It is that fun time again to celebrate a Nigerian footballer pulling up trees in a foreign league and today, Junior Ajayi is It.
The 25 year old’s sterling performance against Sudan’s Al Merreikh in this week’s CAF Champions League group stage encounter has not gone unnoticed as it earned him the Player of Week award.
Last season, Ajayi scored 7 goals and provided 6 assists in 29 league matches which made him a 1 goal per 4 games winger which is impressive. In cup competitions, he garnered 4 goals and 1 assist in 14 games: again, 1 goal per 4 games which is pretty consistent.
This season, an unfortunate ankle injury knocked him out of 10 league actions.
Upon his return from injury, Ajayi resumed his career like a house on fire playing his part in Al Ahly’s Fifa Club World Cup 3rd place playoff 3:2 penalty win against Palmeiras on 11 February before winning the player of the week award in the CAF Champions League (after providing an assist in his club’s 3:0 win against Al Merreikh on 17 February).
Due to his exploits in the Egyptian Premier League, numerous media outlets and former Nigeria Internationals Emmanuel Amuneke and Jonathan Akpoborie have clamoured for the invitation of Junior Ajayi to the Super Eagles.
Last week, Mr Adebanjo writing for footballlive.ng stated: “[Junior Ajayi] should be considered, seriously, for Nigeria’s forthcoming international matches next month.” On thisdaylive.com, Akpoborie was quoted as saying: “Ajayi deserves the Nigerian shirt. Compared to most of the strikers I have seen so far for Nigeria. He scores and can create chances for his fellow players.”
In 2018, Brila.net ran an article making a case for Ajayi’s inclusion to the Super Eagles while Amuneke was quoted on ESPN last year as saying: “I believe that Ajayi deserves to be given an opportunity like every other player.”
But so far, all those calls have landed on deaf ears and I am not surprised. Say just 6 years ago when the likes of Turkey based Aminu Umar made Super Eagles squads, then there would have been a chance for Junior Ajayi.
But with the plethora of options for Nigeria coming from reputable leagues across Europe, the chances of Ajayi being called to the Super Eagles are near non-existent (in my humble opinion and I stand to be proved wrong).
Still, I celebrate his personal accomplishments in Egypt. He is doing Nigeria proud in the land of the Pharaohs and that is worthy of praise in its own right.