Wednesday Jul 14, 2021. 11:00
Uganda international Uche Ikpeazu says he is still open to play for Nigeria despite having received two call-ups to play for the Cranes.
Having been born in England to a Nigerian father and a Ugandan mother, Ikpeazu has received calls-up to play for Uganda in competitive matches, but they were postponed.
Ikeapezu was call-up ahead of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers which were postponed due to COVID-19 in March 2020 and he was also included in the squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which were also postponed in June 2021 due to the coronavirus.
Ikepazu, who is on the books of English Championship side Middlesbrough FC, is still eligible to play for the Super Eagles and he revealed that he is inspired by former Nigeria international Odion Ighalo.
“And now that I am at Middlesbrough, my mind is telling me to play for the national team of Nigeria, that is a fact and I believe that I can achieve that because I have got all the tools and the ability to go and do well for the Super Eagles,” Ikpeazu told Complete Sports.
“Like I said before, I am still available for one reason or the other, having not managed to play for Uganda and when I was in Nigeria, my good friend, Odion [Ighalo] was even convincing me that I should play for the Super Eagles with the ability that I have got.
“Ighalo really believes in me, it is nice, you know that I have people of that magnitude who really believe in me and what I am about, I want to play for Nigeria, my name is Uche Ikpeazu. “I am a ‘Naija’ boy and that is what I want to do [play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria] and I believe that I can help the country.”
When asked why he chose to play for Uganda, Ikpeazu said: “To be honest, it is a tough one because I am Nigerian-Ugandan and I am very proud to be one and of course, from a very young age, I had always pointed out the fact that I wanted to represent Nigeria.
“I am not going to hide away from that neither am I going to shy away from that because that is something I said in the past but sometimes in football and life, there are circumstances that things just don’t work out.
“Sometimes, things just don’t go the way you want them to but you have to make decisions and at the time when Uganda called me up, I was in a difficult point in my football career in terms of I wasn’t playing at Hearts of Midlothian [Scotland].”
“And the thing is that I was lacking in confidence but the then-Uganda coach, Johnathan McKinstry was pivotal to one of the reasons why I wanted to play for the Ugandan national team,” he continued.
“He called me up to play in the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers and at that time, I was excited about the prospect of playing for Uganda but unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“And that was not going to be the first of the instances where I was supposed to go and play for Uganda but a couple of other times, I was injured as two days before going to camp, I sprayed my ankle.
“And I think that was like a breakpoint for me to review what was really happening and I felt that it wasn’t just meant to be as I was sad that every time I was called up, an issue would crop up,” he added.
“But obviously, if I had played for Uganda, I would have represented the country very well and would have been very happy that I did that the same way I play my football.
“And that is because at the end of the day, that is my country but it was just difficult for me because I was really excited about playing for Uganda but obviously, I then moved to Wycombe Wanderers and did well in the Championship.”
The 26-year-old striker will be hoping to receive a call-up from Nigeria’s head coach Gernot Rohr ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which are set to take place in September 2021.