Marvin Olawale Akinlabi Park made waves after his first team breakthrough at Real Madrid earlier this season. To the surprise of those who had just found about him, the 20-year-old was not only eligible to play internationally for Spain, but also for Nigeria and South Korea.
Born in Spain to a Nigerian father and South Korean mother, Park’s future nationality battle will be a change from the ordinary for African football fans. In addition to having to beat out Spain, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) will also have to overcome the efforts of Asian giants South Korea.
South Korea’s coach at the 2019 U20 World Cup Chung Jung-Yong recently revealed that he unsuccessfully attempted to get the promising winger to play for the Asian nation.
While selecting his squad, Jung-Yong searched for Korean mixed-race players around the world. He came across Park and decided to add him to the squad.
“I have confirmed that speed is an advantage, and I thought it was worth choosing enough to check because I was in the Real Madrid youth team.” Jung-Yong said according to Korean news outlet v.daum.net.
Listen to Malek Shafei and Ed Dove discuss Park’s debut on a previous episode of the African Football HQ Podcast below.
This season, the right-winger has primarily played with Real Madrid’s Castilla side (2nd team). In September, however, Zinedine Zidane surprised many and gave the youngster his debut with 20 minutes remaining against Real Sociedad.
NFF Vice President Seyi Akinwunmi and Super Eagles chief scout Tunde Adelakun have confirmed that they are keeping tabs on Akinlabi, with a view to a future call-up to one of the Nigeria teams.
Park played his only international match in January 2019 when he came on as a substitute for the Spain U19s in a 3-0 friendly loss to Italy.
Although the Korean coach stated that Park was happy to receive interest from the country of his mother, there were many difficulties in trying to get him to represent the Red Devils.
“His parents are poor in Korean and have three nationalities (Korea, Spain, Nigeria). There were difficulties. I remember that the player responded with good feelings, but due to various circumstances, he was not selected.”
Park was a key member of the Real Madrid squad that won the UEFA Youth League last season, scoring the decisive goal against Internazionale in the quarter-finals.