Chuba Akpom is close to joining the ranks of English-born footballers declaring to play for Nigeria, although the 21-year-old is yet to make a final decision on his international future.
The Arsenal striker has been training with the Nigeria squad in Barnet this week, as part of the Nigerian Football Federation’s attempts to recruit the next generation of young players born in England to Nigerian parents.
The Independent revealed this week that after years of underperformance, the NFF is determined to make the most of its English-based players ahead of the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. They recruited Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi in 2015 and now believe that they have persuaded Akpom, his best friend and former Arsenal youth team-mate, to play for them too.
Akpom has played for England from under-16 up to under-21 level, and played for Gareth Southgate’s England Under-21s as recently as September last year. But he enjoyed his time with Nigeria this weekend and is now close to commiting his future to them. Akpom will likely be in Nigeria’s squad for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in June. Akpom is on loan from Arsenal to Brighton and Hove Albion and is set to leave in the summer.
Akpom will join Iwobi in a new generation of English-born or English-raised Nigerian playes. Ola Aina, the Chelsea right-back who has played for England Under-20 level, was training in Barnet too this week and is also set to represent his parents’ country from this summer and beyond.
Eberechi Eze of Queens Park Rangers and Josh Maja of Sunderland were in training too and have not fully decided yet, but are both understood to be leaning towards playing for Nigeria. Fred Onyedinma of Millwall and Joe Aribo of Charlton are also expected to declare for Nigeria too. Ademola Lookman of Everton, who played for England Under-20s on Saturday, has not yet decided which country he will represent at senior level.