Nigeria's Ejuke wants to make his mark at Ajax... by beating them

Chidera Ejuke scored on his debut for Heerenveen, in a 4-0 drubbing of Heracles Almelo. Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

Nwankwo Kanu, Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh, and Tijani Babangida are four famous Nigerians who made their marks at Amsterdam ArenA, and Chidera Ejuke wants to do the same... but not for Ajax, for Heerenveen.

While the four Super Eagles legends played for the home side, with Kanu and Finidi helping them to UEFA Champions League titles, 21-year-old Ejuke has little by way of credentials.

He's not got a senior Nigeria cap, and came to the Eredivisie from Norwegian top flight side Valerenga, but is looking forward to the challenge of facing the Netherlands' most storied side on Saturday.

In light of the recent form Ajax have been in, the youngster is confident he can both live his dream and stay motivated enough to make them remember his name.

"I am always excited and motivated to play in every game but playing against Ajax, I get like an extra motivation and I want to play in games like that," he tells ESPN.

"Hopefully it's going to be a great game and we go up there, give our all and hopefully we'll come back with all three points."

Ejuke is not a name familiar to many Nigerians. That is no surprise. Just two years ago, he was one of thousands of struggling Nigerian players learning their trade at one of the myriad football academies in the country.

And then he spent less than half a season at Nigeria Professional Football League side Gombe United, before heading out to join Valerenga in Oslo. 

Fifteen goals and six assists in 70 appearances earned the winger a move to Heerenveen this season, one that even he was surprised to hear about. Such was his inexperience with European football that he had to Google the club.

He says: "When I heard they were interested in me I had to do some research about them and I saw a lot which I was really interested in. I was really excited to join the club knowing all the achievements they have had in the past.

"The transfer happened faster than I expected. One day my agent called me and told me they were interested in me. Then I spoke with the trainer and the director.

"We had like a good conversation and they told me the plans they have for me and after a couple of days I travelled to the Netherlands, signed and did everything necessary."

If he was surprised by the move, the club were not. They had been watching him for while, according to the club's technical director Gerry Hamstra.

'We are proud that Chidera has chosen us," he said. "We have been following him for some time and know his qualities.

"With Chidera we brought in a player for whom the people come to the stadium. With his speed, dribbling and scoring ability, he fits in perfectly with SC Heerenveen."

And Ejuke did not disappoint, making an instant impact on the club. Coming on a substitute in his very first game, the Nigerian proceeded to score a brilliant individual goal and has been a starter since then.

"I didn't expect to score in my first game, but it was a good feeling coming in as a sub to score on my debut. What a way for me and the team to start the season and winning 4-0," Ejuke adds.

"That goal means a lot to me because normally when you come to a new team you have to wait for some time or a couple of games to see how the team plays and now that I'm given a chance to start I'm going to give back by working hard and giving my best every game."

If ever there was a time to make all that hard work show, it is this weekend. That great opening day start has been followed by a slump in form.

Heerenveen have gone on to lose one and draw three of their next four games, dropping down to 10th on the table. All three draws came in home games.

The Nigerian has also failed to score since that opening strike. Now, they travel to Amsterdam to face second-placed Ajax in a game that they desperately need to win.

Ejuke obviously wants to use the game to break his goal drought: "I am always expecting to score and hopefully, I am going to get one against Ajax."

This, against a club he has long admired from a distance when he was back in Nigeria: "It would be a dream come true for me to play against them really because I know about them and the Nigerian legends who played for them.

"It's going to be exciting not just for me but for people around me. They all know how I have been wanting to get this opportunity and to play against them and score would be like really good thing for me.

"[But] hopefully the game is going to go our way in a positive way because that is the most important thing, whether I score or not."