Thursday 19 September 2019

Martin O'Neill calls on FIFA to act as Michael Obafemi mulls over international future


Michael Obafemi and assistant manager Roy Keane. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Michael Obafemi and assistant manager Roy Keane. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has called on FIFA to change their player-eligibility rules as he prepares for a double-header where striker Michael Obafemi could play in one Ireland game but not the other due to the existing laws.

The Southampton forward (18) is also eligible to represent Nigeria and England and his club manager Mark Hughes suggested last week that the player was torn between nations.

Obafemi has reported to Dublin for training and impressed O'Neill, with the manager prepared to cap the U-19 international in the friendly against Northern Ireland on Thursday.

That would not tie him down for the long haul, whereas an appearance against Denmark in the UEFA Nations League on Monday would bind Obafemi to Ireland permanently. O'Neill said he will speak to the player and his family to see if he wants to go to Aarhus.

"If he was really happy with the situation and it wasn't just a spur of the moment... if I felt that it was genuine then I wouldn't have a problem (with playing him there)," said O'Neill.

"The players are well aware of the rules. But you would not want to promise somebody and then find out that he plays one game and he is not really up to what you think and you've maybe stopped him from going somewhere else."

The Irish manager is playing by the rules that exist but he would prefer if a senior appearance of any kind left no room for a subsequent switch.

Declan Rice is contemplating his future despite having played three times for Ireland earlier this year.

“These conversations are occurring more often,” said O’Neill.

“If you play a friendly game and are wearing the senior shirt... the whole build-up to it, you’ve played at U-17, U-19, U-21, it has to count for something.

“You might run holes through my argument but it’s certainly going to be a topic of conversation for FIFA and it won’t be far away. I said before that it’s a great rule when it works for you and not so good when it goes against you.”

Irish Independent

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