In a great country like Nigeria, numerous talents abound. And in football particularly, this nation is never in short supply of gifted individuals.
However, while some have grown from the ranks to stardom, adorning the great colors of the Super Eagles – the green and white – others have chosen to adorn the colors of other countries.
But whether this happens by dual nationalities, lack of opportunities to impress on the home front or outright decision to represent other countries, Nigeria can boast of a wealthy array of football talents in the diaspora.
While the likes of David Alaba, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Angelo Ogbonna and Nedum Onuoha may be already known players that have been added to the “what if” list of the Nigerian football history, there are a host of others who ply their trade in countries other than the country of their descent.
Below are the names of players who could have adorned the green-white-green of the national team but never did.
As surprised as you may be, this is true. Ross Barkley is of Nigerian descent.
Born on the 5th December 1993, Barkley is an English footballer who plays as a midfielder for Everton and the England national team. He has also played on loan for Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.
Barkley was born and raised in Liverpool. His paternal grandfather was Nigerian. He is eligible to play for both England and, through his paternal grandfather, Nigeria, but opted to represent his country of birth.
He has represented England at under-16, under-17, under-19, under-20, under-21 and senior level.
Saheed Adebayo Akinfenwa (born 10th May 1982), also known as Adebayo Akinfenwa, has spent his entire career in the lower leagues of English football but has still achieved global fame, thanks to a computer game.
According to the makers of the top-selling football franchise, FIFA, Akinfenwa is the strongest player in the world, a title he is proud to accept.
The 32-year-old forward has never been considered a natural footballer, numerous rugby clubs and American universities have asked him to switch sports because of his size and power. But Akinfenwa has only ever been interested in football.
Standing at just 5ft 11in, Akinfenwa weighs more than 16 stone. He shares the same football history with Shola Ameobi but the later got the opportunity, while at the age of 32, Akinfenwa has been overlooked by Nigeria coaches.
Sidney Sam (born 31st January 1988) is a German professional footballer who plays as a forward or winger for FC Schalke 04. Sam is known for his explosive speed and dribbling style on the line.
Born to a German mother and Nigerian father, Sam would have been eligible to play for the Nigerian national team but decided early on to represent his country of birth.
Sam was a German youth national player, starring in Germany’s under-19 and under-20 teams. On 29th May 2013, Sam made his senior international debut for Germany in a friendly game against Ecuador in Florida.
On 8th May 2014, Sam was named to the 30-man provisional squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup by German national team coach, Joachim Low.
Dennis Aogo (born 14th January 1987) is a German professional footballer who plays as a left back, left wing-back or in the midfield for Schalke 04.
Born to a German mother and a Nigerian father, Aogo grew up in Oberreut, a suburb in the southwest of Karlsruhe. In 2000, when his parents split up, he moved with his father to Bruschsal.
In 2002, aged 15, he attended the youth academy of SC Freiburg while graduating with Mittlere Reife in Freiburg.
Nigeria gave him the chance to play for them at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa but on the 5th of January 2010, Aogo announced that he will only play for Germany.
He made his national team debut for Germany in a friendly match against Malta in a 3–0 victory on 13th May 2010, playing 79 minutes. He has been capped 12 times.
Ikechi Anya (born 3rd January 1988) is another player of Nigerian descent playing for his adoptive country, Scotland. He is a professional footballer who plays as a right-winger for Championship side, Watford.
Anya’s father is a Nigerian research scientist of the Igbo ethnic group and his mother a Romanian economist. They moved to Scotland in the late 1980s for his father to obtain his doctorate in Metallurgy.
Eligible to also represent Romania, Nigeria or England internationally, he chose to play for the country of his birth, Scotland.
He received his first cap for the Scottish national team on 6th September 2013, coming off the bench in a 2-0 defeat to Belgium and scored his first international goal four days later in Scotland’s following match away to Macedonia.