Will belongingness help convince Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi to play for the Black Stars?

Akwaaba, Callum Hudson-Odoi. Welcome to a land of rich history, vast culture, warm and loving human beings. Welcome to a vibrant nation whose infinite cravings for football is similar to that of England’s.

Callum Hudson-Odoi in Ghana

As was the case last Sunday, when Great Olympics played a breathless game against Hearts of Oak, Callum Hudson-Odoi could be spotted in the stance – eyes wide, mouth drooling – documenting what his curious eyes fed him, storing information from all the dramatic, stirring action unfolding.

Perhaps, Hudson-Odoi liked what he saw. Perhaps, he even loved what he saw. Perhaps, the upbeat nature of the shrill crowd, the thrilling nature of the football on display, might have triggered some pleasant emotions within. Thoughts of switching nationality and featuring for the Black Stars might probably have emerged in his mind and lingered on throughout that peaceful night.

Will Callum Hudson-Odoi switch nationality and play for the Black Stars? Will he be charmed enough by a beseeching nation who so admire his noble, eye-popping exploits with a football at his feet?

Indeed, these have been the raw questions which have swirled around in the media space, provoking a lengthy discourse by a curious footballing community on the path Hudson-Odoi might drift towards: stick with England and hope to fulfil a long-standing childhood dream, or make a defiant shift to play for Ghana where his services will be exceedingly invaluable.

In truth, Hudson-Odoi's visit to Ghana for the summer holidays is deeply rooted in a burning desire to investigate his lineage. To probe a country where his father, Bismark Odoi, who played for Hearts of Oak in the nineties, hails from: to connect the dots, to find the missing pieces, to dig out and unearth intimate relations and a sense of belonging he would not otherwise have had in Britain.

And so here he is, enthused about the simple life in Ghana, touring the country with relish, memorising names of places, greeting strangers with a broad, innocent smile and performing his celebrity duties to perfection.

On Monday, the Chelsea superstar met the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, at the Jubilee House in his most charming nature, trying purposely to seduce the young man, to entice him to rethink his decision of playing for the Three Lions of England. He later met the Minister for Youth and Sports and GFA president, Ussif Mustapha and Kurt Okraku, to briefly discuss ways he can contribute his bit to football infrastructure in the country.

And so this has posed a slim dilemma for Callum Hudson-Odoi who is now torn between two possibilities: England or Ghana. Will he stay put and fully realise a childhood ambition of featuring at senior level for England, or will he swiftly switch allegiances and play for a country with whom he shares a deep sense of belonging, and who so desperately want him to don their colours?

Callum Hudson-Odoi remains a fine winger despite failing to make England’s Euro 2020 squad. He won’t play any part in the looming Euros, and updated FIFA rules makes it possible for him to switch nationality and play for the Black Stars in 2022 despite already featuring for England on three occasions. It is for this reason that the nation is highly tempted to indulge in a fantasy, to continue to hope that sooner the 20-year-old will have a change of heart and play for a fragile Black Stars.

After a period in which the men’s national football team have undergone a boom and bust cycle, what better way is there to birth a new era than to do it with a battery of young and exciting prospects assembled from the world over? First, seducing Odoi could perhaps serve as the needed catalyst in attracting high-profile UK-born players of Ghanaian descent to the senior national team. Think Tariq Lamptey. Think Eddie Nketiah.

"We will see," was Odoi's frank reply when quizzed about playing for Ghana. It remains to be seen what his final decision will be. But until then, a nation keeps dreaming.

Bright Antwi.

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