Ex-Arsenal youth player Sam Oji dies aged 35 after battling illness with old clubs Birmingham and Leyton Orient in tribute to former defender
- Former Arsenal youth player Sam Oji has died aged 35 after an illness
- Oji, the cousin of singer Lemar, joined the Gunners in 2000 as a teenager
- During his career he played for Birmingham City and Leyton Orient
- Most recently he worked as an assistant manager for Highgate United
Former Arsenal youth player and Birmingham City defender Sam Oji has died aged 35.
Oji, the nephew of singer Lemar, began his career with the Gunners in 2000 but signed for Birmingham after failing to progress to the first team.
Most recently, Oji worked as an assistant manager at non-league outfit Highgate United, which plays in the ninth tier of English football. The club said Oji was “extremely ill” Friday night but “fighting like a warrior” before confirming his death on Saturday night.
Former Arsenal youth player and Birmingham City defender Sam Oji has died aged 35
On Friday, they wrote: “Several comments have been posted on social media throughout the day regarding the wellbeing of Samuel Oji.
“Sam is extremely ill, but still fights like the warrior he is.”
In a statement on Saturday, the club said: “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 everyone at Highgate United FC are with Sam’s wife, children and family at this very sad time. RIP Oji.’
Oji spent four years with the Midlands clubs and enjoyed loan spells with Doncaster Rovers, Bristol Rovers and Leyton Orient – for whom he signed on a permanent basis in 2008.
Birmingham paid tribute to their former player by tweeting: ‘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 during this extremely difficult time.”
Leyton Orient also tweeted, saying their thoughts are with Oji’s family.
The wrote: ‘We are deeply saddened to hear the news that former player Sam Oji has passed away. Our thoughts are with Sam’s loved ones at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Sam.’
Former Aston Villa player Lee Hendrie, who played with Oji at Tamworth between 2012 and 2013, also paid tribute to his former teammate.
“So sad to hear the news about the big man @SamuelOji_24. One of the nicest guys you’ll meet on and off the pitch. Thinking of the family. Gone way too fast. RIP big man.’
After leaving Leyton Orient in 2008, Oji signed for Hereford United before playing for Swedish club Ljungskile, Tamworth, Irish clubs Limerick and Galway, Worcester City and Hedensford Town.
He joined Highgate United in 2018 and took on the role of assistant manager this summer.