By Our Correspondent
In a pivotal move to secure the budding talent of Nigerian descent Ime Okon, South Africa’s head coach Hugo Broos has invited the 18-year-old sensation to the national team ahead of their two friendlies in September, Soccernet.ng reports.
Okon is a surprise inclusion in Hugo Broos’ latest Bafana Bafana squad to face Namibia and Congo DR.
The teenager’s invitation marks the second instance in recent times where a player of Nigerian descent has pledged their future to South Africa, following in the footsteps of Michael Dokunmu.
Dokunmu, born to Nigerian parents, previously featured in South Africa’s 23-man squad during the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations. Despite a valiant effort by the South Africans, they fell short, losing 2-3 to Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets at the AFCON.
However, the case with Ime Okon differs significantly, as he is set to integrate fully into the South African national team.
This proactive move by Broos to select Okon came amidst growing speculations about the young talent potentially opting for the Nigeria Super Eagles.
Randburg Football Club Chairman Kevin Mudie expressed the importance of this decision by Broos, stating,
“It was very important that Broos quickly moved to select Okon before there were ideas of him also playing for the Nigerian Super Eagles.”
Okon, born to a South African mother and Nigerian father in South Africa, could consider playing for either country.
However, as Mudie revealed, he currently holds a local passport, and thus, his commitment to Bafana Bafana remains unwavering.
Mudie expressed his satisfaction with Okon’s choice, saying,
“I’m very, very happy as a South African but sorry Nigeria but he’s chosen to be with Bafana Bafana.”
The Randburg Football Club played a significant role in Okon’s development.
Having spent five years at the club, he moved to SuperSport United in November 2022.
Notably, he caught the eye of SuperSport United’s head coach, Gavin Hunt, during one of their Gauteng Development League (GDL) matches.
Mudie, himself a former top striker in South African football during the 80s and early 90s, acknowledged the club’s role in nurturing Okon’s talent.
Mudie commended Hunt and his team for spotting Okon’s potential, stating,
“Look, I think it’s played a big role and a big part, but it’s also credit to someone like Gavin Hunt and his team to spot that talent.”
He emphasized the importance of intense training to further develop Okon’s skills, especially as he transitions from Randburg to SuperSport United.
Ime Okon, at just 18 years old, has already made his mark by featuring in four matches for SuperSport United across various competitions this season, suggesting a promising future under Hunt’s guidance.
He will look to make his international debut against either Namibia or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in September.