Kelechi Iheanacho: A Dream Come True

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Kelechi Promise Iheanacho is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays in the forward line for Premier League club, Leicester City, and the Nigeria national team.

Iheanacho was born in Owerri, Imo State of Nigeria. As a youth, he represented Taye Academy in Owerri. His performance for Nigeria in 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup led to interests from clubs in Europe. Some of the teams following his progress included Arsenal, Sporting CP and Porto.

In 2012, Iheanacho travelled to England to discuss a move to Manchester City. He signed a pre-contract agreement with the club, stating his intent to formally sign for City on his 18th birthday in Oct. 2014. Iheanacho joined Manchester City’s Academy on 10th January 2015. Before the 2014-2015 season. City visited the United States on a pre-season tour, and although still not formally a City player, he joined up the squad. He played and scored in the first match of the tour, a 4-1 win against Sporting Kansas City, and scored against Mulan in 5-1 win. After the conclusion of the tour, Manchester City arranged for Iheanacho to train with the Columbs crew until mid Oct. He made 46 appearances, finding the net 12 times, before signing for Leicester City in August 2017.

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Iheanacho was signed on by Premier League club Leicester City on a five year contract on the 3rd of August 2017, for something around £25million. He made his debut for the club in a 4-3 defeat against Arsenal on 11th of August 2017. Manchester City sold Iheanacho to the foxes on a five year contract but he performed miserably when he joined which led to some critics questioning manager Brandan Rodger’s decision, not offload him.

Reflecting on his struggles, Iheanacho said “I think, a lot of people wrote me off, but I never lost faith in myself. I was going through a crazy and difficult time when things just didn’t work out for me. But I have worked extremely hard, and also I have the manager and other staff of Leicester and most importantly my brother and friend Wilfred Ndidi who stood by me. It’s been a really tough ride, but I’m just delighted it all come together for me. I was truly a bad patch and we all know that some people are always too quick to judge. To hear some people come out now and start saying positive things again is only normal but I don’t even bother. I only have to prove myself that I can do this consistently, continue to grow, help my club and country when I get the chance to play”.

On the 3rd of April 2021, Iheanacho signed a new three years contract with Leicester City which will keep him at King Power Stadium till 2024. The Nigerian striker has been rewarded after scoring seven goals in his last four games in all competitions, a run of form that saw him win the Premier League Player of the Month award, for March. He had nine goals in his last nine games – having failed to score in his previous 12 matches – and netted his first Premier League hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Sheffield United on March 14.

Iheanacho in his words revealed “I can’t express how I’m feeling. I’m excited. It’s a great moment and I’m happy that Leicester City gave me a new contract. It’s been a great time here. It’s not easy but there are lot of people here that are good people, great people to work with. They are nice people and they make me feel comfortable and welcomed since I came. It’s been really great being here. It’s like a family. I’m happy being here and hopefully I can stay here many more years”. Iheanacho joined Leicester from Manchester City in 2017 and has gone on to score 32 goals in 117 games for the foxes.

HIS BIGGEST PAIN

The 24 years old striker also made it clear that his number one fan is his mother, Mercy, who died of an illness just before the 2013 U17 AFCON in Morocco. He said “My Mom is always beside me, may her soul rest in peace. Whenever I’m playing, or even doing anything I always imagine her beside me. I’m getting emotional now because I wish I had my mom here to celebrate with me because she’s one person in my life that always stood by me. It breaks my heart when I remember she’s no more and she’s not even enjoying all these. Death is unfair. Imagine having the chance to buy her whatever she’d like to have now, take her wherever she’d love to go, yet death took her away. I wish she’s here to see what her son has become. Sadly, there is no second chance to live again. But that’s how God wants it and I know she is in a good place. She gave me life as a mother and she remained the first woman who loved me unconditionally. My mom still holds a special place in my heart and I believe that she’s always with me. It’s a part of my life now, whenever I score, I point to the sky because I know my mother is somewhere there. It’s just something that is special to me. It’s my only way of honouring her. It doesn’t matter if It’s an overhead kick, a long-range or close range effort, even a tap-in, it’s all for her. She is the only constant motivation during the highs and lows, because in football, people talk about memorable moments but they don’t understand the struggle”

A DREAM COME TRUE

“I watched the FA cup when I was little, and now, I get the chance to play in the final. It’s really amazing, it’s a dream come true. I think the FA cup loves me and I love the FA cup”.

After a poor first half where neither side created any opening note, Iheanacho scored his 10th goal in his last seven games in all competitions to break the deadlock ten minutes after the break. His goal fired Leicester City to participate in the final FA cup after 52 years.

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Kelechi had spent 12 months between September 2018 and September 2019 without scoring a goal. However, after finding the net again for Leicester to win FA cup, the Nigerian completed his remarkable career turnaround, after all looked lost for him.

After winning a 1-0 match against Chelsea, which led to Leicester winning the cup after 52 years, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi celebrated with their teammates, the Nigerian flag wrapped around their body. What a way to celebrate the FA cup winning!

Iheanacho is the first Nigerian player to score 15 goals in all competitions in a season for a Premier League club since Odion Ighalo in 2015-2016 for Wattford who scored 17 goals.

In 2017, he was given the CAF Africa’s finest XI. In 2014 and 2017, he was given the CAF most promising talent of the year. In 2021, he was given the Premier League Player of the Month in March, as earlier recorded.

NIGERIA TO IMMORTALISE IHEANACHO

The National Council for Arts and Culture, an organ of the Federal Government of Nigeria, has revealed plans to immortalize the celebration of Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi after their FA cup triumph, which could be described as unique in every way.

The President of World Crafts Council, Otunba Seun Runsewe, said the Nigeria internationals showed patriotism after they defeated Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley stadium. A statement on the National Council for Arts and Culture’s website disclosed that an Arts competition – either in Painting, Drawing or Print making of the players, will be initiated for a one-month period which could have mouth-watering prizes like a trip to London.

In the words Otunba Seun Runsewe; “Beneath the pomp, glitz and glamour of the European FA final between Leicester City and Chelsea, a unique, spectacular and outstanding show of patriotism was displayed. It came in the manner that Kelechi and Ndidi soaked themselves in their love for Nigeria by wrapping themselves in Nigerian Green-White-Green national colour to celebrate their victory over Chelsea FC”.

Runsewe further said he is prompted to put up a request for an artistic impression of their action on that day. “The collaboration of the Society of Nigerian Artists, Abuja, and the NCAC is instituting an Art competition that celebrates the intersection of sports and culture referencing the Kelechi and Ndidi actions with the Nigerian flag in the Leicester City victory over Chelsea FC”. He added, “there will be a reward system for the best three winning entries which will be presented to the Honorable Minister of Information and Culture and his counter-part in the Sports Ministry this may include a trip to London in the nearest future”.

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