Former England youth international, Alex Iwobi has admitted that he ended up playing for Nigerian whilst still a teenager because he was influenced by his famous uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha.
The Hale End Academy graduate was first called up to a Nigeria squad for an African Games qualifier against Gabon in February 2015 but couldn’t make his debut because there was uncertainty over his eligibility having played for England youth teams in the past.
Later that year, Iwobi made his senior debut in an international friendly against Democratic Republic of Congo, aged nineteen.
In his bid to convince his nephew to switch allegiance to his country of birth, Okocha played the Arsenal card, saying the Premier League club have a huge fanbase in Nigeria and the then Gunners youth-teamer would be accepted by the Super Eagles fans.
Speaking to Nedum Onuoha’s podcast, Iwobi said: “He (Okocha) influenced me as well, he told me that when you play football in Nigeria you get treated almost like you are a king – the love they have for you.
“Arsenal fanbase in Nigeria is huge, he always told me that playing for Arsenal especially you are going to get that love straightaway and I felt that love when I first went.
“I went for the U23s and I didn’t play for the Arsenal first-team at all but people still knew who I was just from Arsenal U21s.”
Iwobi was one of the stars for Nigeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and was in the Super Eagles squad to the 2018 World Cup.