AFRICA

Former England U-21 forward Berahino given clearance to play for Burundi

Former England U-21 forward Berahino given clearance to play for Burundi

Catherine Kõrtsmik

Flikr

The Stoke City striker is now set for call-up from the country of his birth after playing at six different youth levels for England.

Former England under-21 striker Saido Berahino has been cleared by Fifa to play for the country of his birth, Burundi.

A statement published on Sunday (5 August) by the Burundian Football Federation (FFB) confirmed the news.

"Saido Berahino, who holds two nationalities (English and Burundian), is authorized to play for the representative team of the Burundi Football Federation," it said.

The 25-year-old Stoke City forward accumulated 47 England caps after playing at six different youth levels.

Berahino can now take part in Burundi’s team for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, with a trip to Gabon coming on 7 September.

From Burundi to England

Born in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, Berahino fled the war-torn country alone when he was ten to join his mother, brother and sisters who had already been granted asylum in Birmingham.

His father was killed in the Burundi Civil War, a conflict that was the result of the long standing ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tutsi groups. The War lasted from 1993 to 2005.

Berahino joined West Bromwich Albion at the age of 11 and turned professional seven years later. He represented England at all youth levels from U-16 to U-21 and was part of the U-17 team which won the 2010 European Championship.

In November 2014, he was called up by Roy Hodgson to the senior team ahead of a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Slovenia and a friendly against Scotland. However, the striker did not take part in either of the matches for which he was called up.

Change of allegiance

In March 2015, Berahino was first approached to represent his native Burundi at international level. Initially, he declined, however, after three years of not receiving a call-up to the senior England team, the striker finally decided to change his allegiance.

Burundi, currently 148th in the Fifa rankings, have never qualified for a major international tournament.

Nevertheless, hopes of reaching the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations remain alive, after they defeated South Sudan 3-0 in their opening qualifier.

In their qualifying group, Burundi have been drawn alongside Gabon, South Sudan and Mali.

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