Sports

May 25, 2024

What playing for Nigeria has done for me — Lookman 

Ademola Lookman

Ademola Lookman

Ademola Lookman, fresh from his stunning performance in the Europa League final, has expressed his immense pride and joy in representing the Nigeria national team.

In a recent interview, the talented forward shared his heartfelt emotions about playing for Nigeria, highlighting the significance and fulfillment it brings to his career.

The Atalanta forward grabbed the spotlight on Wednesday with a groundbreaking performance in the Europa League, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in the final.

His remarkable achievement led his team to an unexpected 3-0 triumph over the favorites, Bayer Leverkusen.

This impressive feat capped off a stellar season for the forward, who has amassed 23 goal contributions for the Serie A club this year and has truly hit his stride in Italy.

Born and raised in England, Lookman represented England at the youth level before switching to Nigeria.

He first appeared five times for the Under-19 team before advancing to the Under-20 squad, where he achieved significant success by winning the Under-20 World Cup with England in 2017. During his time with the Under-20 team, he scored five goals in 15 appearances.

After his success with the Under-20 team, Lookman progressed to the Under-21 level, making 11 more appearances and scoring one additional goal.

His last game for any England team was in 2019. Following a break from international football, he decided to join Nigeria’s senior national team in 2022, a decision that has proven to be beneficial for him.

Reflecting on his experience playing for Nigeria Lookman shared his heartfelt sentiments about the move.

“It’s incredible [to play for Nigeria]. The support and the love I get back home from the people is unbelievable. It gives me the motivation to evolve in different areas – as a person, not just in my game,” Lookman told UEFA after his heroics in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

 In an earlier interview with The Times, the 26-year-old revealed that it was entirely his choice, and one of the biggest reasons for the move was his desire to play international football.

It was nothing to do with my parents because they wouldn’t really tell me to go here or there. I wanted to build a career internationally. The decision was something that I thought about for a long time before making it. To play for Nigeria is an honour first of all and the best decision I ever made. I’m happy I made it.”

After opting to switch to Nigeria in 2022, Lookman told CafOnline that the decision felt natural to him.

Raised by Nigerian parents, he already had a strong sense of connection to the nation, making the switch feel like a natural progression.

“Both my parents are Nigerians, and I’ve always seen this [representing Nigeria] what could lead to joining Messi, Neymar in the pantheon of football greats

… makes strong case for CAF Player of the Year

Lookman’s outstanding performances this season have firmly established him as one of the standout players in African football.

As a silver medalist at AFCON, Lookman played a pivotal role for the Super Eagles, scoring three goals and providing an assist during the tournament.

His exceptional displays earned him recognition, clinching the AFCON Man of the Match award on one occasion and securing a spot in the tournament’s team of the tournament, highlighting his impact on the Nigerian national team.

At club level, Lookman has been equally impressive. A key figure at Atalanta, he played a crucial role in guiding the team to the finals of both the Copa Italia and the Europa League. Notably, Lookman scored a hat-trick as Atalanta defeated Bayer Leverkusen to win the Europa League, demonstrating his ability to shine on the continental stage.

The Nigeria international’s hat-trick for Atalanta was the sixth to be scored in a major UEFA final. It was the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Mönchengladbach against FC Twente in 1975, which was the only other one to be scored in a UEFA Cup/Europa League final.

With Lookman’s exceptional achievements, both individually and collectively, he is undoubtedly a strong contender for the prestigious CAF Player of the Year award.