When Nigeria’s home based Super Eagles defeated Equatorial Guinea to cement their top spot in Group C on Tuesday, an unlikely hero who has remained unsung for too long eventually came to the fore – Dayo Ojo
Ekundayo Solomon Ojo, known for short as Dayo Ojo in the Nigeria Professional Football League is an enormously talented midfielder who has remained consistent for about six seasons that he has played for his home state club, Sunshine Stars.
As a teenager, Ojo’s exploits remain indelible in the hearts of Nigerian football fans when Sunshine Stars reached the semi-final of CAF Champions League in 2012, the silently flashy midfielder forging a very creative midfield partnership with Cameroonian Tamen Medrano and Moses James.
Despite his accomplishment on the domestic scene, Dayo Ojo has been continually overlooked by national team selectors, especially those of the home-based Super Eagles. As an effectual performer in the NPFL, Ojo was part of an All Star selection which played two games on a tour of Spain in 2016.
As unassuming as he is off the field, his performances – as overlooked as they are – remained decisive and when he could have given up, favouring a move to Sudan, his chance arrived.
“I give thanks to God for this opportunity to represent Nigeria,” Ojo told www.aclsports.com at the Eagles base in Agadir on Wednesday. “I’ve been playing well for Sunshine Stars since the period we were in the continental competitions but I believe that was not yet my time.
“I kept on working hard and I didn’t feel discouraged because I knew my time would come. I give God the thanks that now my time has come and I have to grab it to make some difference.
Talking of making some difference, Nigeria began the 2018 competition with a wasteful 0-0 draw with Rwanda in Tangier. However, the team’s seeming lack of decision-making in the final quarter was resolved within nine minutes of Ojo making a competitive debut for the Super Eagles against Libya.
Ojo replaced Ifeanyi Ifeanyi in the central midfield role and brought movement and fluidity to the Eagles’ play. His performance earned him a start against Equatorial Guinea in an advanced role in midfield which he capped with a brilliant strike and subsequently won the Man of the Match award.
“There is no place I cannot play in the midfield. “As long as it is the midfield area. I may not know anything about the attack or defense (positions) but in that midfield, there is no where I cannot fit in,” said Ojo.
That summarises his importance to the team aiming to win their first ever African Nations Championship title in Morocco. He believes this is not an impossible task given the quality at the team’s disposal.
“It is very possible for us to win the tournament and that is what we are aiming for. There is no point coming if we don’t think we can win it. We have enough quality in the team to make this happen.”
Asides giving locally based players who may be deemed of less quality for the main national team a chance to express themselves, one of the platforms the African Nations Championship give to participants is an avenue to be seen by scouts from outside the continent. Ojo has been out of the country, very recently playing for Sudanese club Al Merriekh alongside former Sunshine teammate Kunle Odunlami. The diminutive midfielder is hopeful a good deal will come his way very soon.
“I believe something good will happen because that (playing in Europe) is the dream of every player in this part of the world. (You will like) to play in a very conducive environment so that you can give your best any time.”