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I played in non-league getting elbowed every week, now I’m looking to star at Afcon under ex-Premier League manager

ANTOINE SEMENYO intends to elbow his way on to the global stage after learning the dirty arts in Bath.

The exciting winger has helped transform Bournemouth’s season by taking on defences with his searing pace and strong runs.

Antoine Semenyo is hoping he can fire Ghana to Afcon glory

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Antoine Semenyo is hoping he can fire Ghana to Afcon gloryCredit: Rex

And Semenyo, 23, is ready to light up the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast this month with Ghana.

The Black Stars, managed by Chris Hughton, face Cape Verde in their first group match tomorrow.

On the eve of the tournament, Semenyo suggested his bruising non-league loan days had conditioned him for the task ahead.

Semenyo, who was loaned out to Bath City by Bristol City in 2018, revealed: “That was one of the toughest parts of my career.

“As an 18-year-old getting elbowed every week, it builds you. As you step up, you realise the quality gets better, so you have to step up another level.

“Every loan I learnt and it got tougher as it went on and that was so beneficial for me.”

Semenyo also had loan spells at Newport and Sunderlandbefore the Cherries paid Bristol City £10million for the player last January.

But it was his gladiatorial days with the Bath “Romans” in the sixth tier which made him battle-hardened.

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Semenyosaid: “I think it builds you, character-wise, playing in the National League.

“The first five games there I struggled so much because everyone else was so experienced.

“I had all the physical attributes. I knew I could get on the ball and get past players, but they used their bodies well and were a lot smarter.

“They had the tendency to read what I was doing before I had even done it, so it was all about taking bits and bobs from the older players I was playing with and adding that to my game.

“Now, I can use my body well and if the defender’s stepping one way, I go the other — it’s just little things like that.

“Those loans definitely helped me and I’ve come a long way.”

Semenyo is as happy as Larry to play for his country … his dad Larry played in the Ghana Premier League but didn’t quite make the national side.

The Cherries star went on: “Ghana is beautiful and football is everything, so I am glad to be representing them.

“For my family, too, it’s everything. My dad dreamed to play for Ghana, so I’m living that dream for him.

“Hopefully, God willing, there are many more caps to go because it means so much to me.”

Semenyo can always rely on dad and younger brother Jai, who plays for Cardiff, for support.

He added: “Whenever I’m down or I’m struggling he always gives me advice and that’s the same with my brother Jai.

“They’ve always got my back and, even when things are going great, they have my best interests at heart.”

Semenyo scored his first Premier League goal in a 3-1 defeat at Anfield in August, when a certain Mo Salah was on the scoresheet for Liverpool.

The pair will go head-to-head again next week when Ghana meet Egypt.

Semenyo shed tears when he scored Ghana’s winning goal in an Afcon qualifier against Angola in front of his old man.

He recalls: “I remember looking up and seeing my dad in the crowd and I saw him celebrating with all his uncles.

“I had tears in my eyes because it was such a great moment.

“I want to keep reliving those feelings because it’s great scoring for your country because I never thought I’d ever be doing that.”

Watch this week’s brilliant episode of the Tap In – SunSport’s exclusive new football show.

Antoine Semenyo has been capped eight times by Ghana

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Antoine Semenyo has been capped eight times by GhanaCredit: Getty

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