LONDON — Arsenal starlet Reiss Nelson has been targeted by Zimbabwe as part of a new recruitment drive to attract more foreign-based footballers to play for the Warriors.
Despite having never won a major international honour and being expelled from qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia, the southern African nation are hoping to improve their record in the future by tapping into the talent available among their worldwide diaspora.
The Arsenal youngster is rated as one of the most exciting players to emerge from their academy in recent years and could follow in the footsteps of Alex Iwobi to declare for the country of his parent’s birth, rather than England.
Nelson was born in Elephant And Castle in South London, while his father was born in Zimbabwe, giving the winger the chance to play for them if he so chooses, and efforts are being made to convince him to turn his back on a potential future with England.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare has admitted that he and his team are trying hard to strike up a conversation with the 17-year-old in order to secure his future.
“Yes, we are interested in Nelson but we are still trying to establish contact with him, so I can’t say much at the moment,” he told Kwesé.
“We know that the player is highly rated in England and it will be difficult, but we will try our best.”
Nelson could join a host of other British-based Zimbabwe internationals if he does decide to heed the call.
Leyton Orient’s Macauley Bonne has already made himself available for selection alongside Admiral Muskwe of Leicester City, Celtic midfielder Kundai Benyu and right-back Tendai Darikwa, formerly of Burnley, now with Nottingham Forest.
The Clarets could yet provide the Warriors with another international if young winger Tinashe Chikwana opts to represent Zimbabwe while Bradford City’s Adam Chicksen is also eligible to be called up.
Since making his debut for the Gunners against Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley in August, 17-year-old Nelson has made seven appearances for Arsene Wenger’s side but is yet to feature in the Premier League.
He has so far been used as a wing-back in the senior side due to Arsenal’s shift to playing with a back three, although he impressed as an academy player lining up out wide or behind the striker.
So far he has exclusively played for England at youth level, lining up for the Under-16s, Under-17, Under-18s and most recently the Under-19s.
Nelson was also part of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the Under-17 European Championship in 2016, scoring three goals in four games.