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Why I decided to play for Nigeria – Ex-England U-20 star Ike Ugbo

Genk star, Ike Ugbo, has lifted the lid on his decision to commit his international allegiance to Nigeria and not England.

Born in Lewisham to a Nigerian father, the 22-year-old represented the Three Lions at Under-17 and Under-20 levels, playing thrice and scoring once during the 2017 Toulon Tournament which England won by defeating Portugal 3-0 in the final.

Nevertheless, in 2020 he opted to play for the three-time African champions at senior level.

In a chat with Sport Voetbal Magazine, the former Chelsea prodigy explained the motivation behind his decision.

“I chose Nigeria and right now, we’re getting the papers in order,” he said.

“The chance of playing at the Fifa World Cup is part of it. I think I have more chances with Nigeria than with England.

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“Also, I grew up with images of the [Nigeria] national team and always followed their strikers, especially the guys who came to England.”

Before his permanent move to the Luminus Arena, Ugbo enjoyed loan spells at Barnsley, Milton Keynes Dons, Scunthorpe United, Roda JC and Cercle Brugge following his inability to break into the Blues’ first team.

When Antonio Conte was hired by the Stamford Bridge giants in 2016, the Anglo-Nigerian had hoped he would be given a chance, albeit, he was shipped to Oakwell.

Ugbo was not disappointed with that call, instead, he stated that made him grow as a player.

“Antonio Conte was the manager, I trained a few times with the first team, but I felt that the moment was there to make progress,” he continued.

“Loaning is a normal thing in England when you are 18. You grow up faster. Only I ended up in the same story over and over again: with a team that fought against relegation. Where patience was not an issue and scoring had to be done.

“My confidence was therefore shaky because I scored too little. On the other hand, those experiences made me a man.

“When I see pictures of that time, I was still a child and physically not ready for men’s football.”

Ugbo scored on his debut for the Smurfs against Anderlecht, and he would be hoping that continues when Genk host Union Saint-Gilloise on Sunday.

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