Super Eagles captain William Ekong returns to full training as crucial World Cup qualifiers approach

It is good news for Nigeria as William Troost-Ekong has returned to full training at Greek club side PAOK Saloniki, months after undergoing surgery.

The 30-year-old underwent surgery days after his Player of the Tournament performance at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, where Nigeria finished as runners up to the hosts.

Ekong played through pain after he ruptured the biceps femoris in his right leg from the second game against Cote d’Ivoire. But he delivered an intensive and gritty performance where he scored three goals as he led Nigeria to the final.

He was immediately sidelined after the Afcon as he required minor surgery in Finland. The defender took his time to recuperate in London before returning to Thessaloniki where he granted audience to Soccernet in a wide-ranging interview.

He told Soccernet how he overcame the odds to play the tournament of his life to emerge as the choice of the technical team as the tournament’s MVP.

Ekong is expected to be selected in the match day squads for the three remaining championship play-off matches of the Greek Super League, as PAOK chase AEK for the title.

PAOK sit second place on 71 points, four behind AEK, as they welcome both Olympiakos on Sunday and Panathinaikos on Wednesday before playing their final game at local rivals Aris in the Thessaloniki derby.

This should give Ekong enough match fitness ahead of the summer break where he is expected to return to the Super Eagles as they hope to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back in good stead under new national team manager, Finidi George.

 Ekong had high praise for the new manager who he grew up watching at Ajax in our recent interview:

“He is always very humble, too humble for what he has achieved. Everyone recognizes the work he did for Enyimba last year when he won the league. So, for him to now get the chance to be the interim head coach [now the full-time head coach], I am very happy to see that. He’s a great guy.”

Nigeria will face South Africa and Benin Republic in two key matches that will determine their chances at reaching the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico.

They drew their first two matches 1-1 against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in Group C.

Ekong will launch his charity foundation in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital on June 2, with a novelty match involving several football legends and entertainers.

He told Soccernet that he wants to give back to the society in order to inspire the next generation. He plans to build a school among many other projects that will come to life via the foundation.

“The biggest thing for me is to create opportunity. I really want to make a mark. I think I’m blessed. I’m very lucky. And I feel it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t use my voice now and some of the influence that I have to really do something back home,” Ekong said.


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