Ajayi did enough to quell the element of surprise that was meant to accompany his inclusion on the list of Super Eagles invitees for the friendlies against Poland and Serbia.
Obviously excited to have gotten a call-up to the national team, the 22-year old put up a tweet a day before the official release of the list stating his invitation to the national team was a dream come true.
The latter part of the tweet read, ‘I will make you all proud by the grace of God’ before appreciating Gernot Rohr and his club-side, and then some hashtags. While his leanings towards the supernatural cannot be faulted, the statement evinces the shifted gaze after his first conquest: getting an invite to the Super Eagles. A hurdle scaled, eyes fixed onto the next. His next hurdle simply could be dismissed as getting a debut with the Super Eagles, donning the green and white of the senior team.
But Ajayi made sure to unequivocally state his intent with a hashtag, ‘#Russia2018′. It doesn’t need all the spelling in the world to reach the conclusion that this was the next hurdle, gatecrashing the World Cup party. A feat that sounds as impossible as it looks. Many believe Gernot Rohr simply is playing a mean game with the new invites, positing that the World Cup squad has already been chosen and sealed. All else are ruses and bluffs.
With grateful heart and total respect to the family of @NGSuperEagles and all #Nigerians, this invitation to our National Team is a dream come true . I will make you all proud by the grace of God.
Thank You #CoachRorh. Thank you @AlAhly. #AjayiJnr #Russia2018 pic.twitter.com/1KPvdAIUzt
— Junior Ajayi (@Ajayi_Jnr_) March 6, 2018
Ajayi does believe differently, hoping he’d get a fair crack at showing his stated quality in the Super Eagles, hence, the statement: “I will make you all proud” and the Russia 2018 hashtag.
Fittingly, the invite in itself serves as a nod of acknowledgement and approval of Ajayi’s impressive performances with Egyptian side, Ah Ahly. Rohr’s dragnet, we know could be unwilling to stretch beyond familiar waters, preferring his trusted players.
The Egyptian Premier League, although does stand out on the African terrain but the preference for the European Leagues, and China these days, is apparent. It, perhaps, is why the invite of Zamalek player, Maroouf Youssef for the game against South Africa remains a head-scratcher, seeming more like an administrative error than actually having any iota of intent in the call-up.
What is a fact is that the odds are heavily stacked against him in his mission impossible – a newbie hoping to pry away a seat on the plane from one of the more established folks. Maybe not directly from the forwards on the team, and certainly not from the goalkeepers, Ajayi would need to a make ginormous splash from the get-go to force Rohr’s hand.
The forward must learn from Anthony Nwakaeme’s unfortunate case. Nwakaeme, missing from the latest list barely had enough time to prove his quality with the Super Eagles. In 71 minutes, filling a position different from where he lines for his club-side, he was deemed not good enough for the Super Eagles. Nwakaeme played as a centre-forward against Algeria, was largely isolated and only naturally took a while to find his feet in the match.
Like Nwakaeme, Ajayi has flourished in front of goal, his eight goals and nine assists stand out among the other attackers on the Super Eagles list. He has had stints playing as a centre-forward but has settled in on the left side of attack where he has been devastating with his movements with and without the ball.
Perhaps the former 3SC forward could steal in as the seventh attacker in the team to the World Cup with Victor Moses, Moses Simon, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo and Kelechi Iheanacho certain to make it to the World Cup. Obviously, the inclusion would rock other departments in the team especially the defence currently with five full-backs. It is almost a mission impossible with fallouts.