Why Nigeria’s pursuit of Tammy Abraham is stupid
Background photo: Jeff Attaway, CC-BY-SA 2.0
Success, as they say, has many friends. Tammy Abraham and his father can consider themselves blessed to truly experience what that means. What’s bizarre is how the tall forward is now being used to score cheap political points in a country he rarely ever visits.
The Nigeria national team is in dire need of proven centre-forward. Odion Ighalo’s retirement from the Super Eagles buttresses the rhetoric. Lille’s Victor Osimhen is being touted to replace the former Watford scorer. Trabzonspor’s Anthony Nwakaeme and FC Midtjylland’s Paul Onuachu are other forwards vying for Ighalo’s hung jersey. Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho cannot be completely forgotten.
Except for Iheanacho, whose career is a terrifying nightmare right now, none of the aforementioned strikers plays in any of Europe’s top five leagues. Does that even matter?
The average Nigerian football fan cannot deny their addiction to Europe’s elite. The Premier League is a different drug altogether. Nigerians idolise any footballer who cuts it in the English top-flight. That’s why Iheanacho’s predicament is such a worry for Super Eagles faithful.
Just when Iheanacho was beginning to slip out of mind, the media has played a big part in reminding everyone how Chelsea goal-poacher Abraham is a Nigerian.
There’s a never-ending debate about the lack of opportunities for home-based players in the Super Eagles. Regardless, someone like Abraham simply cannot be ignored. His soaring popularity has helped. In fact, we’ve seen a Super Eagles player go on social media to drool over the prospect of having Abraham play for Nigeria. If that’s not condescending, I don’t know what is.
The unnecessary Tweet
The media has been awash with news of the Sports Minister in Nigeria putting a call across to Abraham’s father. The motive was to get the Chelsea striker to commit his international career to Nigeria.
The sports minister didn’t commit a sacrilege per se. Despite FIFA’s stance, there’s still a lot of government interference in football matters. But blowing it out of proportion by making it public knowledge on twitter is pretty much stupid.
In 2017, the Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick bragged to the media he had convinced Abraham to play for Nigeria. The striker quickly came out to refute that claim and subsequently received a call-up by England. It was a glaring insult.
Two years on, Abraham still hasn’t a full England cap despite his superb start to life as a Chelsea first-team player. That makes him eligible to play for Nigeria. Albeit, it doesn’t justify another government official leveraging the opportunity to bait Abraham on social media. That’s nonsensical.
No one can fault Abraham for desiring to play for England. Born and bred in London, it’s probably been his dream to don for the Three Lions since he was a kid. Again, the opportunity to play for a national team as big as England’s isn’t easy to pass up. However, unlike England where Harry Kane is boss, Abraham can walk into the Nigeria first team. So what’s the point pleading with him on social media?
Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi are good examples of players who once found themselves in Abraham’s situation. Both players opted to play for their fatherland. Mind you, the country’s commander-in-chief didn’t have to call them, and then broadcast it on social media.
Dele Alli and Ross Barkley are stars who refused subtle advances from Nigeria. They both went on to become a mainstay in the English national team. No hard feelings if you’re a Nigerian supporter. Many of you didn’t know Nigeria ever tried to get these players to feature for the Super Eagles. That’s how things should be done.
Here’s the bottom line for the Abraham saga.
Tammy Abraham is a good player. He’s young with has over a decade of football to give his country. It’s possible Nigeria can convince him to play for the Super Eagles thanks to the level of competition in the England squad. Still, it’s foolhardy when a high-ranking government official tells the world his country is hot on the heels of a 21-year-old.