Former England U21 striker, Saido Berahino, made the decision to switch his international allegiance to Burundi in 2018. The 29-year-old, who now plays for Cypriot side AEL Limassol, scored 24 goals in 47 games across various England age groups from U16 to U21 level. Berahino scored on his debut for Burundi against Gabon in September 2018 and even captained his country at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Berahino fled war-torn Burundi as a 10-year-old but was given FIFA clearance to switch allegiances in 2018. Speaking exclusively to SunSport that year, Berahino opened up about the work he was doing in the East African nation after choosing to switch international allegiances. He said, “I’d always wanted to help my country and I made a massive step by going back to play for them. I’ve always tried to do things back home because the Burundi people are my people — I came here to England and I got lucky. God gave me a better life and now I am in a situation where I can help a lot of people and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Berahino added that switching allegiances means he is able to visit the country himself when he is called up for Burundi duty. He continued, “Now I go back myself because I am playing for my country. Every time I do, there is a lot of work with homeless kids, I provide them with food. There are patients in hospitals that never pay for their bills and because of that they are kept there as prisoners. They are kept there until they can find a way of somehow getting the money.”
Berahino, who played for the likes of West Brom, Stoke, and Sheffield Wednesday, has scored two goals in 18 senior caps for his country. He joined Stoke from West Brom in an initial £12million deal in January 2017 during the midst of a 913-day goal drought. The striker left Sheffield Wednesday last September to join Cypriot side AEL Limassol, the ninth club of his career, where he has scored four goals in 27 games.