Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha insists he has no regrets about turning his back on the England in order to represent Ivory Coast at international level, citing the lack of the England setup’s lack of interest him compared to the faith and patience Les Elephants showed in him.
Born in Ivory Coast, Zaha moved to England at the age of four. He was capped by the Three Lions in an international friendly against Sweden in 2012, but after several years of silence from the FA, the player set about changing his international allegiance to his homeland.
“I don’t regret the decision I made. Obviously I’ll be watching, cheering on England [at the World Cup] because I live here, I’ve been here most of my live but I don’t regret the decision at all,” 25-year-old Zaha told Goal.com.
In December 2016, England manager Gareth Southgate publicly stated that he was ‘hopeful’ he could speak to Zaha in an apparent bid to change the player’s mind. For Zaha, it seems as though that either didn’t happen or it was too little too late after so long being ignored.
Zaha was asked if he felt valued by England and replied, “Not one bit”, explaining, “I didn’t get picked for England for four years. Four years in football is a long time. So it gave me a lot of time to reflect on my decision and I thought me playing for Ivory Coast is the best thing for me.”
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Prior to committing to Ivory Coast, Zaha admitted he hadn’t been back to the country of his birth since he’d left as a young child. But he described the reception from fans at the airport on his first return as ‘unreal’ and ‘heart-warming’.
“[Ivory Coast] came to me twice or three times before and I turned them down. I was overwhelmed by the fact that even though I’ve turned them down they still believed in me and saw what I could add to the team. “When they came back again I thought ‘this is a no brainer’.”