Red hot Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo has opened up about the challenges he faced after the Super Eagles got kicked out of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Thesheet.ng recalls that Ighalo came under a lot of criticisms for his performance during the match between Nigeria and Argentia which saw the national team losing 2-1 in the last group match.
The 29-year-old became an object of ridicle on social media, so much so that his wife had to rise to his defense. But the anger fizzled out after the Chanchung Yatai striker scored five goals in the double-header 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Libya in Uyo and Sfax.
Now, Ighalo speaks about how he almost quit the national team.
“I know the fans want me to score goals. I understand them. 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 that they threatened my life and the life of my family,” he said during an interview with KweseESPN, via Punch.
“I felt very bad. I had to talk to my wife because she could not take it – some words they said about my kids, about me and some words they said to her, the threats and all. That is beyond football,” he continued. “You know women and how they react when you talk about their children. But I never said a word to anybody and I never replied anyone. My wife said ‘you don’t have to go there (to Nigeria) any more’. And I knew it was because of all what they said to her and to our family.”
He added that he stayed with the team because Eagles’ coach Gernot Rohr convinced him to stay with the team. “I want to thank Rohr because after the World Cup and all those things happened, he called me before the Seychelles game and I told him I was contemplating stopping because it is not easy,” he said. “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 him ‘coach, if I am in your plans 100 per cent then I will honour the invitation any time you call me.’
“He said ‘yes, 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 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, I am just trying to work hard for my country and I always give 100 per cent. 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,” he said.
“Now, I am back here to play for my country. I just want to give hundred per cent whenever I play, goal or no goal. As long as the team win, I am satisfied,” he concluded.