It should be easier to tell the difference between a sheep and a wolf than to separate an update from regurgitation. However, recent reports on various Nigerian media outlets on the protracted process of some dual nationality players to switch allegiance served to offer no new insight on the matter. Ademola Lookman, Ovie Ejaria and Ike Ugbo are all former England youth Internationals who have been widely reported for very many months now as having filed papers to shed their Lion skins in favour of Eagle feathers but the process is yet to fly to fruition. In fact, some fans even question the validity of the claims linking Ademola Lookman to a switch in nationality. If we recall, when someone like former England youth International Chuba Akpom elected to hitch his fading star to the ultra-modern Super Eagles wagon (designed and driven by Gernot Rohr), he went to reputable media outlets like the BBC to make his intentions known. High flying at the time Nigeria wanted him the most, Akpom now struggles to make the starting 11 in the English Championship with modest Middlesbrough. But his position of where he wants to play his international football is clear even though it is clearly obvious he has a mountain to climb to displace any of the centre forward options when his national switch process concludes.
And conclusion or near-conclusion was the news I was expecting of Lookman and co but all we hear is that they are still going through the process. Perhaps, it would help to know how far along in the process they are and of what may be holding things up and how the NFF plans to expedite things. The three players are exciting no doubt and would definitely add value to a Nigeria side clearly buoyed by the outcome of recent matches and their upward climb in the much revered FIFA rankings. Lookman brings pace, power and purpose from the flanks whilst his efforts on goal can be pristine and come with precision by and large. That said, he will have his work cut out to displace even the fringe options in that department as that is an area in which the options are ubiquitous for Nigeria. So, it should be a labour of love for Rohr to add Lookman to the list of those to scrutinise. Ejaria is another who should make the likes of Etebo and Aribo sit up. Etebo’s performance dropped slightly before Nigeria’s match against Ukraine in 2019. The minute Aribo burst into the scene and was realistically going to brush him aside, he sat up and now plays like a born-again midfielder with evidence of moving, passing and shooting with divine tongues. Aribo on his part has struggled to reprise his seminal classics displayed against Ukraine and Brazil. A consummate professional and a fan favourite, the weight of Ejaria in the Super Eagles scale should help him (Aribo) redouble his efforts.
As for Ike Ugbo, precedence is not his friend. Reason being, most dual nationality players find it easier to break into the midfield and defence departments of the Super Eagles. The centre forward (and winger) role still seems to tip more in favour of indigenous Nigerian players. But his availability will still be a welcome development and more reasons for Osimhen, Onuachu and co. not to rest on their laurels. As we look forward to world cup qualifiers, the news we expect next on this matter is either that the players’ nationality switch process have concluded or that the NFF are taking steps to expedite the process. Outside that, media outlets should move to more meaningful matters rather than waste readers’ time with meaningless regurgitations.
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