It’s been some week for Rotherham United’s Chiedozie Ogbene.
This time last week, the Republic of Ireland international was still coming down from scoring against the top-ranked footballing side in the world. Now, he's processing a Papa Johns Trophy Final victory and this time, he's got a medal to show for it.
Ogbene, an extra-time goalscorer against Sutton United, found the back of the net against Belgium in a 2-2 draw when the Millers attacker’s acrobatics caught the headlines. But it transpired he had another spectacular strike in his locker, which he saved especially for Wembley Stadium.
“It could be the first and last time we play at Wembley and to be victorious in front of our fans and to do it in the style and manner we did it, a 96th-minute equaliser, to show character it shows what we’re about,” Ogbene said, speaking after Rotherham’s latest Wembley win. “Some of us have never played at Wembley before.
“I didn’t want to celebrate too much, I wanted to get in the huddle and talk. I wanted us to stay focused and get over the line. It’s easy to accept defeat, but we didn’t, we fought until the end. I could see the belief in everyone’s eyes, and we always have to believe.”
The South Yorkshire side led for the first time in the Final through the 24-year-old, who struck in the first period of extra-time to make it 3-2 to Paul Warne’s men.
“To keep me on the pitch, I didn’t have the best of starts but they believed in me to keep me on,” he added. “I’m so happy we can win this game and it will give us momentum and hopefully we can chase the dream of automatic promotion.
“I’m truly blessed with all the opportunities I’m getting. At the end of the day, you can train all you want but you need the manager and coaches to believe in you and my manager and coaches believed in me.
“The Club have seen how much I’ve grown here, and they’ve helped me develop into the player I am today. I’m just so happy I’m living my dream.”
Ogbene, who became the first African-born player to represent the Republic of Ireland earlier in the season after being selected to link up with the national team in October by boss Stephen Kenny, moved to a small suburb in Cork as a child.
The Rotherham star showed his gratitude to his parents, who took up jobs as nurses following the move, for affording him the opportunities he’s had since making the switch to England.
“It’s a special day for me, for my family, everyone here at the Club and the players,” he affirmed. “I’m so happy my family were here. It was a joyful day for us.
“My dad had to work really hard and made a lot of sacrifices to help me get where I am today. I was eight years old when I came over from Nigeria to Ireland. There’s a lot more hardship back home in Nigeria. My family weren’t on the wealthier side.
“He brought us over to give us a better opportunity at education and a better life in general. That’s something I don’t take lightly and when I get opportunities in life, I need to make sure I make the most of them because he’s made many sacrifices to help me get where I am today.”
And Ogbene hopes, in pulling on the jerseys of both Rotherham and the Republic of Ireland, he can forge a new pathway for those in the position that he once found himself – regardless of their heritage.
“I hope I’m inspiring all the kids in similar situations to what I was,” he said. “I want to be a role model to anyone who has a dream that they want to pursue. Being born to African parents and growing up in Ireland, I hope I’ve opened up a pathway for a younger generation, where they can realise that their dream is possible.
“As a kid, I watched a lot of motivational videos and I want to become a motivational speaker in the future. I know how difficult it was for me as a youth to become the player I am, so I just want to share my story and hopefully kids will be inspired by me.”
Indeed, if there’s a lesson to be learned from Ogbene’s story, it’s to never, ever give up hope.