Chanchung Yatai and Super Eagles of Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo has revealed the extent to which some Nigerians went after his poor showing at the World Cup in Russia.
Ighalo had a tournament to forget for Nigeria with many blaming him for the missed chances in Nigeria’s 1-2 loss to Argentina which sent them crashing out of the World Cup at the group stage.
He has since recovered from that set back and presently leads the top scorers race in the AFCON 2019 Qualifiers with six goals to his name with all of his goals coming in Nigeria’s last three games. He scored five times in two games against Libya including a hattrick in the first game at home.
Now the toast of fans of the senior national team of Nigeria, the forward could have easily quit the national team after receiving death threats following his performance at the World Cup with fans also targeting his wife and children.
In an explosive interview with respected Nigerian journalist Colin Udon, Ighalo bares it all on the insults, threats and abuse he endured with his family that almost made him quit the national team before a phone call from coach Gernot Rohr convinced him to have a change of heart.
Below is an excerpt from the interview published on KweseESPN.
“I know the fans want me to score goals. I understand them,” the China-based striker said. “But some of them took it to another level.
“They said a lot of things. To my innocent kids, to my wife, even to the extent they threatened my life and the life of my family.”
Despite trying to remain above it all and not respond to critics, he was deeply hurt by the attacks on his family, especially his children.
“I felt very bad [when they went after my family]. I had to talk to my wife because she could not take it. Some words they said about my kids, about me. Some words they said to her, threatening and all that. That is beyond football.
“You know women and how they react when you talk about their children. But I never said a word to nobody and I never replied anybody.”
He did not have to take any action to protect his family, as they live in England while he plays in China for Changchun Yatai. But with all of that going on, it was only natural that the forward wanted to quit, especially when his wife advised him to.
“My wife said ‘you don’t have to go there [to Nigeria] any more’ and it was because of all what they said to her and to our family.”
It took national team coach Gernot Rohr’s intervention to convince Ighalo to come back and suit up in green and white again.
Ighalo explained: “I want to thank Rohr because after the World Cup and all those things happened, he called me before the Seychelles game [in September] and I told him I was contemplating stopping because it is not easy.
“But the coach had belief in me. He said ‘I know you are a good goalscorer and I know you can do it. Come and show them that you can score.’
“If a coach believes in me, then I will come. I told hm ‘coach, if I am in your plans hundred percent then I will honour the invitation any time you call me.’
“He said ‘yes, you you are in my plans for the games’. Then he said ‘don’t be under pressure, just go do your thing, I know you can do it.’
“That gave me the confidence which I believed that I needed. I want to thank him for defending me, and giving me the words like a father, encouraging me, talking to me. He gave me more belief and I thank God for repaying him with these goals.”
“I am not trying to prove anybody wrong,” he said. “I am just trying to work hard for my country and I always give hundred percent.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen the way I wanted it at the World Cup. But life did not end there. I went back to my club, and I continued my game.
“Now I am back here to play for my country. I just want to give hundred percent whenever I play, goal or no goal. As long as the team wins, I am satisfied.”