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Newcastle youngster ponders international future
GAEL Bigirimana has spent the last week dreaming of winning international honours - but the highly-rated Newcastle United youngster admits he does not know which country he would like to represent.
Bigirimana is eligible to play for four different countries - Burundi, the land of his birth, DR Congo and Uganda, states to which he has familial links, and England, where he has lived since arriving as a refugee at the age of 11.
The 18-year-old is yet to play at any representative level, but will almost certainly be under consideration for Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad after making senior appearances for Newcastle against Atromotis and Aston Villa.
He impressed as a first-half substitute against Villa, and admits he will face a difficult decision if he is approached by England officials at some stage this season.
"International football is a privilege and I would be honoured to play it," said Bigirimana, who made a £1m move from Coventry earlier this summer. "As long as I'm playing for one (country), moving forward and improving I don't mind what nationality I will play for.
"England is like my second home, but it is difficult for me because I have two homes. England has grown in me and I have met so many fantastic people and mentors who are English.
"That does not mean I am saying I don't like Burundi. That is where I was born, where I saw my first sunset. England is like another place where God has put me for a purpose."
Bigirimana has watched this week's international schedule with interest, and is fully aware of the weight of expectation that goes hand in hand with representing England.
"England has great young players, but they just need to enjoy their football again," he said. "It looks like there is a big pressure when players go and play for England.
"There's no need for that, there shouldn't be any pressure when you put on an England shirt. It is like a bonus for a player when you play for your country.
"It is a bonus - it is like a holiday. But it looks like when English players go and play for their country that the whole world's eyes are on them so no wonder they sometimes struggle. Hopefully that will change and it will be enjoyable for them again."
Alan Pardew is unlikely to find international football too enjoyable, as Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini have both suffered injuries away from Tyneside .
Krul's elbow injury is not believed to be too severe, but there are fears Coloccini's hamstring problem could be more serious and sideline him for a number of weeks.
Pardew could at least take a modicum of comfort from one of this weekend's international fixtures, as Ivory Coast beat Senegal 4-2 in the first leg of their play-off to determine who will compete in next spring's Africa Cup of Nations.
The second leg takes place on October 12, and while Ivory Coast's participation would deprive Newcastle of the services of Cheik Tiote, it would mean both Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba being available for the whole of January and February.
* Newcastle's Europa League game in Maritimo on September 20 will be televised live on ESPN.