Hoffenheim Star Akpoguma Keen On Nigeria Switch

Nigeria national football team manager Gernot Rohr has revealed that Hoffenheim central defender and former German youth international star Kevin Akpoguma is ready to commit his international future to Nigeria.

The 25-year-old central defender, who plays for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, has a Nigerian father and a German mother – making him eligible to play for the three-time African champions.

And although he has earned 62 caps for Germany at Under-16, Under-17, Under-18, Under-19, Under-20 and Under-21 levels, he has opted to capitalize on the FIFA rules which allows him to switch allegiances. He could follow in the footsteps of Leon Balogun who is also of Nigerian-German heritage.

Akpoguma first came to the attention of the Nigeria Football Federation in 2015 when he captained the German national team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. He played in five matches including the second round encounter between Germany and Nigeria which ended 1-0 in favour of the European side.

Standing at towering 6ft 4in, Akpoguma has been with Bundesliga side Hoffenheim since 2015 and made 18 league appearances last season, helping them to finish sixth in the campaign.

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Speaking to German television SWR TV in 2017, Akpoguma shot down any talk of changing nationalities when he said, “That (Nigeria’s interest) honours me, of course, but I’m German, I was born here, and then I should play for Germany too.” However, in October 2018 he stated that he was open to playing to Nigeria and now he seems to be matching those words with action. He is still eligible to play for the Super Eagles since he has not represented Germany at senior level.

Rohr has revealed that he has met with the player who announced his decision to commit his international future to Nigeria.

“It was not my job to convince [Kevin] Akpoguma to come and play for Nigeria,” Rohr said.

“I had a good conversation with him and his family while watching several games in Hoffenheim.

“After the matches, we met and could talk. I presented our projects and I could speak about the team, about this incredible period in the Super Eagles and my vision for the team.

“He was sold on this and would love to be a part of the team and play in big international competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations or even the World Cup.

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“We are very happy about the decision of Kevin Akpoguma to switch from Germany to Nigeria. Because he played for Germany at youth levels, the process is not finished yet because Fifa must give the authorization.”

Nigeria will play two international friendly games against Tunisia and Ivory Coast in October but the German tactician recently unveiled his squad for the matches with Akpoguma’s name not included. However, he explained that the defender is still waiting on approval on a request made to FIFA to change his eligibility.

“He has fulfilled the written request to switch and we only await the good news that he can finally play for us,” Rohr continued.

“It’s too soon to expect him to play our two friendlies in October, but hopefully for the Nations Cup qualifiers in November.”

Last week, FIFA voted to change the rules pertaining to players’ international eligibility.

Players can now represent a second national team, provided they are eligible to represent that country and have played no more than three matches for the first national team at senior level, with all the appearances coming before the player turns 21.

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Appearances in World Cup finals matches or continental finals such as the Euros would also prohibit a player from switching, but appearing in a tournament qualifier – or the Uefa Nations League – would not.

Under the new rules, for example, Irish international Michael Obafemi could declare for England or Nigeria from next year, if he wished. Under the previous rules, his appearance in the 2018 Nations League tie against Denmark had tied him to Ireland for good.

However, there is no suggestion that the Southampton striker has any interest in switching allegiance.

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