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Two England 23-Year-Olds Face Eligibility Questions In Possible Switch To Play For Nigeria

Tammy Abraham
Tammy Abraham

September 19, (THEWILL) – Tammy Abraham, the ex-Chelsea forward has been encouraged to consider changing his nationality if his consistent vein of form in the Italian League is not enough to merit a call up to the England national team ahead of the World Cup. The encouragement came from Jose Mourinho, manager of Serie A side Roma, where Abraham is making waves.

Since linking up with Mourinho at Roma, the 23-year-old has improved tremendously. His contribution so far has included two goals and two assists in the five games he has featured in. Abraham has been instrumental to Roma maintaining a 100% start to the season with the Italian capital club yet to lose or draw in their six out of six wins.

This has been behind Mourinho’s determination to make the forward one of Europe’s feared strikers and the Portuguese manager holds that Abraham can be of use to the senior national team of England for the good of the formidable squad that Gareth Southgate has built.

Yet, Mourinho believes that if he is still overlooked in the selection of the English squad, the 23-year-old must have to consider the option of switching allegiances to some other country. Abraham had the option in 2017 to switch to Nigeria, but having risen through their youth ranks, decided to pledge his future to England.

Abraham’s father, who is close friends with Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick may have discussed persuading his son to switch to Nigeria that in September 21, 2017, Pinnick claimed that Abraham had actually made the decision to switch.

However, Abraham promptly dismissed the claim in a statement that very same day while reaffirming his availability for selection for England. When he was called up to the English squad in November 2017, Abraham stated that there was never any prospect of him choosing to play for Nigeria.

Mourinho, possibly not privy of that detail said: “I am trying to create a monster of a forward for Southgate. Unless he doesn’t have proper eyes. Then I would suggest Tammy Abraham switch countries. He deserves more caps under his name.”

But, there is a caveat. Despite the new change in nationality switch by FIFA, the forward, whose full name is Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham and who was an England youth international, Abraham represented the nation from under-18 level, and featured at the 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Poland, is still ineligible to represent Nigeria.

In another case of allegiance switching to Nigeria’s Super Eagles squad and also buzzing around the EPL side Chelsea, a former of the London-based side, Fikayo Tomori, has expressed pride in his Nigerian heritage. This comes despite the fact that he is yet to play for Nigeria at any level.

Tomori, whose full name is Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola Tomori, moved to Italy, just like Abraham did, in the summer and has been receiving rave reviews for his displays so far in AC Milan.

His comments about his pride in his Nigerian heritage is linked to considerations of a potential switch of nationalities even though it is not the first time that Tomori will be involved in such a switch. THEWILL recalls that the 23-year-old started his international career with Canada’s Under-20s in 2016 before switching allegiance to England where he went on to play for the Three Lions.

Yet, since 2019, Tomori is yet to get another call up. His resurgence at the centre back position at AC Milan, where they have conceded just once in three games, may just be the trump card that brings him into contention in Southgate’s squad once more.

However, in any event that that does not happen, Tomori’s comments might be the onset of the defender weighing up his options with the English side with the World Cup 2022 drawing near. He spoke glowingly about his Nigerian roots in a recent interview.

He was approached by Nigeria before his only game for England in 2019 but he was already committed to accepting the English call up even if he revealed in the interview that he feels very Nigerian based on his upbringing.

Concerning his eligibility, the FIFA rules state that players can still switch international sides if a player has made no more than three appearances for his country, all of those appearances came before the age of 21 and none of them were in a major international tournament.

Considering that Tomori made his senior debut for England on 17 November 2019 against Kosovo in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier, the only game he played for the team which is not a major international tournament but which happened when he was about 21, might mean there is a slim threshold to render him ineligible for the switch.

Yet, he could give it a shot if he is convinced that there is a narrow chance for it to sail through and if he is convinced about the decision.