Semi Ajayi has said that he had always wanted to play international football for Nigeria.
The London-born West Bromwich Albion defender, who was also eligible to play for England, qualified to play for the Super Eagles through his parents.
“When I was at Charlton, I had already represented Nigeria at under-20 and under-21 level. I’d always envisioned myself progressing to the first team,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport Africa. When I got promoted with Rotherham, I was playing week in week out in the Championship.”
“That season I got a call from the Nigeria team saying that they had been monitoring my progress and they would like to offer me an invitation to the first team.
“I was buzzing, I was over the moon. Then I made my debut a couple of weeks later against Seychelles.
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“It’s a surreal feeling pulling on that jersey and knowing that you are representing 200 million people. I’m blessed to be part of the 18 or 23 people selected to represent the country. It’s something I don’t take for granted.”
Ajayi, who now has 14 senior international caps, used to spend summers in Nigeria with his family before he turned professional.
“Before I started playing football full time, I used to go there every other summer with my family,” he explained.
“Now that my time off in football is different to the time my mum gets off from work, I don’t go as often. I still go back four times a year for the internationals and then sometimes in the summer.”