November 30, 2019

Semi Ajayi: I was over the moon when I got my first Super Eagles call up

Semi Ajayi, West Brom

Semi Ajayi

Semi Ajayi

Oluwasemilogo Adesewo Ibidapo Ajayi, known as Semi Ajayi,26, is a defender cum defensive midfielder for English club West Bromwich Albion and the Super Eagles.

Ajayi made his Nigeria U20 debut on 4 June 2013, in a 1–1 draw against Belgium U21.

2015:In 2015, Ajayi joined Championship team, Cardiff City on loan until the end of the 2014–2015 season but did not feature for the first team. He moved to Wimbledon that same year on a month-long loan

2015: In January 2017, Ajayi signed a loan deal until the end of the 2016–17 season with fellow struggling Championship side, Rotherham United.

He scored his first Rotherham United goal, in a 3–2 defeat against Huddersfield Town and in 2018, Ajayi received his first call up to the Super Eagles in August 2018 for 2019 African Cup of Nations Qualifiers. He described it as a “dream” call up, adding, “I was over the moon and said yes straightaway.”

He spoke with Jacob Ajom in Uyo recently. Excerpts

How did your love for football begin?

I was obsessed with football right from my childhood. I was always playing football around the garden with my brother or my dad around the park. I just found myself naturally growing up and gravitating towards football.

Growing up, who encouraged you to go into football?

I think it was a passion I developed by myself but my dad was a big football fan. So, maybe I would say my dad influenced me a little bit.

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Who was your role model while you were growing up?

Call him my dad because I looked up to my dad a lot, as a child. He was a very big model to me as I was growing up.

What are your most memorable moments as a footballer?

Winning promotion with Rotherdm to the championship two seasons ago and also my debut for the Super Eagles.

Worst moment?

When we were relegated with Rotherdam last season.

What do you intend to achieve with the Super Eagles?

To gain as many caps as I possibly can personally and, as a team, to win as many tournaments as possible, the Africa Cup of Nations and participate in the World Cup.

How has your partnership in the Super Eagles defence been like?

Well , it has been pretty good. We complement each other very well and there is a good understanding between us. We communicate perfectly with each other. I am enjoying playing with them.

What is the competition like among you the defenders?

I won’t really feel is competition. It is the coach who decides who to field to do the job for the country. It could be me, if it is not me it could be someone else. We all support the coach’s decision, in as much as the team wins. It is about the team not the individual.

Who is your closest pal among the Super Eagles players?

Alex{Iwobi} because we spent time in the academy and I have known him for a very long time.

How did you get an invite to the Super Eagles?

I was playing in the championship week in, week out and I believe the scouts spotted me and gave me a call, asking me if I would honour the call to come and represent Nigeria. I was all over the moon. I said yes straight away.

Did any other country approach you before Nigeria?

I had already played for Nigeria at the U20 level, so all along, I already knew where I was headed and that had been Nigeria all long.

What do you see the Super Eagles being in the next two years?

We can improve, that is all we can do. We have a young team where all of us are still growing. In two years time at AFCON, maybe we can improve on our third place finish at the last AFCON in Egypt.

Did you experience anything like culture shock, having come from the UK to Nigeria as a grown-up?

There was no culture shock at all because my mom and dad brought me home every year, when I was growing up. I am very, very comfortable.

What is your favourite Nigerian delicacy?

Ah…. delicacy? I won’t say suya is a delicacy but I do love suya very well. It is one of my favourites. Anytime I come in here I make sure I get it.