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Football | Nigeria

Ogunbiyi aims high with Viborg

Viborg FF of Denmark defender Babajide Ogunbiyi is determined to use his first contact with European football as a learning curve to greater success.

The 23-year-old, born in the United States of America (USA) to Nigerian parents, has a story is totally different from his more illustrious countrymen on the African continent.

He almost had a promising United States Major League Soccer (MLS) contract, tried out at two English clubs and was close to playing at the Olympics for Nigeria but ended up at Danish second division side, Viborg FF.

But the nearly-man in Danish football is not only smart on and off the pitch, but earning a spot on the notebook of scouts in Holland, Germany and neighbouring Sweden.

“Ultimately I want to play in the top league someday but I need to earn the right to be there – hopefully I will live that dream sooner rather than later," Ogunbiyi said.

“There's been a lot from collegiate football to my trial time in England and finally here in Denmark, but I must confess that European football will direct my career positively."

The right direction is where the man is aiming, standing at a towering 6ft 4 inch tall, Ogunbiyi moved from a striking to a centre-back role late in his collegiate career at Santa Clara University.

During his college career he appeared in 77 games scoring 11 goals and recording eight assists.

As a defender, he helped Santa Clara to consecutive West Coast Conference titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances.

On a later stage of his time as a collegiate player, Ogunbiyi, however, played in a striking roole during his college career, recording six goals in 2007.

Ogunbiyi was drafted in the second round (18th overall) of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by New York Red Bulls and had been offered a contract with Major League Soccer side, New York Red Bulls, but stated he wants to play in Europe.

Then the journey to England where he had trials at Football League One clubs, Leeds United and Oldham Athletic, ended in a flash.

“Contrary to what was written in some section of the media, it was all about the UK work permit than my talent or performance," he explained.

“I took it all in my stride because I never knew the obstacle [work permit] was there but I have moved on and now I am learning the ropes at Viborg.

At Viborg, a team he joined in March 2010, his performance has been the talk of the division, with commanding presence at the back catching the attention of the big teams in the Sas Ligaen and his attacking foray resulting in two goals in nine appearances.

Five man of the match awards and thrice named in the team of the week in that division, Ogunbiyi is well aware that all these counts for nothing if he takes his feet off the pedal.

“I've been reading about it but it only gives me the impetus to want to do more and be a better player.

“When you get carried away then you lose your focus, it was the same thing they said about me during college days but I am glad I opted strong for academics and a lot happier I have it to guide me along the way.

The tall defender trained with the Nigerian team and was part of their 2008 Olympic team pool before he was left out of the final squad.

But after several disappointments along the way, this seldom defender who can use both feet is banking on his talent to take him where he wants to be.

“Samson Siasia gave me a chance then because he saw something in me and that has been the inspiration to self-belief,” he added.

“The aim is to be in any top division next season. Take my game to a greater height and watch God take control from there.”

His belief that he might be playing in the top league soon may be considered by some as unrealistic.

But after that entire odyssey seeking football success in addition to his academics, the next years could prove to be a fine time in the life of Babajide Ogunbiyi.


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