Nov. 19, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s been an eventful few days for former University of Notre Dame men’s soccer standout Bright Dike as he received his latest call-up to the Nigeria National Team.
Dike, a 2009 Notre Dame graduate, found out late last week that he would be joining the Nigerian club for Saturday’s World Cup-qualifying match against Ethiopia. Nigeria notched a 2-0 win to post a 4-1 aggregate victory in the two-game playoff series to punch its ticket to next summer’s tournament in Brazil. Dike did not enter the match but still was able to celebrate Nigeria’s triumph as being the first African nation to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
On Monday, Dike earned a start for Nigeria in a friendly against Italy at Craven Cottage (home to Fulham) in London. The former Fighting Irish forward displayed the scoring prowess that helped him cop the 2009 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year award as he headed home the equalizer that made it 1-1 in the 35th minute. Dike played 65 minutes in the match, which ended as a 2-2 draw.
Dike received his first call-up for Nigeria last December. The Oklahoma native, whose parents were born in Nigeria, deposited the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Catalonia on January 2 to become the first former Irish men’s player to score a goal for a senior national team. Monday was his second goal with the Super Eagles.
Dike plays professionally for Toronto FC in the MLS. He missed a good portion of this season while recovering from a knee injury, but managed to play in seven matches (five starts) and scored one goal.
“It’s amazing how Bright has gotten on the Nigeria roster and I just hope he can stay there,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark says. “A lot of talent comes out of Nigeria and some big names that are playing in the English Premier League. For Bright to be playing alongside these guys is a terrific achievement.”
There is the potential of having at least two former Fighting Irish players at the 2014 World Cup. While Dike is not guaranteed a spot on the Nigeria roster, he certainly appears to be in the mix. Matt Besler, also a `09 Notre Dame graduate, had a major impact for the United States during qualifying (the U.S. locked up a berth on Sept. 10). Besler is a strong candidate to be one of the team’s central defenders in Brazil. He started six matches during the final round of qualifying.
The Fighting Irish program has never had a former player compete in the World Cup.
“It would be unbelievable to have one player at the World Cup, let alone two,” Clark says. “It would be a terrific feather in our cap here at Notre Dame.
“Nobody is ever a lock (for the roster) until you get on the plane, but Matt (Besler) has been fantastic over the last couple of years. We just keep our fingers crossed for both of the lads and you never know, there could be someone else. There are a couple of other guys knocking on the door and we’ll wait and see how they do. It’s coming up fast and we just hope to get some Notre Dame representation in Brazil.”
— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director