Since the official announcement was made on Thursday, November 10, the English national team squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup has sparked multiple conversations and discussions.
Stranded Eagles Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham find out the hard way; there is no place like home
After snubbing Nigeria to represent England, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham have been left out of the Three Lions’ 2022 World Cup squad
Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori are among the most notable omissions from England’s contingent to Qatar, which is controversial to say the least, especially in the case of the latter.
Both players were eligible to play for Nigeria but chose to represent England instead, a decision that has since been proven wrong.
Not quite Eagles but not Lions either
According to George Orwell, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,” a quote that succinctly captures Abraham and Tomori’s situation.
While the English national team is not exactly an ‘Animal Farm’, the dynamics of Orwell’s fictional world can be spotted in Gareth Southgate’s selection.
Fikayo Tomori, who is already one of the best defenders in the Serie A and was a key part of the title-winning AC Milan cannot make a 26-man squad ahead of the likes of Conor Coady and Eric Dier.
“We’ve picked our more experienced defenders,” Southgate said in justification of obvious bias, scrambling to justify the unjustifiable but in that lies a bitter lesson for both Tomori and Abraham.
Anglo-Nigerian footballers faced with a choice for their international future need to read between the lines and understand the uncomfortable truth, the English have a different standard for them.
They have to excel and keep excelling as Bukayo Saka is doing and be prepared to be sidelined immediately after they fall out of form like Dele Alli was.
Anglo-Nigerians who lean towards England cannot afford to be simply good or average, they have to excel to earn the same spots as indigenous English players.
Ultimately, there’s no place like home, even if the home is one as dysfunctional and unattractive as Nigeria, Tomori and Abraham would have at least had a fair shout.
In fact, Tomori and Abraham would have gotten the kind of preferential treatment in Nigeria that kept them out of the England squad, poetically ironic.
Selecting Conor Coady who is in a relegation battle with Everton over a player of Fikayo’s calibre is clearly based on favouritism but only Southgate can specify what type of favour Coady enjoys over Tomori, be it racial or not.
The grass is rarely greener than the green and white
Tomori and Abraham are the latest Anglo-Nigerians to find out that picking England over Nigeria does not necessarily end well even though it always seems like the right decision at the time.
John Fashanu was among the first to find out having opted for England over Nigeria in his prime years only to feature in two games and he has been wailing about his regret to anyone who would listen ever since.
Gabriel Agbonlahor also went that route and was only good for three games despite enjoying a reasonably successful club career spanning 12 years.
John Salako, Ugo Ehiogu, Carlton Cole, Dele Alli, Jordon Ibe are some notable examples of players who went into international limbo after choosing to represent England over Nigeria.
With that wealth of examples, it was surprising that both Abraham and Tomori chose to represent England where the odds are stacked against them.
Even more ironically, they were both invited to the English national team for the first time (along with Bukayo Saka) on October 1, 2019, Nigeria’s 59th independence day.
As unappealing as the Nigerian football scene seems compared to England, it has been statistically proven that players are more likely to be successful with the Super Eagles than the Three Lions.
Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses, Dickson Etuhu, Sheyi Olofinjana, Danny Shittu, Semi Ajayi and Ademola Lookman are among the more notable players who realised that early enough.
Tomori and Abraham have already turned down first-class Nigerian citizenship to be second-class citizens of England but it is imperative for other players in similar situations to not make the same mistake.
Players like Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise, Tosin Adarabioyo etc are all faced with that dilemma but perhaps they will learn through Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori that Nigeria is a better national team destination than England.