Arsenal youngster wants Newcastle prospect to switch allegiances

Newcastle youngster Gael Bigirimana is being urged to turn his back on England, by a Rwandan teenager rising through Arsenal's ranks.

Ever since signing for Newcastle from Coventry City last summer, the international future of Gael Bigirimana has been the subject of discussion.

The 19-year-old was at the centre of a tug of war between two African countries for who he was eligible.

Burundi, the nation of his birth, and Rwanda, from where his mother hails. So far he has snubbed them both.

This summer he made the choice to take up England's call, and join the under-20 World Cup squad.

He said: "If the FA thinks that I could be in the upcoming group of talent then I would like to play for England because they have been amazing to my family.

"They welcomed us and gave my mum a place to live and be free. For people like me to have been given an opportunity and achieve a goal and a dream is something amazing.

"So for me to play for England is like being able to say thanks to the country for giving people like me a chance to be free in a country where I was a stranger when I first arrived."

Bigirimana went to the under-20 World Cup with England's ill-fated side, but played just two minutes, the midfielder coming on as a late subsitute in a 2-2 draw with Iraq.

He remains though still eligible to change his allegiance, as he has not been capped by any country in a competitive senior game, and he is not forgotten in the minds of the Rwandan people.

Arsenal's own rising star, Alfred Mugabo, 18, has pledged his future to Rwanda, making his international debut earlier this year against Algeria.

He is proud of the once war ravaged country and hopeful about it's footballing future. In fact MUgabo was earlier this year picked out by none other than Jack Wilshere as one to watch.

In an interview with Arsenal's website earlier this week, Mugabo spoke of his hope:

"The game against Algeria was a great starting point for me, and I couldn’t turn the chance down. I wanted to do it for my country and I think we all appreciated it a lot. It still feels crazy to have been there, and it’s something I want to be doing frequently in the future. I am sure we’ll get stronger, and I really want to stay at that level now that I have tasted it

"“I know there are a lot more Rwandans out there, in fact, I’ve heard that Gael Birigimana at Newcastle is eligible for them, and he’s been doing very well. So you never know, the national team may well grow."

Whether he is aware or not that Bigirimana has made a first step towards playing for England is unknown, but one thing is for sure, Mugabo would certainly relish the prospect of the Newcastle man linking up with him.

The two stars have a chance of meeting up, on March 10 when Arsenal's under-21 side travel to the North East to play against Newcastle's under-21s with the league re-organised so each team plays each other once.

Bigirimana may hope he is firmly with the first team by then, but if he is not, and the two youngsters come face to face, don't bet against Mugabo having a quiet word with his Newcastle opponent about changing his future plans.

image: © hjallig

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for NEWCASTLE UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch