Super Eagles striker Kelechi Iheanacho is currently one of Nigeria’s best legs playing outside the shores of the country, but all that didn’t come on a platter of gold but as he had to pay a price.
The Leicester city forward spoke to the club’s website on how he rose on his choosen career.
The 20-year-old became passionate about football at the age of 10, a passion he says came from God, but his parents weren’t very pleased with his new obsession, especially as his school grades began to suffer.
“I kicked a ball around as a boy, every day”,
said Iheanacho, who has two brothers and a younger sister.
“God got me into football, it wasn’t my family.
“I was in school and doing well but I suddenly switched to playing football and started going backwards in my studies.
“My parents were not happy. Every time they
tried to stop me playing, but I didn’t stop. I was so stubborn. I didn’t listen and kept playing.
“When I would come home after playing they
would punish me. One time my mother said
that I shouldn’t go to training, that I would get injured if I went. I ignored her and went.
“I had to be carried home once on someone’s back afterwards because I had injured my knees. I was about 10.
“She said: ‘I told you not to go,’ and started to hit me. Before I would run away but I
couldn’t run with broken knees. I just sat there.
“But I still played every day,” he grinned.
“Now when they ask who is the father of Kelechi? My father raises his hand and says ‘yes, I am the father of Kelechi’. He is so proud of me.
“I was 11, or 12 maybe, when I started to play for my state in Lagos. I started doing well in competitions so they started to let me go.”
It was when Iheanacho and the Nigerian
under-17 team won the 2013 World Cup in UAE that professional clubs began to take notice.
“The World Cup was a great experience and
something we will never forget,” said
Iheanacho, who won the tournament’s Golden Ball award for the most effective player after scoring six times and providing seven assists.
“We didn’t think we would be in the World Cup, with all the struggles, and no one believed in Nigeria that we would win. Our players had to be taken out of the country so they could play and we went to the World Cup.
“Before you know it, we started smashing
teams. People started to believe in us and we won.
“Overseas clubs didn’t start to show interest
until then. That was when an agent from
Portugal came to see me. He was the first
agent I met. Then I signed for Manchester City.
“It was a miracle to be in that World Cup.”
Accompanied initially by his father, Iheanacho came to England and he admits it was a struggle at first.
“I was 17,” he recalls. “I came in the winter and I was so cold. My first training session I
remember being so cold. I was wearing all the jackets and a hat.
“My father came and he stayed just five
minutes and ran back to the hotel because he was so cold.
“It wasn’t a good experience for me, but I couldn’t do anything. I said I am not going back. I am here now and this is my destiny. I will finish this and see what comes of it.
“It was a little bit tough at first when I arrived
but it wasn’t that bad. I saw new people and
new things. I tried to adapt and it went well for me after a while.
“My dad stayed for two weeks, and I lived with a family, with another player. They really looked after us and took care of us.”
Iheanacho soon began to make an impact at
Manchester City but he knew his first-team
opportunities would be limited and he signed for Leicester in a £25million deal this summer, joining his international team-mates Wilfred Ndidi and Ahmed Musa, who he calls his brothers.
“It is lovely being around them now,” he said. “I can speak some Nigerian English and have a little chat. It helps me settle down.
“They took me to a Nigerian restaurant in
Leicester where they normally go to eat. I feel very happy here. It is a great move for me. It is where I should be.
“It is a great club, a beautiful club, and
hopefully I will help the team to fight as well” he concluded.