South African-born Nigerian defender lured to snub Super Eagles

South African-born Nigerian defender lured to snub Super Eagles
Credit: @SuperSportFC

SuperSport United defender Ime Okon has been urged by his teammate to switch international allegiance to South Africa instead of playing for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Thulani Hlatshwayo who plays alongside Okon in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), hopes his Nigerian teammate opts to represent the Bafana Bafana of South Africa.

According to ex-Bafana Bafana captain Hlatshwayo, the 20-year-old defender is yet to make his final decision of which country to represent but strongly considers Nigeria even though he was born in Johannesburg.

Okon is born to a Nigerian father and a South African mother, which makes him eligible to play for one of the two countries according to FIFA guidelines.

To make the Super Eagles team, Okon ‘needs to play in Europe'

Quite frankly, it will be difficult for the defender to make the Super Eagles team now or in the near future because of the more established players Nigeria have at its disposal who all play in Europe.

“I have told him he needs to stay for South Africa because it will be difficult for him to crack the Nigeria national team. To be able to crack the Nigerian national team, he needs to play in Europe — but we need him in Bafana Bafana”, said Hlatshwayo in a report from The South African.

The former Bafana Bafana captain gave another reason why he feels they need the Nigerian player in the South African national team.

“When you look at our centre-backs, Mothobi Mvala has injuries, there is also Grant Kekana and Siyanda Xulu. I read that Siyabonga Ngezana had an issue with his travel documents, but I don’t know what is happening there.

“His father is from Nigeria and mother from South Africa, he grew up here, he studied here and coach Gavin Hunt took him from Randburg Football Club. He is South African and he speaks Afrikaans.

Hlatshwayo also shed light on how both players made fun of each other during the Africa Cup of Nations especially when Bafana Bafana met the Super Eagles.

“He is a rebel every time there is AFCON, when Nigeria is playing he is with Nigeria and when South Africa is playing against Nigeria we have a lot of banter in the team.”

“I told him I am going to stop helping him if he chooses to play for Nigeria because there are things in his game that need to be polished.

Hlatshwayo added: “The more he plays, the more experience he is going to get and he will do well. I don’t know if it has something to do with him being young but he is quick and strong and we complement one another very well.

Ime Okon's numbers for SuperSport United this season

At the time of this publication, these are some of Okon's statistics this season:

  • Okon has featured for SuperSport United in 18 matches this season, appearing in the starting lineup 16 times.
  • The 20-year-old has made one ‘Team of the week' appearance this campaign.
  • Okon has averaged 77 minutes per game for his team and is yet to score this season.
  • With the defender on the field of play, SuperSport United have kept three clean sheets in the current campaign.
  • He's received two yellow cards and one red card whilst averaging 1.7 tackles in 18 matches played this season.

Where Ime Okon's father is likely from in Nigeria

It is a general rule that most times a person's name can either reflect which country they come from or the tribe of origin.

Bearing this in mind, a player born in South Africa to a Nigerian father that goes by the name “Ime Okon” is simple to spot where or which state the father comes from in Nigeria.

Both names are common among the Ibibio and Efik people of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria's South South region. “Ime” means “Patience”, while “Okon” means “Night period/time”.

This article was most recently revised and updated 2 weeks ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.