How William Troost-Ekong Became Afcon’s Best Player

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William Troost-Ekong was about to retire from football after missing out on international and club football for more than a year. However, he kept at it and was a vital player in Nigeria’s run to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 and was the best Player of the Tournament. 

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His journey in football hasn’t always been easy but Troost-Ekong has always persevered. In this article, we look into his career.

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William Troost-Ekong’s Early Life

William Troost-Ekong was born in the Netherlands. He grew up alongside his siblings who supported his footballing talent. However, his father wanted him to follow a traditional path and pursue a career in medicine or law. 

This led his hesitation to sign a footballing contract. Luckily for him, his mother supported him and signed the contract so that he wouldn’t miss the opportunity. 

The footballer also has a strong Nigerian background. His father is from the Akwam Ibo State and his family are fluent in several languages. As for his education, attended Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop’s Stortford and also went to Hockerill Anglo-European College in England. 

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William Troost-Ekong’s Career

As a student in England, he played for his school’s team before joining Fulham and later joined Tottenham Hotspur. His two stints lasted until 2013 when he went back to the Netherlands to begin his senior career.

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Troost-Ekong joined Groningen where he stayed for two years, but didn’t get a lot of game time. He made only two appearances and was loaned in 2014 to Dordrecht, where he played 32 games. From there, he moved to Gent and was also loaned to Haugesund, where he again got significant playing time. 

Turkish club Burarspor was his next destination for the 2017/18 season. After 28 games and three goals, he moved to Italian side Udinese. He made 65 appearances and later joined Premier League side Watford. 

Ekong was also a key player on the side making 64 appearances. He was loaned to Salernitana and then made a permanent move to PAOK where he’s currently playing.

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International Career

William Troost-Ekong was legible to represent the Netherlands and Nigeria owing to his parent’s origins. He started in the Netherlands U19 team and played for the U20 and U23 sides.  

At the senior level, he chose to represent the Super Eagles of Nigeria, making his debut in 2015, in an AFCON qualifying game against Chad. He’s represented Nigeria at the AFCON, including the 2023 edition where he was named the Player of the Tournament. He scored five goals, the most any defender has ever scored in the competition. 

However, Ekong nearly missed out on this tournament because he thought about retiring. He told ESPN that he wasn’t sure about playing for Nigeria again as he wanted to focus on club football. Nonetheless, Troost-Ekong kept in touch with the team and stayed open to the idea of representing them.

William Troost-Ekong is one of Nigeria’s best defenders and he’s proven that in the biggest tournament in African football. Despite the challenges he’s faced, he’s been able to persevere and fight for his place in club and international teams.

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