An Open Letter to the Nigerian Diaspora

06/26/2021

This is an open letter from a desperate Nigerian National team fan asking for the diaspora to return home to the Nigerian National Football Team. To Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Daryl Dike, Jamal Musiala, Joshua Zirkzee, Noni Madueke and many more, play for the motherland. It is where you will be loved and cherished the most.

Honestly speaking, playing for the Nigerian national team does not seem like the most enticing option on the surface. Especially with the context that these players could play for a more organized national federation. There is inadequate coverage for games, the travel is immense, the NFF has a reputation for cutting costs and missing bonuses, and there's the reality that most of these players feel a strong tie to their adopted countries of birth.

As someone born in Nigeria and later moved to the United States at a young age, I can sometimes feel more American than Nigerian. So I can only imagine players born and raised outside of Nigeria altogether can feel even more disconnected. The players whose primary connection to the country is through their parents and not personal experience.

But with all that said, the fact of the matter is that Nigeria and the Nigerian National Team will rally around and value these players more than their adopted countries ever could.

Just take what just happened with Fikayo Tomori. He joined AC Milan in January, supplanted the AC Milan captain from the starting lineup and helped lead the historic club to their first champions league berth in seven years on route to their highest finish since 2012. An outstanding season. Come European Championship time, with Harry Maguire hurt at the time; many figured Tomori would be a shoo-in to the England squad. But not only did he not make the final 26, but he also didn't even make the 33-man preliminary squad.

Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola "Fikayo" Tomori was born in Canada to Nigerian parents before moving to England at a young age. Of those three countries, Nigeria and Nigerians would accept him the most. He would be a staple for the national team. His outstanding performances for AC Milan would have been celebrated and rewarded as they should have.

So, his decision to remain loyal to England and its fans is difficult to understand.

After all, this is the same country whose fans booed when players kneeled in support of Black Lives. They are the same England fans that will send black players racist messages on social media after a bad game.

And to be fair, this type of racism is seen across the world, not just in England, and it's not to say that those few fans speak for all of England, but more to say that there are corners of the country that will never accept these players because of their skin color. It's almost as if the players are more objects of entertainment than they are human beings.

But it goes beyond that. The most intriguing part is that switching to Nigeria offers these players to paint the history of a country. It is an intriguing project that could take an African country to the top of the sporting world.

It may seem intimidating and pointless to make the switch to the Nigerian National team alone. But if done as a collective, the narrative will change. The more players commit to Nigeria, the stronger the squad becomes. At which point the national team can compete with any the world has to offer. It becomes a marketing opportunity, a showcasing opportunity, and an opportunity at a guaranteed spot at the world cup.

Players like Alex Iwobi and Ola Aina have taken this bold step in the past. They chose their motherland in Nigeria over their country of birth. They have made the National Team stronger. And as more Nigerians around the world opt for their home country, the National Team will become a powerhouse capable of winning any International trophy Africa and the world have to offer.

This goes for all the sports too. Basketball, track and field, heck, even hockey if we can get enough to make a national team.

I'm calling Giannis Antetokounmpo the Nigerian Freak. Bam Adebayo would look great in that national team jersey.

Come back home, be the generation of athletes that changes the narrative. Represent the country that will have your back through it all. Take back the power of the diaspora and give Nigeria what Nigeria has earned.


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