‘It will be an honour to play for Malta’

Qormi striker Alfred Effiong set to become eligible for Maltese citizenship next year

Nigerian forward Alfred Effiong (right) is willing to play for the national team if he acquires Maltese citizenship in the near future.Nigerian forward Alfred Effiong (right) is willing to play for the national team if he acquires Maltese citizenship in the near future.

There are no ‘naturalised’ players in the current Malta squad but that could change next year if Qormi striker Alfred Effiong secures Maltese citizenship.

Born and bred in Nigeria, Effiong has been playing in our country for the past 10 years, forging a reputation as a pacy and powerful striker who can be deadly in counter-attacks.

Under the country’s citizenship laws, a foreign person who has been married to a Maltese citizen for at least five years can apply for Maltese nationality.

Effiong will be eligible to pursue Maltese citizenship next year as he has been married to a Maltese woman since 2010.

There is no doubt that Qormi, Effiong’s present club, would welcome the prospect of having one of their top players become Maltese as that would free up a place for another foreigner in their first team.

At present, Premier League clubs are allowed to have five non-Maltese players on the pitch at any given time and a total of six in their matchday squad.

Given that the mandatory five-year period from the date of his marriage has not passed yet, Effiong must wait a few more months before applying for Maltese citizenship but he confirmed that he has already discussed the matter with his club.

“To be honest, all I know is that Qormi are keen for me to apply for Maltese citizenship because, with me playing as Maltese, they would be able to field an extra foreign player,” Effiong told Times of Malta. “Right now, I’m not really thinking much about it but we will see when the the time comes.”

There is no doubt that Effiong can be an asset for the national team with his qualities.

It is believed that Malta coach Pietro Ghedin has already enquired about Effiong’s situation after getting wind of whispers that the Nigerian can apply for Maltese citizenship in the next few months.

Although Effiong is unaware of the potential interest from the national coach, he has indicated his willingness to represent the country if he gains Maltese citizenship next year.

“It will be an honour and a privilege for me and my Maltese family to play for Malta,” Effiong said.

“I’ve been living in this country for the last 10 years.”

Effiong has turned out for a host of clubs since arriving in Malta in 2005. Gozitan club Kerċem Ajax are widely regarded as his first Maltese team but Effiong revealed that he was supposed to sign for Floriana.

“Not many people know this but it was Floriana who actually brought me to Malta,” Effiong, who turns 30 next month, said.

“I arrived here in the last three days of the transfer window and only had a few training sessions with Floriana. I ran out of time, so I went to play for Kerċem Ajax.

“After one season in Gozo, I returned to Malta to join St George’s.”

Effiong has also played for Ħamrun Spartans, Marsaxlokk, Valletta, with whom he won the Premier League title in season 2011/12, and Gżira United but he is mostly associated with Qormi.

In fact, Effiong, or ‘Fredu’ as the Qormi fans like to call him, is in his second spell with the club.

After a somewhat indifferent start to the season, Effiong is rediscovering his sparkle, scoring two goals in Qormi’s back-to-back wins over Mosta (4-0) and Floriana (4-2).

“We’re still finding our feet,” Effiong said. “I mean after pre-season, it takes two to three months to really get in form.

“I need more game time to reach my best but all in all I’m happy with my performances and looking forward to improving further with every game.”

In the event that Effiong acquires Maltese citizenship and earns a call-up to the national squad, he will be emulating a host of Nigeria-born players who represented Malta in the past. These include Chucks Nwoko, Orosco Anonam, Udo Nwoko, Chris Okoh and Digger Okonkwo. Earlier this year, young striker Joseph Mbong, who has been living in Malta with his family for 14 years, was granted Maltese citizenship. The Hibs starlet figured for Malta at the UEFA U-17 Championship last May.

Zahra’s situation

Meanwhile, Valletta winger Adrian Zahra is another player who will become eligible to play for Malta if he gets a Maltese passport.

Judging by his surname, Zahra has Maltese parentage but the 24-year-old doesn’t have a Maltese passport.

Sources have told Times of Malta that Valletta are trying to gather more information about Zahra’s descendants as the player is willing to apply for a Maltese passport.

As things stand, Zahra, who also has an Italian passport, is registered as a foreign player with the Malta FA.

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