News Matches
African All Stars

‘God got me into football’ - Leicester City’s Iheanacho explains his rise to stardom

12:27 PM WAT 17/09/2017
Kelechi Iheanacho Leicester City
The 20-year-old disclosed how his determination from childhood led him to World Cup glory with the Golden Eaglets which spurred him to stardom

Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho revealed that his parents’ punishments could not stop him from playing football as a child despite their change in mood.

The two-time Caf Most Promising Talent of the Year explained that he started playing football while in school which later affected his academics and how he held on to his dreams with his doggedness.

“I kicked a ball around as a boy, every day. God got me into football, it wasn’t my family,” Iheanacho told Leicester Mercury.

“I was in school and doing well but I suddenly I 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 have run away but I couldn’t run with broken knees. I just sat there.

“But I still played every day. 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 the capital of Nigeria. I started doing well in competitions so they started to let me go.”

Following Nigeria’s triumph at the 2013 Fifa U17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates, Iheanacho who scored six goals with seven assist to win the Golden Ball award described the tournament as a miracle which opened offers from top European clubs.

“The World Cup was a great experience and something we will never forget,” he continued.

“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.”

The Nigeria international who completed a £25 million move to Leicester City this summer, recalled his first training session in England and how he adapted to life in the English topflight league.

“I was 17. 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," he added.

“My father came and he stayed just five minutes and ran back to the hotel because he was so cold.

“It was 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 is delighted with the company of compatriots, Wilfred Ndidi and Ahmed Musa at the King Power Stadium and hopes to help Craig Shakespeare’s men this campaign.

“It is lovely being around them [Musa and Ndidi] now," he continued.

“I can speak with some Nigerians 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.”