Football

Barnsley’s US striker makes massive impact

Daryl Dike

Fans of Barnsley FC can be grateful for Daryl Dike’s African heritage. His parents’ love for football is one of the main reasons he didn’t end up in the NFL.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, Dike has had a massive impact at Oakwell. His performances on loan from Orlando City have helped propel the South Yorkshire team – who had one season in the Premier League in 1998/98 – to sixth in the Championship and with every chance of a play-off place.

But rather than top NFL clashes, it was soccer matches that were a common feature in the family’s TV.

Crucially, his parents never relented to pleas from local coaches for the boy to take part in American football trials. They considered the sport unsafe.

The only dissent came on the supporting front: he is a Chelsea fan in a family of Arsenal fans.

It also helped that Dike’s siblings also chose the round ball rather than the oval one: his eldest brother, Bright, and sister Courtney had both played for Nigeria – Courtney even represented the African country in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Daryl himself is still eligible for the Super Eagles, having only been capped by the US in a friendly.

Daryl Dike v QPR
Dike’s powerful physique could easily have led him into American football

Rocketfoot

Dike, 20, only arrived at Barnsley on the last day of the most recent transfer window – but such has been his impact in the Championship that the BBC understands there has already been an approach from one of the big six Premier League – Orlando City have reportedly turned down a $10 million bid.

He has scored three goals in seven league games – the most recent a thunderous game-winning strike against Birmingham City on 6 March that drew an enthusiastic compliment from teammate Jordan Williams.

“Daryl has got a rocket of a right foot. I think he’s similar to Lukaku. He hasn’t scored as many goals yet, but he can hit a ball just as hard,” Williams told the Yorkshire Post newspaper.

“He’s only 20 years of age. It’s amazing.”

Dike even had the chance to face Chelsea: he played 59 minutes in Barnsley’s 1-0 FA Fifth Round defeat to the Blues in February.

Dike’s loan deal ends on 21 April, when the MLS season starts and Orlando City will recall him. He has a $20m release clause.

While Dike took part in January’s US friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, he is still eligible to represent Nigeria and has refused to make a full commitment to any of the two countries.

“When you’re younger, you’re always sitting there, thinking about international, and I know I’ve had my siblings play for Nigeria,” he told ESPN in November.

“And I know I have the opportunity for Nigeria or the USA if I get the chance. But right now I just kind of play my game. If either/or comes, that decision will come when it comes.”

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