European professional league club, Leicester City’s attacker, Kelechi Iheanacho is now practically a soccer celebrity both home and abroad. He has become a favorable reference point in the mouths of aspiring Nigerian football players. We dare say Kelechi Iheanacho’s journey into the European Premier League started rugged and tough for him. But he was determined. A rose that grew out of thorns and briers.
We invite our readers to join us as we chronicle the rising of the skilled Nigerian soccer athlete to Premier league stardom.
Kelechi Iheanacho: His Humble Beginnings
Born in Obogwe, Imo State in October 1996, Kelechi Iheanacho is the third child of four siblings. He has two older brothers and a younger sister. Kelechi literally knew the definition of ‘the streets’. He loved football right from an early age. And he eagerly played street football with his two elder brothers virtually everyday. Kelechi was also intelligent at school – one of the best three students of his class during his nursery and primary school days.
Clearly, Kelechi came from a poor family. Kelechi, a die-hard Chelsea fan, came from a family that could not afford to subscribe to cable TV. There was the typical, normal TV though; good enough for watching local channels. He nevertheless yearned to watch the English Premier League matches. Which meant he had to pay at public football viewing centres to watch any of the matches. Unfortunately, Kelechi could not afford to pay the stipulated fee of N50 all the time – and would sometimes beg for a free view. There were times when he got chased away.
Kelechi also needed to surmount the challenge of his parents not supporting his football dream. His father vehemently insisted he should forget football and concentrate on his schooling. Kelechi’s parents would cane him for abandoning his books to play football in the evenings. Much of his football escapades took place in the school – and his zeal moved his school teacher. The said teacher went ahead to convince Kelechi’s father to allow him join the school team to compete in a state competition. And for the first time ever – Kelechi’s father agreed to support his son.
With all determination, Kelechi played that match – and the team won the competition. That was the turning point for Kelechi Iheanacho. All resistance to his football career disappeared with that achievement. Kelechi had proven once and for all that his God-given vision was not in vain. He is now reaping the rewards.
Kelechi Iheanacho: His Football Career
Kelechi Promise Iheanacho is a member of the Nigerian national football team, the Super Eagles right from 2015 till now. That is aside fro2013 FIFA U-1m being an international football player, signed up with Leicester City FC since 2017. Kelechi has played as a member of the Nigerian national squad in the following events:
- 2013 FIFA U-17World Cup
- 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup
- 2018 FIFA World Cup and
- 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
Fast and sharp Kelechi scored no less than 12 goals in 45 match appearances for the Super Eagles to date. His impressive performance at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup (which Nigerian won) attracted the attention of notable European football clubs. And by December 2012, Kelechi Ihenacho was able to sign a pre-contract deal with England’s Manchester City football club. That same 2012, he was named Most Promising Talent of the Year for 2013 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Kelechi started his football career at the Taye Football Academy in Owerri, Imo state (southeast Nigeria) from 2011 to 2014. From there, he proceeded to the Golden Eaglets camp to participate in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup tournament. In January 2015, Kelechi joined the Manchester CIty Academy. But he began to actually play in England in February 2015. Between 2015 and 2017, Kelechi had played in a total of 46 matches, and scored 12 league goals for Manchester City. That is, before finally moving into his present station at Leicester City.
As of 2023, several international professional league football clubs are reportedly courting Kelechi Iheanacho for a chance to win him over. Saudi Arabian, Turkish, and German side clubs; as well as English Premier League clubs Everton, Arsenal and West Ham have shown interest in him. There are rumours of his possible move to English club Nottingham Forest as of June 2023 – we wait to hear a confirmation.
Kelechi Iheanacho: Awards and Honours
Kelechi Iheanacho has had his own fair deal of slight setbacks and injuries. These would however not stop him from earning a good number of team and personal awards in his bright career. Some of the personal awards Kelechi has received so far include the following:
- FIFA U-17 World Cup Golden Ball (2013)
- CAF Most Promising Talent of the Year (2013 & 2016)
- CAF Team of the Year (2016)
- FIFA U-17 World Cup Silver Shoe (2013)
- CAF U-17 African Championship Silver Shoe (2013)
- Premier League Player of the Month (March 2021)
- Leicester City Player of the Year (2022–23)
What’s there not to celebrate in this story of grass to grace? We only hope that Kelechi will continue to strive for excellence as one of Nigeria’s sports ambassadors.
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