June 10, 2023 _ (Reuters) – Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun said Gareth Southgate had no impact on his decision to switch allegiance and play for the United States after the England manager had urged him to be patient in waiting for a place with the senior national team.
The sought after 21-year-old, who has been on loan at Ligue 1 side Stade de Reims, said last month that he would represent the U.S. after he played for England at Under-21 level.
His decision is seen as a triumph for the Americans, as Balogun scored 21 Ligue 1 goals this season, after Southgate said it would take time for him to start for the Three Lions.
Balogun arrived at training camp in Carson, California this week ahead of a showdown between champions the United States and rivals Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals.
“My decision to come here was just really an internal decision between myself, my family and my agent. It wasn’t anything to do with the comments of Gareth Southgate or anything to do with noise I heard from outside,” Balogun said on Friday.
“That was something I wanted to do. It (was) something my family supported and at the end of the day, I just went with my heart and went with what I thought was the best,” he added.
Balogun said he was already fitting in perfectly with the squad and had received an education in the history of the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity, not just for me, but for the team,” he said. “Mexico and the US have a big rivalry, so I’m looking forward to it.
“And, of course, there’d be no better way to introduce myself than playing against a big opposition where it matters.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)