Ex-Arsenal, Birmingham, Leyton Orient and Doncaster player dies aged 35 following a short illness, it has sadly been confirmed on Saturday.
The former Gunners youth prospect Sam Oji has passed away, with tributes pouring out on social media.
Oji, who most recently was an assistant at non league outfit Highgate United, played in the Football League for Doncaster Rovers, Leyton Orient, Hereford United and Bristol Rovers.
He also had spells at Tamworth, Limerick, Galway United, Worcester City and Hednesford United.
Tributes have been pouring in on social media for the much-loved defender.
Leyton Orient tweeted: “We’re deeply saddened to learn the news that former player Sam Oji has passed away. Our thought are with Sam’s nearest and dearest in this difficult time. Rest in peace, Sam.”
Galway United added: “Galway United would like to offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of Sam Oji. Sam scored for us in our first game back in the Premier Division in 2015 and was a terrific player in his time at the club.
“He was a hugely popular person and a gentleman. Rest easy, Sam.”
Vinny O’Connor, who worked with Oji at Galway, said: “Infectious smile, bubbly personality, always friendly and accommodating.
“I only got to work with Sam Oji for one season at GUFC, but he left a lasting impression on me and many others. The news this morning is so terribly sad. Condolences to his family and friends. RIP Sam.”
Championship outfit Birmingham City said: “The Club is devastated to hear of the passing of former player Sam Oji, aged 35. The thoughts of everyone at #BCFC are with Sam’s family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”
Highgate United, where Oji played and was the assistant manager according to the club’s website, also posted a moving tribute.
They said: “All it is with a very heavy heart that I am deeply saddened to inform you, that our beloved Captain, Leader and Legend Samuel Oji has sadly passed away.
“The thoughts of all at Highgate United FC are with Sam’s wife, children and family at this very sad time. RIP Oji.”
We’re deeply saddened to learn the news that former player Sam Oji has passed away.
Our thought are with Sam’s nearest and dearest in this difficult time.
— Leyton Orient (@leytonorientfc) August 28, 2021
MORE ABOUT OJI
Oji was born in Westminster, London. He is a cousin of UK soul singer Lemar. He began his football career as a youth player at Arsenal and stayed with them between 2000 and 2004.
Oji signed a full-time contract with Birmingham City for the start of the 2004–05 season.[ In 2005–06 he spent six weeks on loan at Doncaster Rovers, for whom he made his debut in the Football League as a second-half substitute against Gillingham.
In February 2006 he made his only first-team appearance for Birmingham, as a late substitute in the FA Cup fourth round replay against Reading.
A year later he joined Bristol Rovers on a month’s loan, later extended to two months. In the summer of 2007 he had a trial with Southend United, then in August signed for Leyton Orient on a month’s loan, later extended to three months.
With six months remaining on his contract, Oji left Birmingham by mutual consent on the 8th of January 2008 and joined Leyton Orient until the end of the 2007–08 season. He was released by Orient at the end of the season.
Oji signed for League One club Hereford United on the 7th of August 2008. After five games for the club he suffered a knee injury which kept him out of training for four months; he never regained his first-team place and at the end of his short-term contract, in February 2009, he was released.
In March 2009, Oji joined Ljungskile SK of the Superettan (Swedish second division) after a successful trial. He played only six league games for Ljungskile before leaving in June. In August, Oji had a trial with Tranmere Rovers, but cruciate ligament injuries suffered while on trials with Turkish Süper Lig side Diyarbakirspor and with Leyton Orient kept him out of football for two years.
In December 2011, Oji signed for Conference Premier club Tamworth. He made his debut as a second-half substitute in the first match of 2012, a 2–2 draw at home to Alfreton Town. He was sent off for two bookable offences in a league match against Fleetwood Town on 4 February 2012.
Oji signed for League of Ireland club Limerick on 26 August 2013, and made his debut for the club in a 2–0 away defeat to Sligo Rovers.
Oji joined Galway United from Limerick in 2015, before then returning to England when he signed for Worcester City ahead of the opening fixture of the 2016–17 National League North season. The following summer he moved to Northern Premier League Premier Division club Hednesford Town.He made 41 appearances over the season, of which 38 were in league competition, before signing for Highgate United of the Midland League Premier Division in July 2018.
More tributes were posted after hearing that the ex-Arsenal, Birmingham, Leyton Orient and Doncaster player dies aged 35…
Very sad news. Thoughts with his family, friends and team mates at Highgate & his former clubs.
— Steve Hermon (@SteveHermon) August 28, 2021
RIP Sam 😢 devastated news pic.twitter.com/sTkSBHvsBd
— Chris O’Brien (@ChrisCOB_OB) August 28, 2021
14 years ago today Arsenal U19’s v Coventry City U19’s at the training ground. Ryan Smith, @JohanDjourou, Sam Oji, Neil Kilkenny and @cesc4official. A lovely day in the sun. #afc #arsenal pic.twitter.com/CG8qVzWMIN
— Stuart MacFarlane (@Stuart_PhotoAFC) October 17, 2017
Life just isn’t fair.. rest easy Sam. One of the good guys, a proper footballer, and a gent!! RIP Sam❤️ pic.twitter.com/KqUNjqYBXj
— Marc Ludden (@marc_ludden) August 28, 2021
Infectious smile, bubbly personality, always friendly and accommodating.
I only got to work with Sam Oji for one season at GUFC, but he left a lasting impression on me and many others.
The news this morning is so terribly sad. Condolences to his family and friends. RIP Sam. pic.twitter.com/181Fx9tb46
— Vinny O’Connor (@VinnyGUFC) August 28, 2021
— Andy Kelly 🌍 (@Gooner_AK) August 28, 2021
@9_Hendo: Terrible news. RIP Sam. Thoughts to all his family and friends.
@AdamPease12: RIP, god bless to himself, his family and friends. KRO
@Pepper2Pepsi: A great player for Worcester City. I remember the fans singing “Ain’t nobody like Sam OJI” to the tune of the old Chaka Khan hit from the seventies. There was no one like him and he was one of the very best players I have seen at Worcester. RIP Sam.
@JCFC_01: Heartbreaking to hear the news about Sam Oji, great player and will never forget his goal against Lancaster away. RIP Sam, condolences go out to his family at this time😔
@grangey90: RIP sam what a man and pro he was.. always had time for me and the other youth team players coming through
@sal_gym: I remember watching Sam play against my club at Market Road from the age of 11. Fantastic footballer but also a lovely person. Thoughts are with his family. RIP.
@49unbeaten2004: This is such terrible news – knew Sam from when he was a young kid but haven’t seen him in years. Such a lovely guy, he always wanted to play for the Arsenal. Had such an infectious laugh and smile. Thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP Sam – gone way too soon.
@thomas_0_0: Too young to go. Hope his family and close ones find the strength in these difficult times. Thoughts and prayers 💐🌷
@_samhowell: What sad news, my thoughts and prayers are with all who loved him.