Rock-solid Calvin Bassey dreams of AFCON participation

The young defender has been one of the beneficiaries of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's arrival at Ibrox

Calvin Bassey has been a stalwart in central defence in recent weeks (IMAGO / Colorsport)

Defender Calvin Bassey is keen to impress with club Rangers in order to earn a spot in the Nigeria squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The 21-year-old, who pledged his footballing allegiance to Nigeria in time for October’s internationals, nevertheless failed to make his debut for the Super Eagles. He had a watching brief only as Nigeria traded wins with the Central African Republic in CAF 2022 World Cup qualifying, and was then left out of the squad for November’s window by Gernot Rohr.

This state of affairs means he remains eligible for either Italy or England.

However, Bassey is steadfast in his determination to turn out in green and white, and believes sustained excellence at club level could be the key to cracking it with the Super Eagles in the coming months.

With the AFCON just over a month away, the Rangers youngster is keen to make a strong enough impression to win over selectors, even though he acknowledges the peculiar scheduling of the competition is a concern.

“It’s always an honour to represent your country,” Bassey told the media. “Obviously, the timing (of the AFCON) is a bit hard because we’ve got games but right now, I’m just fully focused at the club.

“At the end of the day, if I do well here, that’s what helps me get called up to Nigeria, so I’m just focused on the club and giving my best performance, taking each day as it comes.”

Bassey has enjoyed a healthy run of appearances under new manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, featuring at centre-back due to an injury to fellow Nigeria international Leon Balogun. With him in the starting lineup, the reigning champions have kept two clean sheets in three league matches, only one fewer than they managed in the previous 13.

He was once again impressive on Saturday as Rangers overcame Dundee by three goals, with compatriot Joe Aribo helping himself to a second goal in three matches. The win kept the Gers four points clear of city and title rivals Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League table.

With his ability to play both at centre-back and left-back, Bassey is a major asset in a tactical sense, and could prove a joker for Nigeria in Cameroon in January. “Whatever happens, when we get to that stage, we’ll look at it and see what’s best for me and take it from there,” he said.

So far this term, Bassey has made 10 appearances for Rangers, assisting once.

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