February, 16 2022.
By Wale Ajayi.
Bukayo Saka of Arsenal and England, Dele Ali of Everton and England, David Alaba of Real Madrid and Austria, Tammy Abraham of AS Roma and England, Karim Adeyemi of Salzburg and Germany alongside Noah Okafor of Salsburg and Switzerland. The list goes on and on.
On Wednesday evening, in one of the knockout games of the lucrative UEFA champions league, another Nigerian born striker, Chikwubuike Adamu scored the first goal for RedBull Salzburg, few minutes after coming on for Nigerian born, Swiss international, Noah Okafor.
A nation blessed with human and material resources, Nigeria can boast of over two thousand footballers scattered across Europe. Some ply their trade in obscure leagues while a few others are esterblished professionals who have distinguished themselves in the line of duty.
Unfortunately, majority of these players can no longer trace their root back to Nigeria and those who at some point thought of it, are discouraged by the negative stories of kidnapping, terrorism, ritual killings and so much more that has labeled Nigeria unsafe in the eyes of the foreign media.
However, in the last few years, Nigeria football federation president, Amaju Melvin Pinnick has taken the bull by the horn, by embarking on a mission to rebrand Nigeria in the eyes of the world.
Sitting on the exalted seat of FIFA Council member, Amaju knows he has a duty to educate the world through football that Nigeria remains a giant of Africa, a country blessed with human and material resources and a country that has got so much positives to offer the world.
To further spread this gospel, Amaju has embarked on a tour of Europe, trying to convince exceptional Nigerian footballers, scattered across the globe to reconsider their decision of dumping their fatherland in search of greener pastures. This effort has seen over ten footballers rethink their decisions in the last 5-years.
The latest in this long list of returnees, is Leicester City and former England youth international, Ademola Lookman who was cleared earlier in the week by FIFA and will now be available for the all important World Cup qualification playoff between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Black stars of Ghana.
No Nigerian, living or dead, has done this much. Apart from flying Nigeria's flag as a member of the very influential and respected FIFA Council, Amaju is also one of the most powerful individuals in continental football and stands out as perhaps the most powerful FA president in Africa.
This influence he has used massively to change the perception of the world about Nigeria and Nigerians and he is also using the tool called football to rebrand and repackage the image of our dear country to the international community.
Earlier in the week, he was in London to emphasize the importance of qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup to players of the Super Eagles and also used the opportunity to try and convince the pair of Crystal Palace Midfielders Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise to reconsider their decision of dumping Nigeria for England.
Both players have now promised to rethink their decision and get back to the federation in good time.