With an infectious smile on his face, Chidera Ejuke took time to speak to us after signing on loan for Hertha BSC. The Nigerian’s excitement for his new challenge was clear for all to see. “I can’t wait to meet the lads and the staff. I know that last season didn’t go to plan, but we’re all here together now to start a new campaign – and I want to have some great moments with the team,” said the attacker. Ejuke spoke to herthabsc.com about his experiences in European football, which former Bundesliga player he spoke to before this move and what he likes to do in his free time.
herthabsc.com: Chidera, welcome to Berlin and welcome to Hertha! First of all, can you tell us what the main reasons were for you deciding to join Hertha?
Ejuke: Thank you, I’m happy to be here and I’m excited! I spoke to my agents and we researched the club once we knew they were interested. Once I had more information and a clear plan, I quickly knew I wanted to come here – and I have!
herthabsc.com: What goals do you have for your time in Berlin?
Ejuke: I need to first speak to the coach before I can give a concrete answer to that. I’m firstly just looking forward to meeting the lads and the staff. I know that last season didn’t go to plan, but we’re all here together now to start a new campaign – and I want to have some great moments with the team.
herthabsc.com: After leaving Nigeria you have played in Norway, the Netherlands and most recently Russia. What have your experiences in these different countries given you as a player and as a person?
Ejuke: Moving to Europe was a big step, but one that I always wanted to take. I got to experience a number of new things. Getting to know new cultures and a different style of football in new countries is always exciting and I’m looking forward to this now in Berlin. These experiences have definitely helped me grow as a person and a player too. My game has changed as a result. I’m just looking forward to getting to know the Bundesliga now.
[>]Getting to know new cultures and a different style of football in new countries is always exciting. My game has changed as a result. I’m just looking forward to getting to know the Bundesliga now.[<]
herthabsc.com: You've sampled a few different derbies in your career. With CSKA you've done battle with Spartak, Dynamo and Lokomotiv. Then there are games like Heerenveen against Groningen and Vålerenga against Lillestrøm. Which match did you find most intense?
Ejuke: (thinks for a little while) The derbies were all emotional. But the one that really sticks out is CSKA against Spartak - which was also my first home game in Moscow. I'd already heard a lot about how important the game is and how the fans live and breathe the fixture. So I was really excited. And then I got stuck in, scored immediately and we came out on top. That was massive for the fans and also a really nice experience for me.
herthabsc.com: These things seem to be written in the stars for you. Your first ever Bundesliga game could be the derby, given that we play Union Berlin on matchday one. Are you looking forward to the experience?
Ejuke: Yes, absolutely! I'm generally really excited to play for Hertha. Derbies are obviously quite special games and I'm happy to be able to experience it so early.
herthabsc.com: Your new coach Sandro Schwarz was there for some of your finest moments in a CSKA shirt. His Dynamo were on the wrong end of three of your goals in derby matches. Was it a case of him not wanting to play against you anymore?
Ejuke: (laughs) I'm not really sure but whatever the case is I'm happy that he wants me in his team. It was a friendlier derby with Dynamo than with the other Moscow teams but it's still something special to score in a derby. But that's history now. Now I'm here and I want to help the team as best I can every single time that the coach selects me.
herthabsc.com: You've played with the Berlin-born Leon Balogun for Nigeria, as well as former Bundesliga players like Alen Halilović in Heerenveen or Jean-Philippe Gbamin in Moscow. Did you try and sell their advice before making the step to come to Germany?
Ejuke: Yeah, I spoke with Philippe! He told me how much he loved the Bundesliga and that he has this great desire to play here again. He told me only good things about the league and about Hertha. That obviously made me even more curious and was definitely a factor in my decision to come here.
[>]Philippe told me how much he loved the Bundesliga. That obviously made me even more curious and was definitely a factor in my decision to come here.[<]
herthabsc.com: While doing our research for this chat we found something quite interesting. A website from your home country describes your transfer to Vålerenga as them signing the “Nigerian Iniesta”...
Ejuke: (laughs) Come on, you know how the media are! They always give out nicknames. I'm not sure what I should take from that but that must be how they view my game. (grins).
herthabsc.com: How would you describe yourself? What sort of player can the fans look forward to?
Ejuke: Somebody who really enjoys playing football. I want to have fun on the pitch and soak up the whole atmosphere and occasion. All of that is part of my game – and so are assists for my teammates as well as goals of my own. I like to dribble too and I hope that I can show all of that in a Hertha shirt!
herthabsc.com: A photo on your Instagram shows you wearing a shirt with the nickname Chidi. Is that your favourite? What do most people call you?
Ejuke: Yeah, that one has been with me a while. Most players in teams I've played for have called me that. So I’ve stuck with it and wherever I go, the name follows. (grins) I don't have any other nicknames.
herthabsc.com: What do you get up to when you're not on the pitch?
Ejuke: I mostly try to wind down and approach things with more chill. Now that I've come to a new city I obviously want to explore and experience things. After that I would like to stay at home a bit and play a round of FIFA or hang out with my girlfriend – for example it's nice to go out for dinner together. We are looking forward to experiencing all of the new things together here!