Ajayi on his decision to play for Super Eagles and missing Neymar’s shirt

Semi Ajayi and William Troost-Ekong Nigeria vs Brazil
The 26-year-old has been a key member of Gernot Rohr’s team since making his debut for the three-time African Champions

West Bromwich Albion centre-back Semi Ajayi admitted it was an easy decision for him to play for Nigeria.  

The versatile player made his senior debut for the Super Eagles against Seychelles in September 2018, which he described as a great ‘honour’, having previously featured for the West Africans at U20 level.

The former Rotherham United star has played 11 times since his maiden appearance for the three-time African champions.

The English-born player spoke of his delight to visit the West African country along with his parents and the Nigerian food he enjoyed were part of the reasons that swayed him to play for the country.

“The decision was made a long time ago. I decided to play for the U20s when I was 19 and the goal was always to play for the first team,” Ajayi told the club website.

“As a youngster, we would go there every two years to visit my mum and dad’s families... it was nice to meet my grandparents and all my cousins.

“It’s a really nice country; mum’s family is in Lagos. She makes Nigerian food at home but it’s different when you go out there and get the real thing. The ingredients are that bit fresher I think. It’s lovely food; I really enjoy it.”

Ajayi was one of the star performers as Gernot Rohr’s men played out a 1-1 draw with five-time world champions Brazil in October.

The defender believes the game gave him huge confidence but admitted his disappointment of missing a chance to get Neymar’s shirt.

“That was a great confidence boost for me, to be able to measure myself against players of that quality and come out with with a 1-1 draw,” he continued.

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“It’s a good feeling to be at that level and it was a very good performance and very good result for us. The only disappointment was not getting Neymar’s shirt.

“But I don’t think he was in a very good mood after the game. I asked at the end but it was already taken – I think the other lads in the team must spend the entire game asking him which is something I would never do. But I got Coutinho’s so I’m happy enough with that.”

Ajayi was part of the 24-man Super Eagles squad scheduled to face Sierra Leone in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on March 27 before the game was suspended owing to the Coronavirus fears.