Ireland tops Nigeria in race to secure future soccer star Armstrong oko-flex
2017-11-15 16:22:00 -

No approach has been made to recruit top Nigerian-Irish U16 soccer star Armstrong Oko-Flex by the Nigerian governing body in advance of the 2019 Fifa U17 World Cup, Metro Éireann has learned.


In a recent report, a Nigerian online newspaper stated that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is “still lagging behind” the FAI in the race for the services of the Arsenal youth prospect, who is rated alongside fellow Nigerian-Irish player Mipo Odubeko among the most talented young players in England.


Oko-Flex, who plays as forward, scored one of the two goals that sealed the second consecutive Victory Shield for the Republic of Ireland in their 2-0 decision against Scotland in Bangor last month. The youngster also shined in Ireland’s 2-2 draw with Wales earlier in the tournament, scoring the key equaliser at the end of a free kick.


“I am aware of the interest from the NFF but nothing concrete has happened,Armstring’s father Reginald told Metro Éireann, adding that the family “would listen to them if they came calling.”


Asked how the young Oko-Flex was feeling about his recent outstanding performances with the Ireland U16s, his father said: “He’s enjoying his game, and his manager, all of them, seem to be happy with him. I am totally happy with the boy’s contribution to Ireland team based on how far he has worked.”


Although Irish soccer has long struggled with diversity, the landscape appears to be changing, particularly among the nation’s underage teams. “There are about five players of African origin – all Nigerians – and one Romanian-Irish in the [U16] squad, and it’s an improvement on what they used to have,” said one African soccer observer.


In his analysis of the current situation, Shelbourne U17 head coach Stephen Finn said: “it’s very exciting to see these boys playing for Ireland.


“I believe 15 boys have played for Ireland from U21 down to U15 in the past 12 months that had at least one African-born parent, while there have also been players with a parent from France, Belgium, Sweden and Romania capped in that time,” he added.


When asked which of these new Irish players has the most potential for future international caps, Finn said that was unreasonable at the moment. “I think it’s unfair to say who can do best when they are aged 14 to 16 and so much can happen,” he said. “Noe Baba was remarkably good at U17 level but has just one U21 cap so hasn’t made the progress that looked certain when he was 16. 


“But he’s captained Ireland at U19 level and is still a pro with Macclesfield, so in an industry that is so hard to make a career in that should also be considered a success.”



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