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EXCLUSIVE | NFF: We always knew Iwobi would choose Nigeria
Despite media reports that Iwobi was approached by the English FA to re-think his choice after he had arrived in Nigeria ahead of the encounter against Egypt, the Arsenal prodigy had already set his heart on the Super Eagles and so did not think of going back on his decision.
“I don’t really know about that, whether the English FA has contacted him or not but the recent surge of British media interest on the boy might seems to suggest so. However, we were not worried as we always knew where Iwobi’s heart is and it’s Nigeria,” NFF vice-president Shehu Dikko revealed to KingFut.
“Thankfully the issue is now closed as Iwobi has made his officials debut and indeed he was very brilliant and committed in the minutes he played against Egypt in Kaduna and almost assisted for what could have been a second goal for Nigeria, if not for the goal-line clearance by the Egyptian defender.
“After the game, Iwobi was utterly disgusted like all the other players that Nigeria didn’t win the match and this clearly showed his passion and believe in the course. Indeed, Iwobi is a perfect example to all other Nigerian-born players based abroad with the way he and his family practically pushed for him to play for Nigeria,” Dikko commented.
“He was with the U23 during the qualifiers for the African championship, though he didn’t get to play any of the officials games and he was subsequently included in the main squad, playing the friendly games against Congo and Cameroon in Belgium.
“He went back with lots of confidence and respect to Arsenal and broke into the first team. He even got a new contract according to reports. Thus, playing for Nigeria has also been good for him and now we all look to having him play for Nigeria for a long long time to come.
So happy watching Alex Iwobi (nephew) on the big stage.. I'm very much impressed with his performance.
— Jay-Jay Okocha (@IAmOkocha) March 16, 2016
Despite having Iwobi represent the Super Eagles, they also missed out on a lot of quality youngsters like Tottenham’s Dele Alli, Ross Barkley and may still miss out on Liverpool ace Jordan Ibe. The NFF have no plans of making more mistakes in the future.
“Well, it’s normally a decision of the family not really the player as mostly the players are young and been away for too long and or even never been here so can’t really take those decision without the family,” Dikko pointed out as it is well known that Iwobi’s father had influenced the player’s decision to represent Nigeria.
“Therefore, we will ensure in future we learn from Iwobi case and engage the family much much early in the development stage of the player and get them to key in to the objectives. We should never wait until the players are already established and we start running after them but would try to engage them early enough and get them to be part of any of the development squad so they can appreciate what it means to play for Nigeria and feel among before we get them to main Super Eagles.
“It’s sad we lost players like Deli Alli and Jordan Ibe. It’s not for want of trying but it’s their family’s decision to send the player to England rather than Nigeria and we wish them luck as they still made us proud seeing them playing for England as they still motivate our players here and establish the talents available to us,” Shehu continued.
“But really as we gradually fix our football administration and structures here it will be much much easier to attract these players and this is exactly what we will do,” the NFF vice-president concluded.