The 24-year-old is growing into a cult hero at the University of Bolton Stadium, drawing a comparison with the legendary Nigerian playmaking wizard
Bolton Wanderers winger Dapo Afolayan has expressed his desire to represent three-time Afcon champions Nigeria internationally despite having played a game for the England Team C.
The Harrow-born forward is, however, aware that his chances are presently slim, with the quality of attackers that are in the Super Eagles’ ranks.
For this month’s international friendly against Mexico, the national team handlers invited nine forwards, including Feyenoord’s Cyriel Dessers, Leicester City’s Ademola Lookman, Almeria’s Umar Sadiq, and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze.
Notable among those who missed out are Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Genk’s Paul Onuachu, Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, and Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi.
It would take something special for any player in England’s League One to earn a Super Eagles call-up at the moment.
However, Afolayan is evidently unique, and the former Chelsea schoolboy is not losing hope.
Blessed with great pace, silky skills, and a knack for scoring goals, Afolayan has been regularly compared with Super Eagles’ great Austin Jay-Jay Okocha by many Bolton Wanderers fans.
The 24-year-old recently confessed, in a chat with FourFourTwo (via Manchester Evening News), that it is an honour to be mentioned in the same breathe as one of the greatest Bolton players of all time.
He said: “I’ve always been a dribbler. I like to think I can glide past players and make decisions instinctively – it’s something I enjoy doing, especially when I can draw fouls and move us up the pitch.
“My family is Nigerian and I see myself as Nigerian, so Jay-Jay Okocha is someone I’ve looked up to my entire life – it was incredible to meet him when he visited this season. To be compared to him is an honour.”
Afolayan has stepped up his game even more this term, scoring 14 goals to scoop Bolton’s top goalscorer and Player of the Year awards.
And the former West Ham star’s attentions have expectedly turned to the international scene.
Afolayan reveals he had discussions with the Nigeria Football Federation when he was much younger regarding playing for one of the country’s youth teams.
He now has his eyes set on the Super Eagles, but he is the first to admit it would not be an easy task to get selected when the team is littered with elite attackers.
But Afolayan is convinced that persistence and hard work can open international doors for him in the not-too-distant future.
“I haven’t spoken to them (the NFF) recently but when I was at West Ham we talked for a bit about the younger age groups but it is one of those; there are a lot of top, top players out there,” Afolayan told Manchester Evening News.
“You look at the forwards that Nigeria have and they are all playing Serie A, Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, so hopefully my time will come but until then, I just have to keep working hard.”
Oladapo Afolayan joined Bolton Wanderers from West Ham United on a free transfer last year after first impressing on a loan spell.