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Footballers of Nigerian roots at Euro 2024

The Euro 2024 tournament has lit up the sporting world with giant slaying clash, mouthwatering goals and record-breaking performances all in the first round of games that have recorded 34 goals so far with FIFA top-ranked Belgium suffering an early defeat to low-ranked Slovakia.

Real Madrid youngster, Arda Guler broke Cristiano Ronaldo’s record to become the youngest player to score on their Euros debut against Georgia. The ‘Turkish Messi’ did it in style by netting a worldie that has been nominated for goal of the round.

Amidst the series of entertaining games at the EURO 2024, Nigeria has found a way to squeeze itself into the tournament and for some Nigerians, it is a distraction from the recent poor performance of the Super Eagles in the World Cup qualifiers.

Among the standout players are some players with Nigerian roots, who, while representing their respective European nations, carry the heritage and legacy of Nigeria.

Footballers of Nigerian descent who have openly embraced their Nigerian roots have pivotal roles to play for teams like Germany, Netherlands, England, and Italy.

The tournament is not just a celebration of Europe’s finest football talent but also a testament to the global diaspora that has shaped modern football, and that includes Nigeria.

See the Nigerian-born players at EURO 2024 below:

Jamal Musiala- Germany
Jamal Musiala has emerged as one of the standout players in Germany’s squad. The Bayern Munich prodigy, renowned for his agility, vision, and technical prowess, might have played in the Africa Cup of Nations had he chosen to represent his father’s country, Nigeria. Musiala’s father hails from Nigeria’s Yoruba tribe, while his mother is German with Polish roots. His diverse background is mirrored in his versatile playing style.

Musiala’s football journey began at Chelsea’s academy, where he honed his skills before joining Bayern Munich. Despite playing for both England and Germany at the youth levels, he committed to Germany in 2021, a decision that has proven fruitful for Die Mannschaft. His Nigerian heritage adds a rich cultural layer to his already impressive profile.

Bukayo Saka- England
Bukayo Saka’s impact on the England national team has been profound. With Nigerian roots, Saka brings a unique blend of speed, creativity, and tactical intelligence to the squad. At just 22, the Arsenal winger has rapidly become one of football’s most exciting young talents. His journey from the youth ranks at Arsenal to becoming a key player for both club and country is a testament to his dedication and skill.

Saka’s versatility allows him to excel in multiple positions, whether as a winger, wing-back, or even a central midfielder. This adaptability, combined with his Nigerian heritage, provides a rich narrative of talent and cultural pride, making him a fan favourite and a vital asset to Gareth Southgate’s team.

David Alaba- Austria
David Alaba, another player of Nigerian descent, anchors Austria’s defence with his experience and leadership. Born to a Nigerian father and a Filipino mother, Alaba’s multicultural background is reflected in his versatile playing style. Whether playing as a centre-back, left-back, or even in midfield, Alaba’s presence is a cornerstone of Austria’s strategy at Euro 2024. Although he would not be playing at the Euro 2024 due to injury, however, he would be on the bench as a “non-playing captain”.

Manuel Akanji- Switzerland
Manuel Akanji, a key player for Switzerland, boasts Nigerian roots through his father. Known for his strength, composure, and tactical awareness, Akanji has been instrumental in Switzerland’s solid defensive performances. His journey from the youth ranks in Switzerland to becoming a mainstay in the national team highlights the influence of Nigerian heritage in shaping top-tier European talent.

He made a winning start to Euro 2024 as Switzerland beat Hungary in their Group A opener in Cologne. The City defender played a full 90 minutes as the Swiss took a significant step towards qualification for the knockout stages with a 3-1 victory

Eberechi Eze- England
Eberechi Eze, the talented midfielder from Crystal Palace, has cemented his place in England’s Euro 2024 squad, impressing manager Gareth Southgate with his exceptional skills. Born to Nigerian parents in England, Eze’s journey to the top is a testament to his perseverance and dedication, reflecting the resilience and passion of his Nigerian heritage.

Despite being released by four English clubs, Eze never gave up on his dream, and his determination paid off with his success at Crystal Palace. His impressive performances, scoring 11 goals and providing six assists, caught Southgate’s attention, leading to his selection for the national team. Eze’s inclusion came at the expense of Marcus Rashford, a notable omission from the squad.

With a point to prove, Eze is determined to secure his spot in the team and make a lasting impact at the Euros, proudly representing both England and his Nigerian roots. His unique street-style football, influenced by his Nigerian heritage, has captured the attention of fans and pundits alike, earning him a reputation as one of the most exciting players in the Premier League.

Noah Okafor- Switzerland
Noah Okafor, the talented attacker of Nigerian descent, is making waves in Europe with his impressive performances for AC Milan. Born to Nigerian parents in Switzerland, Okafor’s speed and skill on the wings have earned him a spot in the Swiss National team, alongside fellow Nigerian-Swiss player, Manuel Akanji.

With six goals and three assists for the Rossoneri in all competitions, Okafor’s contributions have been invaluable. His Nigerian heritage has undoubtedly influenced his playing style, bringing a unique flair to the pitch. Despite representing Switzerland internationally, Okafor’s roots remain strong, making him a source of pride for Nigerian fans worldwide.

With 22 appearances for the Swiss National team, Okafor is ready to take the international stage by storm, proudly representing both Switzerland and his Nigerian heritage. His success serves as an inspiration to young players of Nigerian descent, showcasing the potential for greatness that lies within. As Okafor continues to soar, his Nigerian roots will remain an integral part of his journey to the top.

Michael Folorunsho- Italy
Michael Folorunsho, the talented defender of Nigerian descent, has made a significant impact in the world of football. Born to Nigerian parents in Italy, Folorunsho’s impressive skills have earned him a spot in the Italian National team, making his debut in June.

Following a stellar loan season with Hellas Verona from Napoli, Folorunsho’s performances caught the attention of coach Luciano Spalletti, securing his place in the squad as they aim to defend their title in Germany. Folorunsho’s Nigerian heritage has undoubtedly influenced his playing style, bringing a unique perspective and flair to the pitch.

Joshua Zirkzee – Netherlands
Joshua Zirkzee, another talented footballer of Nigerian descent, is part of the Netherlands national team at Euro 2024. Born to a Nigerian mother and a Dutch father, his full name is Joshua Orobosa Zirkzee. Zirkzee graduated through Bayern Munich’s system and had spells with Parma and Anderlecht before joining Bologna in the summer of 2022.

The forward, who is strongly linked to Manchester United, received limited game time in his first campaign in Serie A, scoring only two league goals from 808 minutes. However, in the just-concluded season, he scored 11 league goals.

The presence of players of Nigerian descent at Euro 2024 highlights the global nature of modern football and the profound impact of African heritage on the sport. Jamal Musiala, Bukayo Saka, David Alaba, Manuel Akanji, and others exemplify the blend of talent, culture, and heritage that defines contemporary football. As the tournament progresses, their contributions will continue to showcase the enduring legacy of Nigerian influence on the world’s most beloved sport.

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