Ovie Ejaria: Super Eagles on His Mind

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In 2017, with the help of seven players of Nigerian descent, England won its first major trophy in football-2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, since winning the 1966 Mundial. Three years after the feat, one of the players, Ovie Ejaria has returned allegiance to fatherland For the delay by the world football’s governing body, FIFA on the clearance of Liverpool-owned midfielder, Ovie Ejaria, Nigeria Football Federation boss, Amaju Pinnick‘s VIP scouting would have succeeded in bringing on board the U-20 World Cup gold medallist who had declared allegiance to play for the Super Eagles.

The former Arsenal youth-teamer was a member of the England squad packed with star-studded players such as Dominic Solanke, Fikayo Tomori, Ademola Lookman and Josh Onomah that won the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea, but has now opted to switch his allegiance from England to Nigeria following a lack of opportunities at U-21 level.

Ejaria always had Nigeria in his heart and desperately wanted to play for the Golden Eaglets at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup but coach Manu Garba opted not to take the player to the United Arab Emirates because he was not impressed with his physical attributes as at that time.

“Ovie Ejaria hasn’t been cleared by FIFA, he has started the process though but not yet through,” one of Gernot Rohr’s assistants told allnigeriasoccer.com.

“We have passed all the information to the Nigerian Federation and they will take it up from there. Processing of the paperwork is an administrative issue not a technical one.”

Ejaria is currently on loan at Championship outfit Reading, for whom he has made 32 appearances in the second-tier and has three goals to his name.

He secured a loan-to-buy exit from Liverpool, two-and-a-half years on from a brief spell in the first team which saw him play eight times.

Ejaria joined the Reds from Arsenal in 2014, and made his senior debut for the club in 2016, coming off the bench as Jurgen Klopp‘s side won 3-0 at Derby in the League Cup.

The midfielder was a regular in the first team that season, featuring seven more times and spending another eight games as an unused substitute.

But he faded out of the picture the following summer, and at the start of 2018 was loaned to Sunderland, before spending last season with Rangers and Reading.

His time at Reading was arguably Ejaria’s most productive yet, and that prompted the Royals to secure a season-long deal for the 21-year-old on deadline day.

The deal will then become permanent at the beginning of next summer, for an initial £3 million with £500,000 in addition.

A gifted technical midfielder with height and the ability to cover ground quickly with the ball, Ejaria could develop into a top player in the Championship in years to come.

That could well lead to a return to the Premier League, with Klopp’s faith in his first campaign as Liverpool manager a sign of clear potential in the youngster.

Born in London on September 17, 1997, to Nigerian parents, Ejaria grew up supporting Arsenal for whom he played for nine years before signing for Liverpool in summer 2014. His first senior appearance was in a pre-season friendly prior to the 2016-17 season against Tranmere Rovers on 8 July 2016. Despite being relatively unknown prior to the game he performed exceptionally well and caught the eye of first team manager Jurgen klopp who selected him for four more friendlies over the summer.

His first competitive call-up came on 16 September in a Premier League match against Chelsea as an unused substitute in Liverpool’s 2–1 victory. Four days later, he made his first team debut against Derby County in the League Cup replacing Roberto Firmino in the 3–0 victory.

On 25 October, Ejaria made his full debut in the fourth round of the EFL Cup in a 2–1 win over against Tottenham at Anfield and on 6 November 2016, he debuted in the Premier League, coming on as a substitute in Liverpool’s 6–1 home win over Watford.

In June 2018, Ejaria moved on loan to Scottish Premiership club Rangers, after signing a new long-term contract with Liverpool and made his debut on 12 July, coming on as a second-half substitute in Rangers’ 2–0 UEFA Europa win over Macedonian side Shukpi.

On 7 January 2019, Ejaria joined Reading on loan until the end of the 2018-19 season and on 8 August 2019 Ejaria rejoined Reading with the club having an obligation to sign Ejaria permanently at the end of the season.

Ejaria is eligible to represent England or Nigeria internationally. He trained with the Nigeria U-17 team in 2013 and stated that his international allegiance lay with the country in 2014.

However, despite rumours of a senior Nigeria call up being in the offing, Ejaria accepted a call up to the England U-20 team on 30 September 2016. He made his debut for the team on 7 October, in a 3–1 win against Germany, playing the whole match.

In December 2019, Nigeria national team coach, Gernot Rohr urged the NFF to get Ejaria to switch allegiance to Nigeria.