DAVID SMITH - Monday, December 31, 2012
Babajide Ogunbiyi has returned to the Danish First Division, penning a one-year deal with FC Hjørring and replacing departed American defender Mike Jones on the team's roster.
Ogunbiyi had been in search of a new home since leaving fellow First Division club Viborg FF during the summer. After attempts in both Sweden and the US, the central defender has instead settled a scant 100 miles north of his last club to bolster league rivals Hjørring.
"The contract is for one year," Hjørring Sports Director Jacob Krüger confirmed to YA.
Ogunbiyi rose to prominence as one of the top defenders in the division during his previous time in Viborg, reportedly drawing interest from Superliga clubs as well as German team Karlsruher SC. Injuries and a dispute with the Viborg left him largely inactive through the majority of the 2011-12 season, and spending much of the latter half of 2012 looking for a new team to call home.
He did undergo a trial and was ultimately signed by MLS team Red Bull New York - the team who had originally drafted him in 2009 - however was released just days afterwards due to a health concern completely unrelated to he previous knee troubles.
"We just saw the papers from the health check and that did not worry us," Krüger commented on the issues that had led to his release from Red Bull.
Ogunbiyi's agent Sascha Günter had gone on record in the Danish media stating that his early release from Red Bull was due to an evaluation of the player's heart size to be too large. However subsequent examinations by three separate doctors all confirmed that the original report by Red Bull doctors was in error and that he was fully fit and healthy to play.
He also spent some time in October training with Swedish Superettan club Hammarby, a team led by American head coach Gregg Berhalter, but left without any offer of a contract.
Hjørring, which entered the long winter break in ninth place in the 12-team league, and six points above the relegation line, expects that the Santa Clara University graduate will shore up what was the third-worst defense in the division through the first 19 games.
"He is expected to be a [contributor] for us in the starting lineup," Krüger confirmed, further adding that they are not at all concerned by his recent lack of league games.
"We start [training] January 8 and play [our next] match in March so we have no worries about his form."
Ogunbiyi takes the place of fellow American defender Mike Jones in the team's roster, who was signed during the previous summer but failed to ever establish himself in the team's plans. The also one-time Red Bull defender left the team in late-November.
Hjørring will open the spring on March 24 with a trip to Køge, then host Ogunbiyi's former team Viborg the following week.