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Almeria's Henok Goitom considers playing for Eritrea

By Phil Minshull
BBC Sport, Madrid

Henok Goitom (left) in action for Almeria
Henok Goitom (left) is a key man for Almeria in the Spanish League

Swedish-born striker Henok Goitom is considering switching his allegiance to play for Eritrea, the country of his father's birth.

Henok, who plays for Almeria in the Spanish first division, notched up 13 appearances for Sweden's under-21 side during 2005 and 2006.

Many people thought he should have been included in Sweden's squad that went to the World Cup in Germany four years ago.

He eventually got his senior call up for Sweden in March last year but did not come on to make his debut, so he is still eligible to play for the land of his father.

"I now have to have a serious discussion with the Swedish coach (Erik Hamren) about whether or not I have options of playing for them this season," Henok told the Spanish sports daily Marca earlier this week.

"If not, then I'll look at the situation, but I've already talked to my parents about playing for Eritrea."

"My father has also been in touch with the country's president (Isaias Afwerki) about me getting Eritrean nationality and I don't have a problem with that," he added.

Henok has been considering a change of direction since the start of the season, when he started wearing a shirt with his name written in Tigrinya rather than Spanish.

"It was my cousin's idea, actually, and then I talked with my dad about it. My old language teacher fixed the letters for me, so that you could put them on the jersey. I did it to demonstrate that Eritrea is part of my heart," he said.

"I've been to Eritrea on only two occasions and football there isn't a primary objective because people have to work hard to have a roof over their heads and to eat, things that we take for granted in Europe. But next summer I want to return there again to visit my grandmother and cousins."

Henok has never been a prolific scorer, and has yet to score in the league this season, but has often been the service provider for his fellow strikers at his various clubs, including his Almeria team mate, the Nigerian international Kalu Uche.

Eritrea are currently in 165th place in the Fifa rankings and 44th out of the 52 African national teams.

They did not enter the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying tournament.

The Red Sea Boys' last official game was at the Cecafa Cup against Tanzania in Nairobi last December, which they lost 4-0, although they beat Somalia 3-1 in their previous outing.

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see also
Country profile: Eritrea
30 Nov 10 |  Country profiles
Uganda and Zanzibar triumph
07 Dec 09 |  African
Zimbabwe go down to Rwanda
08 Dec 09 |  African

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