It was difficult dumping England for Nigeria, Iwobi confesses
‘I hope to be better than my uncle, Okocha’
Alex Iwobi is proud to represent Nigeria – even though he says it was “a difficult decision” to turn down England.
The 19-year-old has been the breakthrough star of Arsenal’s season and has two goals and three assists in his three Premier League starts for the club.
Iwobi, who was born in Lagos, has made two appearances for Nigeria – both against Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations.
“It was a difficult decision picking Nigeria over England,” he told Arsenal Player.
“England did contact me recently before I played my first competitive match for Nigeria, asking if I wanted to play for England. I’m very proud to represent Nigeria but I would like to say thank you to England for the chance they gave me, it was a difficult decision.
“The love Nigeria showed me… when I played for them in a friendly, the fans were just crazy. The fans almost eat you up because they love you so much. I’m enjoying playing for them.
“When you’re getting out of the airport there are fans already there screaming ‘Arsenal, Arsenal. Gunners for life!’ and it’s just mad. Some of them have Arsenal shirts and then others will ask me for Arsenal shirts. It’s a bit mad and the fans are crazy.”
Iwobi has made leap from under-21s football to the Premier League and Champions League this season. So how has he found the step up onto the international scene?
“When I played for Nigeria in Africa, it’s a lot more physical and the tempo is higher,” he said.
“Everything is fast and the weather in Africa is something you have to adapt to really quickly. The first day I trained I was gasping for air because it was so hot. There’s minimal air so it’s something I had to get used to.
“I was hoping to contribute to the team and I came on for eight minutes [for my debut]. I was buzzing and all the fans were clapping and singing songs. The second game we unfortunately lost and went out of the Africa Cup of Nations, but that moment was crazy and a great feeling.
“Hopefully I can play more competitions for them.”
Iwobi has turned to his famous uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha, for advice since breaking into the Arsenal team.
Okocha is one of the best Nigerian players of all time, a talented playmaker who starred in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers, and he’s taken to Twitter to show his support for his nephew.
Iwobi has enjoyed Okocha’s support on social media.
“Before that I didn’t even know he had Twitter!” Iwobi told Arsenal Player. “All my friends were asking if I saw what my uncle had said so I checked it out. It is crazy and I’m just happy I’m making him proud and hopefully I will be even better than him.
“He was at the Watford game and the Barcelona game,” added Iwobi. “The fact he comes to watch shows it means a lot to him and he shows his support. It is good for me.
“[I get advice from him] almost weekly. He came to my house the other day. Unfortunately I missed him because I was here [at the training ground] but we do keep in contact a lot. He does tell me what I need to do and what I need to work on.
“He is always telling me that he knows a lot has happened and that I have come far, but he says to stay humble and that I will go far.”
• Culled from www.arsenal.com
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