By STEVE DEDE
There is a surge in the number of young players of Nigerian descent coming through the ranks at academies across England.
The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham runs deep at every level of both clubs; from the U-7 to U-14 and ultimately down to the senior sides.
So when there are no frivolities when these two North London sides meet at any level.
On Tuesday, January 18, it was three Nigerian players Bukayo Saka, Xavier Amaechi and Folarin Balogun who settled the mini-north London derby.
Saka scored Arsenal’s second of the game to level on 2-2 before the young Gunners won the game in extra time.
It was Balogun that assisted Amaechi to put Arsenal ahead in extra-time before the former pounced to finish from inside the six-yard box.
Saka added his second to make it five for Arsenal.
The performances of the three players are timely reminders of the Nigerian-born talents that are coming through the ranks at Arsenal and how excited should we be.
Saka is the most popular of the three, at 17, the forward with a lethal left foot has made headlines this season already after making his debut for the first team.
He has made one Premier League, one FA Cup and two Europa League appearances so far this season under Unai Emery.
He leads a host of players of Nigerian descent who play for the Arsenal youth teams.
Amaechi who was Arsenal U-18s’ most dangerous player on Thursday is also one of them; he joined Arsenal at the age of 12 from Fulham and has moved up the ranks since then. He signed his first professional contract at Arsenal in June 2018.
Balogun joined Arsenal when he was 10, signed as a schoolboy while he was on the verge of joining Tottenham.
Nigerian-born players coming through in England
There is a surge in the number of young players of Nigerian descent coming through the ranks at academies across England due to the saturation of Nigerian immigrants in the region.
It’s a constant theme around youth football in England, a look through their team lists and you would spot Nigerian names.
Tottenham’s U-18s on Thursday night against their Arsenal counterparts was a certain Josh Oluwayemi.
But do Nigeria have a hope of getting these kids to play for them?
Saka is an England youth international already same is Amaechi while the United States, where Balogun was born are already battling for his allegiance.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) will be sure keeping an eye on them but for every Alex Iwobi who was excited with the prospect of playing for Nigeria, there is also a Gabriel Agbonlahor that saw no ties whatsoever with Nigeria and went on to play for England
It’s however still a long way to go for these youngsters who should be focused on just their budding careers and their eyes, for now, are on the route to the Arsenal’s first team.
Source Pulse Nigeria