Thursday, January 30, 2014

Introducing Barca's Godswill Ekpolo

Elohor Godswill Ekpolo sits in the Barcelona dressing room, his Nike Tiempo boots comes off his foot as coach Jordi Vinyals pats him on the head for a great game and for good measure too.

The talented right-back had earlier scored for FC Barcelona's Juvenile A squad (equivalent of the Barcelona C team) as they whipped Celtic 3-0 to round up the group stage matches of the 2013/14 Uefa Youth Champions League.

The goal was his third in six group stage matches, as Barcelona's Under-19 team ran riot collecting 16 points from a possible 18in a group that also had the youth sides of AC Milan, Ajax and Celtic.

Ekpolo is highly rated in the Blaugranas circles and is tipped to become a first team star very soon to follow the footstep of his more illustrious and established La Masia graduates like Carles Poyul, Sergio Busquets, and more recently Cameroonian youngster Jean Marie Dongou.

The Nigerian defender, highly rated in the Barcelona ranks is no more a secret in Spain, but he is hardly known in his native Nigeria, and for good reasons too.

Born in Benin City, Nigeria, the 18-year-old left Nigeria as a toddler and grew up in Spain where he started his football education at the age of eight with CD Torreforta. After three seasons there Barcelona came calling, and the youngster packed his bags and headed to Barcelona's famed academy.

Ekpolo is primarily a right-back but is comfortable as a centre-back and can also play as a defensive midfielder. He also has a penchant for scoring goals from his position on the field as his three goals from six matches in the Uefa Youth League shows.

The Nigerian youngster spoke exclusively to that he is very happy with his progress so far and hopes his dreams come true.

"It's been a good journey for me and I'm grateful for the opportunities here at Barcelona. I train with fantastic players and coaches who have been wonderful," he said.

"The experience is the best any young player can have anywhere in the world and for me I am working hard to make sure I make the first team soon."

He also expressed his desire to play for the Nigerian national team if given the opportunity as that has been his dream for a very long time.

"I am a Nigerian boy, I feel Nigerian despite growing up in Spain. The national team has always been my dream apart from making my debut for Barcelona.

"I admire (John) Mikel Obi, he is my favourite Nigerian player, but I also like the others too. It will be a dream come true if I wear the Nigerian colours," he said.

Ekpolo, who hopes hopes to continue to impress for Barcelona when the Uefa Youth League resumes in February is optimistic he will make the grade at Barcelona, which he feels will attract the attention of the national team coaches.

"I just want to play and do my best and hopefully I will progress here. If I do well here, It will definitely put me on the right path for a Nigerian selection.

"Not many people know me in Nigeria. Truth is, I haven't gone back home since I left, but maybe this year I can create time and go visit.

"I follow Nigeria's games and we have doing well recently. I pray it continues," Ekpolo added.
Barcelona's under-19s, who play in the Uefa Youth League (the youth version of the Uefa Champions League) topped Group A with a massive 16 points from six matches to qualify for the knockout stage.

They will now face FC Copenhagen on February 18 for a place in the quarterfinals of the competition and Ekpolo is expected to play a key role in that clash.

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