CHIEDOZIE OGBENE'Ss first phone call after his performance in Ireland’s 3-0 win over Luxembourg was from his close friend JJ Kayode. The pair have been close since their time in Rotherham United and even have a pop back and forth with each other.
Ogbene has been on fire for the national team and had a starring role in Ireland's 3-0 win over Luxembourg on his second start. The former Limerick man managed to pick up the player of the match for scoring two goals in his five appearances for the Republic.
He became the first African-born player to play for Ireland when he made his bow as a substitute in Hungary in June, following a battle to declare his status.
Kayode and Ogbene became fast friends when the winger joined the growing Irish contingent at Rotherham United in 2019,
Ogbene's now netted more goals in five games for Ireland than he has in more than 50 for the South Yorkshire side and even gets grief from Kayode
"We had a bit of a joke about it -- obviously, he's got more goals here than he has for the club! I'm so happy for him.
"I spoke to him before the game and I spoke to him after the game. And I'm delighted for him. He's delighted. He's a great person, a great footballer.
"We had a bit of banter, to be fair, before the game. I just told him to play the way he usually plays, the rest will take care of itself. It has and he's got the goal.
“I knew he was going to be fine the moment he got called up. His pace is frightening. I don’t think there’s anyone who can deal with that. It’s probably one of the best parts of his game."
Kayode and Ogbene were both born in Lagos, Nigeria before moving to Ireland and Dublin as kids.
"Every kid wants to play for their country whether it's underage or senior level and I'm just happy to have done it." 🇮🇪
JJ Kayode looks back on his #IRLU21 debut as Jim Crawford's team prepare for 🇱🇺 tomorrow.#COYBIG | #LUXIRL pic.twitter.com/1h3SPp0EsL
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) November 17, 2020
Kayode has lived in Blanchardstown since he was two, while the Ogbenes settled in Cork city, both flying the flag for the Irish-Nigerian community.
"It helps that we're from similar backgrounds and it helps that we’re at the same club, so we’re quite tight - we’re good friends.
"He speaks to me a lot at the club, tells me to keep my head down and work hard and I’ve just been taking his information and advice on board and hopefully it can help me.
"I knew of him [before Rotherham], but obviously when he came in we gelled. He’s a really nice guy and he’s a great pro as well. He’s one you want to look up to, you want to be like.
"It's great for us [Irish-Nigerians] and the younger boys as well to see this happening. They'll see that there's a chance.
“We're just so proud of him. I'm looking at him thinking if he can do it, of course, I can do it. And the other boys looked at him as well, thinking the same thing.”
Jim Crawford’s under-21s will look to bounce back against Montenegro and Italy in European Championship qualifying.