Even the worst critic of Nigeria will never deny the fact that the country is blessed with abundant natural and human resources, both home and abroad. These human resources are spread across diverse fields of human endeavour including but not limited to Science, Politics, Sports, etc.
It is also common to see Nigerians excel in all walks of life far away from home, some have achieved honours donning the green white jersey, while a growing list of others has brought joy and attain the highest rank in their endeavours representing their host or adopted country.
With the growing list of Nigerian born or eligible players representing different teams in Europe, naijabusiness.com.ng would like to profile 16 English Premier League teams that have named Nigerian born players in the first team list for the new 2021/2022 English Premier League season;
Arsenal Football Club has a history of nurturing and featuring Nigerian born players in their first team right from the days of its former manager, Arsene Wenger. The Hale End Academy, a famous academy of the club has over the years produced players of Nigerian descent like Chuks Aneke, Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and a host of others.
Sequel to this, the club will be featuring the following Nigerian born players for the 2021/2022 EPL Season;
• Arthur Okonkwo: Okonkwo is a Nigerian born goalkeeper that was recently promoted to the Gunner’s (Arsenal) first team. The 19-year-old goalkeeper joined the club’s senior team after signing a long-term contract with the Emirates Stadium giants.
In the 2020-21 campaign, he trained with the first team regularly and also travelled with the squad as a third-choice goalie. He featured and impressed with Gunner’s youth team, part of which prompted his promotion. Standing at 6ft 6in tall, the teenager made 14 appearances across all competitions last season, keeping seven clean sheets and conceding 12 goals.
The Nigerian will be 20 years by the 9th of September. He has made four appearances for England at the Under-18 level and is eligible to represent both England and Nigeria.
• Folarin Balogun: The 20 year old sensation plays as a striker for Arsenal. He was born in the United States and represents England at youth international level. He signed his first professional contract with the team in February 2019. He made his senior debut in the Europa League on 29 October 2020, coming on as a substitute in the 74th minute in a group stage match against Dundalk. He scored his first senior goal on 26 November 2020, in a Europa League match against Molde. On 26 April 2021, Balogun signed a new long-term contract with the club.
He is young striker who has been likened to Arsenal’s legend, Ian Wright, is eligible to represent three countries- United States (his country of birth), United Kingdom and Nigeria.
• Bukayo Saka: Bukayo ‘Ayoyinka’ Saka needs no introduction as he has established himself in Arsenal’s first team. The 19 year old versatile player can play as a winger, left-back or midfielder. At age 17, Saka was given his first professional contract by Arsenal and was promoted to the Under-23 side. He made his EPL debut on 1st of January, 2019 becoming the first player born in the 21st century to play in a premier league match. He has since gone on to notch a total of 76 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions.
Saka is no longer eligible to represent Nigeria, having committed his International career to the Three Lions of England.
Chelsea FC has also featured Players of Nigerian descent in their first team over the years, right from the days of Celestine Babayaro to John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses, etc. For the 2021/2022 session, the following Nigerian born players were promoted to the first team;
• Faustino Anjorin: Faustino Adebola Rasheed Anjorin and fondly called Tino, is an English professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Chelsea. The 19 year old made his EPL debut on 8th of March, 2020 in a 4-0 win against Everton, he came in as a 71st minute substitute for Willian. He is eligible to represent both England and Nigeria. He will be wearing Jersey number 55 for Chelsea this season.
• Ike Ugbo: Ike is a versatile player who plays either as a forward or a midfielder for Chelsea. The 22 year old who had spent the last four seasons on loans to different clubs like Barnsley, Roda JC, Scunthorpe United, among others, was named in Chelsea first team this season with shirt number 99. He has represented England at the youth cadre (U-17 and U-20) and is still eligible to represent Nigeria.
Liverpool retained Sheyi Ojo and sold Taiwo Awoniyi to a German side, Union Berlin for a fee of £6.5 million. Sheyi Ojo will wear shirt number 54 this season. The 24 year old midfielder is still eligible to represent either England or Nigeria.
Manchester City FC
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola named a relatively unknown player of Nigerian descent, Samuel Ikechukwu Edozie in his squad. The 18 year old pacy and skillful forward can play either as a left or right winger. He joined City from Milwall in July 2019 and has been described by City boss as: ‘’An incredible young player’’. He will wear jersey number 99.
Manchester United FC
The red devils named a player of Nigerian descent, Shola Shoretire in its first team this season. The 17 year old forward with a Nigerian father and a British mother signed his first professional contract with Man United on 8 February, 2021. Few days later, he made his first team debut for United as an 88th minute substitute for Marcus Rashford in a 3-1 home league win over Newcastle United. The striker who is eligible to represent either England or Nigeria will be wearing jersey number 74.
Other top flight teams with players of Nigerian origin are;
- Aston Villa FC also named a Nigerian by the name Garney Chukwemeka in its first team this season. The 17 year old plays as a midfielder and is eligible to represent three countries, namely; Austria (country of birth), Nigeria and England.
- Crystal Palace FC named two players with Nigerian ancestry in their first team this season, the players are; Michael Akpovie Olise and Eberechi Eze. Both players are eligible to represent Nigeria
- Everton FC retained Alex Iwobi in its first team this season
- Leicester City FC also retained the duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi
- Norwich City FC named a relatively unknown Andrew Omobamidele into its first team this season. The 19 year old defender was born to a Nigerian father and an Irish mother. The defender is highly rated and has represented the Republic of Ireland at Senior Level, he was called up for Ireland’s summer friendlies against Andorra and Hungary. Based on FIFA Rule, he is still eligible to represent Nigeria.
- Southampton FC retained Nigerian born Michael Obafemi in its squad this season. The 21 year old striker who was eligible to represent England, Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland opted for the latter. He is currently ineligible to play for Nigeria.
- Tottenham FC named Tobi Omole in its first team this season. The 21 year old Centre-Back was promoted from Tottenham U-23. He is eligible to pay for either Nigeria or England.
- Watford FC will field four (4) Super Eagles players this season, namely; William Ekong, Oghenekaro Etebo, Dennis Bonaventure and Isaac Success.
- West Ham FC retained a relatively unknown Ademipo Odubeko. The 18 year old striker was promoted to the first team last season, following his exploits at the youth level. He is eligible to represent Nigeria, England or the Republic of Ireland.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers FC retained Ebeguowen Otasowie in its squad this season. The 20 year old versatile player who could either play as a defender or midfielder was promoted to the Wolves first team in 2019. He made his premier league debut on December 15, 2020 as a substitute for Leander Dendoncker in a 2-1 win over Chelsea.
- Brentford will also parade their new signing, Frank Onyeka. Recall that the premier league new comers on 20th of July, 2021, announced the signing of the Nigerian midfielder on a five year deal.