Eligible to play for the Netherlands, William Paul Troost-Ekong decided to wear the Green and White to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Born to a Nigerian father and Dutch mother on September 1, 1993, in Haarlem, Netherlands, Ekong, who is now the Super Eagles defensive marshal for Gernot Rohr stands at 6ft 3 inch and possesses the qualities to be the future leader of the national team.
Ekong’s interest in football started at an early age and he began his journey by enrolling with SV Overbos in the Netherlands. Still very young, Ekong moved abroad to enhance his football education when he joined Fulham’s youth system. Ekong’s time in Fulham was short and he decided to switch to London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs.
After his development in London, Ekong was given his first taste of professional football back in the Netherlands with FC Groningen in 2013. Ekong struggled to get minutes in his first season and was loaned out to lower division side FC Dordrecht in 2015 where he made 32 appearances.
His performances earned him a permanent move to Belgium first division side KAA Gent and was immediately shipped out on loan to Haugesund where he made 37 appearances.
After just one year he sealed a three year deal with Turkish Super Lig side Bursaspor for a transfer fee worth €1.05 million but his performances at the 2018 FIFA World Cup earned him another move this time to Italian Serie A giants Udinese.
Ekong over the years has matured into a defensive coordinator following his experience with several clubs over the short span of his career.
With the Super Eagles, he usually is partnered with Leon Balogun and while the German-born defender provides precision bringing the ball from the back to midfield, Ekong is the steel jumping into last-ditch tackles and bringing out his physicality when needed.
Ekong has shown over the course of his career that he is comfortable on both sides of central defence and is also an aerial threat in instances of attacking set-pieces.
On the international scene, Ekong’s first outing was with the Netherland youth system when he debuted with the U-19 team under Coach Wim van Zwam. Ekong missed out on the team to the 2013 UEFA European Under-19 Championship but progressed to the Netherlands U-20 set up where he played two games.
While Ekong’s career trajectory from a potential superstar defender in London fell to playing in the second division of football in Belgium, his progress on the international scene with the Netherlands youth set up took a decline.
His first outing for Nigeria did not come at U-17 and U-20 but with the Super Eagles in a 2015 AFCON qualifier against Chad. Ekong then declared himself available for Nigeria’s U-23 squad to the football event of the 2016 Summer Olympics as played a pivotal role as they picked up a bronze medal.
He was given a larger role in the Super Eagles set up as they qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and featured in all three group games at the tournament in Russia.
Ekong has since stated that the decision to switch his national team allegiance has been beneficial to his career.
He said, “I think the decision to play for Nigeria has to be the best ever for me. Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity and everything Nigeria has given to my career.”
Ekong‘s only goal for Nigeria came in a friendly encounter against DR Congo and he has made a total of 31 appearances for the Super Eagles.