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Columbus Crew acquires midfielder James Igbekeme on loan from Real Zaragoza

COLUMBUS – Columbus Crew today announced that the Club has acquired midfielder James Igbekeme [pronounced: ig-beh-KEHM-aye] on loan from Spanish Segunda División side Real Zaragoza for the 2022 Major League Soccer season. The Crew holds an option to exercise a permanent transfer on Igbekeme’s contract following the duration of the loan in December 2022. Igbekeme will occupy an international roster slot and be added to the Crew roster pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

“James is a versatile midfielder and his addition will help strengthen our roster,” said Columbus Crew President & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “He will provide us with another strong option in the midfield and his contributions will be seen on both sides of the ball. We look forward to welcoming James and his family to Columbus and look forward to incorporating him into our team.”

The 26-year-old joins the Crew after spending the past four seasons with Zaragoza. Since 2018, Igbekeme appeared in 96 league matches, scoring four goals. The midfielder additionally appeared in eight cup matches during his time in Spain.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Igbekeme made his professional debut with G.D. Ribeirão in 2013, which currently plays in the Portuguese Third Division. In two seasons with Os Ribeirenses, Igbekeme appeared in 43 matches, scoring two goals.

Igbekeme moved to fellow Portuguese side U.D. Oliveirense in 2015. In his first season with the club, Igbekeme scored a career-high seven goals in 32 league matches and added an additional three goals in 21 matches to his tally during the 2016-17 season.

From 2017-18, Igbekeme made 32 appearances for Gil Vicente, scoring five goals in his final year in Portugal prior to making the move to Spain to join Zaragoza.

To date, Igbekeme has appeared in 11 cup matches throughout his career, including eight in Spain’s Copa del Rey and three in the Portuguese League Cup.

Crew players are currently in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, through January 28 for the first training camp of the season. The Crew will train in-market from February 1-6 at the OhioHealth Performance Center prior to traveling to Charleston, South Carolina, for the second trip of the preseason from February 7-19.

The Black & Gold are set to open the 2022 MLS season by hosting Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Field in Opening Match on Saturday, February 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Following the home opener, the Crew hits the road and travels to face the San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on March 5 for the first away match of the season. The Crew’s full schedule for the 2022 MLS regular season can be found at

The 2022 season will be the Black & Gold’s 27th in MLS and the first full season at Field, located in Astor Park. Fans looking to experience Crew matches have several options to save money, while getting the best seats for marquee matches. Season Ticket Memberships include benefits such as private, member-only events; a 10 percent discount at the Crew Shop; monthly, interest-free payment plans; the ability to purchase discounted parking; pre-sale access to all events at Field, Historic Crew Stadium and FirstEnergy Stadium; and a dedicated account manager and service representative.

Fans can also choose between various packages that offer great benefits and ticket discounts, including Nine-Match Ticket Plans, Five-Match Ticket Plans, and Group Ticket Plans which are on sale now. Fans can additionally purchase single-match tickets, which are now available.

Supporters interested in securing their seat for the 2022 MLS season can call 614-447-2739, visit or email to get connected with a Ticket Sales Representative.

The Crew’s current roster stands at 29 players in advance of the 2022 MLS campaign. Listed alphabetically by position:

Goalkeepers (4): Evan Bush, Eloy Room, Patrick Schulte, Brady Scott

Defenders (7): Jalil Anibaba, Milos Degenek, Jonathan Mensah, Steven Moreira, Jake Morris, Will Sands, Josh Williams

Midfielders (16): Artur, Sebastian Berhalter, Luis Diaz, Derrick Etienne Jr., Marlon Hairston, James Igbekeme, Perry Kitchen, Alex Matan, Kevin Molino, Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe, Isaiah Parente, Pedro Santos, Yaw Yeboah, Sean Zawadzki, Lucas Zelarayan

Forwards (2): Miguel Berry, Gyasi Zardes

TRANSACTION: Columbus Crew acquires midfielder James Igbekeme on loan for the 2022 MLS season, with an option to exercise a permanent transfer on Igbekeme’s contract following the duration of the loan in December 2022, announced on January 26, 2022.

Name: James Igbekeme [ig-beh-KEHM-aye]

Position: Midfielder

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 145 lbs.

Born: July 4, 1995, in Lagos, Nigeria

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Citizenship: Nigeria

Acquired: Via loan from Real Zaragoza for the 2022 MLS season with an option to exercise a permanent transfer.

Previous Experience: G.D. Ribeirão (2013-15), U.D. Oliveirense (2015-17), Gil Vicente (2017-2018), Real Zaragoza (2018-2022).

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