Following a second trip away with the Super Eagles, Millers defender Semi Ajayi discusses an unforgettable first call-up last time he was on duty…
A first international call-up is something a professional footballer will never forget, but to couple that with an appearance against the President of Liberia and one of the most highly-regarded African footballers of all time is something that few other than Millers defender Semi Ajayi can lay claim to.
The 24-year-old was selected to be involved in Nigeria’s AFCON 2018 Qualifier against the Seychelles before the Super Eagles were invited to take part in a friendly to retire former World Footballer of the Year George Weah’s shirt, with Ajayi fortunate enough to feature in both matches.
Ajayi’s nation were successful in both fixtures and the Millers defender admits the experience was one that he will never forget.
“The friendly was arranged to retire his [Weah’s] number 14 jersey and I'm not sure how long he was meant to play, I don't think it was very long! He ended up playing 79 minutes or something like that and that was surreal.
“The fact that he was involved in the game meant that there was a brilliant turnout and the stadium was basically full. It was really good to see a lot of people come out and appreciate the game for him.
“He was playing up front, so I had to come up against him. I had a few headers against him and there was a one-v-one out wide and I took the ball off him, but the referee blew and gave a free kick but I think that's because it was George Weah!
“Other than that it was a great experience to play against someone of his reputation and I won't forget it in a hurry.”
Ajayi continued to add that he will forever have a keepsake from the occasion, after he was handed his match shirts from the fixtures against Seychelles and Liberia and admits the feedback was positive from his first outings for the Super Eagles’ senior side.
“I was presented with my two shirts after the game and I don't know whether I'll physically get a cap,” he continued.
“I was given my shirts and I got a round of applause from all of the boys in the team and a lot of them came up to me and told me how well they thought I'd played, so it was really, really good.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my debut and it was a bit of a surreal experience to be fair. I was told to warm-up at around half time and the manager said that I'd be coming on around the 60 minute-mark.
“I'd kept myself warm and I was ready to come on at centre back, but then our right back went down injured. I came on at right back instead and got myself just under 20 minutes, but just to be on the pitch knowing that I was representing my country, which I've dreamed of doing from a young age, meant I was over the moon and to get a win was great.
“I managed to get my full start a couple of days later which was even better and lining up with the boys and singing the national anthem was something that was really special and I'll never forget it.
“We managed to get another win and I managed to play the full 90 minutes which was great for me.”