Wednesday Oct 20, 2021. 16:00
Former England international Steven Caulker says it has been an “easy decision” to switch allegiance to Sierra Leone.
The 29-year-old, who made one appearance for England in a friendly against Sweden in November 2012, is awaiting clearance from FIFA to represent the Leone Stars.
“My granddad was from Sierra Leone – he told me stories when I was younger,” the 29-year-old, who plays for Gaziantep on loan from fellow Turkish club Fenerbahce, told BBC Sport Africa.
“When I was old enough and had enough money I went to visit myself. I went to places where he grew up, I spent some nights in the villages there and some nights in Kambia, Bo and (the capital) Freetown.
“I feel a connection with the country, so for me to have the opportunity now to represent them at international level is a huge honour.”
After being approached by the Sierra Leone FA, Caulker is hoping he will have the chance to represent the country at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon early next year.
“I had some time to think about the possibility of playing for Sierra Leone, what it feels like, what it will look like,” he said. “I played for England at the age of 20 but since then I haven’t played.
“The chance to come to Sierra Leone and play in the Nations Cup, and get behind the nation in this exciting moment, it became an easy decision to make. I am just really happy I made it.”
Caulker has already played in a non-sanctioned warm-up match for the Leone Stars earlier this month, turning out in a 2-1 loss to a team of locally-based Moroccan players.
He believes Sierra Leone could raise a few eyebrows when they return to the AFCON for the first time in 25 years.
“I was with the team for a few days in Morocco and watched them in action against South Sudan and The Gambia,” he said.
“I think we have a lot of qualities. We have a good young coach [John Keister], a good set-up and a lot of boys who are hungry to achieve success with the national team.
“I want to be part of that and I hope we can be successful in the Nations Cup.
“We all know that it’s going to be difficult but I believe in the team, in our coach and we are all working hard to be best-prepared for the tournament.
“Off the pitch, I hope to inspire children all around the world – in particular, in Sierra Leone – to play football, to feel the joy that we all feel when we put on the national shirt.”