Monday May 31, 2021. 16:00
Nigerian-born winger Chiedozie Ogbene says he is looking forward to representing the Republic of Ireland in international football.
The 24-year-old, who plays his club football with English lower league side Rotherham United, has been handed his first call-up by Irish manager Stephen Kenny and is set to feature in upcoming friendlies against Andorra (Thursday 3 June) and Hungary (Tuesday 8 June).
Ogbene and his family moved to Ireland from Nigeria in 2005 and the young player cut his teeth in professional football with Cork City, before going on to represent Limerick, Brentford, Exeter City and his current club.
“I am Nigerian by birth but grew up in Cork, so see myself as an Irishman,” Ogbene is quoted by the Irish Examiner.
“I said if I could get an opportunity for Ireland, I would definitely take it. My father is hardcore Nigerian but he was grateful when I was recognised.
“But, at that time, it looked far-fetched. The first thing I used to do was start comparing myself with players called up. That’s something I shouldn’t have done.
“I was quite shocked when Stephen Kenny called to say he was looking to take me on board.
“The documents took longer than expected, and I just thought it was for future reference, so to call me in so soon is truly a blessing.”
Kenny clearly rates Ogbene highly, with injuries limiting the player to only 11 Championship games for Rotherham, who suffered relegation back to League One.
“I wasn’t fully match-fit coming back [from a knee injury early in the campaign],” the player admitted.
“The Championship is a tough league and we gave it all our best, taking it [the relegation fight] to the last game.
“I thought I would have to wait my turn for Ireland so I’m just glad he saw something special in me and now I want to repay that faith.
“This is a big opportunity and you can get all nervous wanting to impress but Stephen said to just be who you are.”