Wednesday, 11 August 2021 02:12

Can Chiedozie Ogbene Inspire Other African-Born Players to Represent Ireland?

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Despite being born in Lagos, Rotherham winger Chiedozie Ogbene sees himself as an Irishman first and foremost. Having grown up in Cork, the talented 24-year old’s allegiance to The Emerald Isle is understandable and his commitment was finally rewarded when he was called up to the Irish squad by manager Stephen Kenny in May 2021. 

 

Although Ogbene has most recently been playing his trade in the English Championship, it was during his successful stint in the League of Ireland which caught the attention of the former Dundalk manager. The former Cork City player has followed a well-trodden path and is just one of many League of Ireland stars to be snapped up by an English side.

 
The likes of Wes Hoolahan, Seamus Coleman, Steve Staunton, James McLean and Shane Long have all successfully made the transition and the division continues to produce plenty of talent on an annual basis. 
 
The Irish football pyramid continues to be overshadowed by the Premier League, however, the fact that the majority of the fixtures are held on a Friday evening allows fans to enjoy a full weekend of football. 
 
With a handful of Irish sides having made decent progress in the Europa League recently, the LOI has been able to benefit from this increased exposure and with more information about Irish football and additional opportunities to watch and bet on the top two divisions, it is highly unlikely that Ogbene will be the last player to make the journey across the Irish Sea. 
 
Will More African-Born Players Follow in his Footsteps?

Ogbene may have become the first African-born player to represent the Republic of Ireland, however, there are a number of squad members who have strong connections to the continent. Goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, who has been loaned out to Portsmouth this summer, is a Dubliner, however, his father is Nigerian, and it’s a similar story for Norwich City duo Adam Idah and Andrew Omobamidele. 
 
Despite the ever-changing face of the national squad, convincing players to choose Ireland hasn’t always been straightforward. West Ham’s Mipo Odubeko is Tallaght-born, and despite representing Ireland at U17 level, he is yet to make a decision on his international future, much to the frustration of U21 boss Jim Crawford.
 
However, at the time of writing, Ogbene remains a trailblazer and he is hoping that his international debut will help inspire fellow African-born players to represent their adopted nation.
 
He is hoping to ‘create a pathway’ to make it easier for other young professionals to follow in his footsteps, and he is also aiming to become a role model for other young Nigerian people in Ireland.

Can the League of Ireland Help Produce to next Generation of African-born Players?

Although Chiedozie Ogbene currently plies his trade in the EFL, he began his career in the League of Ireland. He guided Cork City U19s to Enda McGuill Cup success before helping the senior team to clinch the FAI Cup twelve months later.
 
He enjoyed a productive stint at Limerick before making the switch to West London in January 2018.
The winger was just one of several African players who feature regularly in the League of Ireland, and that number has increased exponentially over the last decade.

ROI boss Stephen Kenny is unafraid to dip into the top flight, and there are UK-based scouts who regularly attend games on the lookout for the next generation of Irish talent.

Ogbene’s rise to fame is an inspirational story which is likely to inspire more African-born players and those of African parentage to work hard and achieve their goals. He may be the first African-born player to represent the Republic of Ireland, however, he is highly unlikely to be the last.
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