born players who willingly sacrificed to play for Nigeria, the country of their fathers, at the time, yet their clubs never for once tried to sanction them because they knew that AFCON competitions are approved by FIFA. It was your choice, and your club was your source of daily bread. That’s the way life goes
This has always been the trend, the players will snub initially then come to tell us they regret afterwards. The thing there is that, Nigeria lose, the lose.
I think NFF should put a psychology team on this. To be honest, the English team is not better than our super eagles. So why the option of england over Nigeria?
I think we need to change the time we play africa cup of nations, so that something like this will not continue to happen to those who are willing to play for their father’s land, but afraid of their clubs.
The sad reality is that, most of the British born Nigerian players don’t get it, or understand that, England only need them to make up the numbers. But in reality, they never use them when it matters most. Why wait to play for a national team that will only use you for friendly games and dump you in FIFA approved competitions? Sadly too, the present footballers in Onuoha’s situation, are still making exactly the same mistakes.