The super Eagles of Nigeria have lost out in their bid to lure American-born Ike Opara to the National team as the player got his first call-up into the USA National team ahead of the friendly game against Bosnia & Herzegovina.Ikenna Opara was born in the United States, to Nigerian parents. As such, he is eligible to represent either of the country’s national team.
The 28-year old whose career has been blighted by different degrees of injuries has become a reliable defender in the past twelve months for his Major League Soccer team.
The Sporting Kansas City defender was voted MLS best defender of last season.
And his exploits in the league earned him a call-up to the United States national team set-up.
After winning the best defender award, Opara said;
“It’s tough to put into words.”
“Without the team allowing me to be who I am on and off the field, there’s no way this would be possible, Opara said.
“I’m thinking about how crazy it is to have been voted by my peers and other people who have a say.
Honestly, I’m speechless because I wanted to thank so many people when I heard, who have been along on the journey – my family, athletic trainers, just so many people who get overlooked in this whole process. It was a collective effort by many.”
The 6ft 2in player received a call-up to join the Americans who are still without a coach for the annual January training camp in Carson, Calif. It’s his first career call-up to the senior team.
A very combative Opara would have provided a real competition to the Super Eagles’ defensive partnership of Williams Troost Ekong and Leon Balogun had he chosen to play for the Super Eagles.
United States failed to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup and the chance to play at the World’s biggest stage now look so slim for Opara who will be in his 30s when the 2022 World Cup kicks off.
Nigeria will certainly offer him the opportunity on a platter if he could make a last ditch U-turn to play for the Super Eagles.
A good outing with the Super Eagles in Russia is certain to earn him a bigger payday at a top European club in the twilight of his not so glittering career.