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TORONTO — Former England youth international striker Ike Ugbo, who plays his club football in Belgium for KRC Genk, has committed to play for Canada.
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Ugbo played youth soccer at Brampton East SC and Woodbridge Strikers before returning to England and joining Chelsea's academy at the under-10 level.
Canada Soccer said the 23-year-old will be with the team for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Mexico on Nov. 12 and 16 respectively, in Edmonton.
“This is great news for Canada Soccer’s men’s national team program and the country as he’s another young, top-level player with his best football years ahead of him,” Canada coach John Herdman said in a statement, “He’s chosen to be part of this exciting journey starting with FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers. We are looking forward to finally see him in that Canada red jersey.”
Ugbo was a two-time UEFA Youth League winner with Chelsea FC (2014-15 and 2015-16) and was a prolific scorer in helping the Blues win a string of domestic Youth Cups. Some of his goals were spectacular, none more so than a bicycle kick in one final against Manchester City
Part of Chelsea's talented youth program, he then was loaned out to a number of clubs.
He spent part of the 2017-18 season on loan at Championship club Barnsley, returning to Chelsea in January 2018 having made 18 appearances for the Yorkshire club. He then went out on loan to MK Dons in League One, scoring twice in 17 games.
In August 2018, he joined League One side Scunthorpe United with one goal in 14 appearances.
In August 2019, he was loaned to Roda JC in the Dutch second tier where he scored 13 goals in 28 games.
He moved to Belgium's Cercle Brugge on loan in August 2020, scoring 18 goals in 30 matches before making a permanent move to KRC Genk. This season, he has four goals in 12 matches across all competitions.
Ugbo is the latest player to switch national associations in order to carry Canada colours. Others to switch' allegiance since 2018 include Ayo Akinola, Theo Corbeanu, Stephen Eustaquio, Ricardo Ferreira, Cristian Gutierrez, Frank Sturing and David Wotherspoon.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press