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Sports News of Saturday, 20 November 2021


How my pastor influenced my return to Super Eagles – Ighalo

Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo

Nigerian footballer, Odion Jude Ighalo, has revealed how his pastor played a key role in his return to the national team.

The footballer, who had announced his withdrawal from Super Eagles after 2019 African Cup of Nations, returned to the national squad, when the Nigerian team played against Cape Verde in a Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Tuesday.

In an interview with NFF TV, Ighalo debunked the reports that he paid his way back to the team and also reacted to allegations that he is clashing with Victor Osimehin over the number nine jersey. He also said his mother was one of those he consulted before agreeing to play for Nigeria again.

“Since the day they announced my retirement. I’ve had so many things in the internet and me I don’t pay attention to whatever negative vibes people say on social media, I’m not that kind of guy that make problem.

“Since 2019 when I retire, the coach had been in communication with me to come back. I told him I don’t think I want to come back but the pressure was too much. Even before I came now the pressure was too much that I had to tell my agent to speak to the NFF president and the coach because when I signed for my club in Saudi Arabia I told them I’m not playing for the national team anymore and to get me released for this match was difficult.

“So, most importantly I’m happy to be back to give my support, the coach spoke to me at length. I heard so many people like a guy in the UK who said I paid my way to the national team; I was just laughing. I have never, even when I was not in this position that I am, in my life and in my career, I’ve never paid my way into the national team.

“The guy tried to defame me but I’m not the kind of guy that makes problem if not he would have heard from my lawyer. Everybody have their opinion about me I don’t care but not to the extent about bribing which is very bad. I’m not going to go into that, the most important thing is that I’m here to support and I’m really happy to be back.

“I spoke to the coach that I’m coming back here to support the team, not to destabilize the team. They have a young squad that is doing well. There were talks that I’m back to take position I’m not going to drag position with nobody not Osimhen.

“Before I left the national team, I personally called Osimhen and told him ‘This number nine position is for you, if you work hard, you will rule Nigeria for long’, and I’m happy seeing him doing well. I’m here to support him, before I came, I told the coach Osimhen is the number one striker, I just want to come and support and I try to do that. It was even said that I tried to fight for the number nine jersey, I was just laughing. So many things have been said.

"Before I came, I don’t want to mention the person’s name, top NFF official said something jersey and all that and I said no the number nine jersey Osimhen is the one that is using it and that I’m going to play with any jersey. But the official said Osimhen is a young player he will understand, I said no, this is the part of my condition to come back, I wouldn’t return if you don’t agree with this.

“He is going to keep the number nine jersey, I asked if the number 19 jersey is available, they said it’s for Paul (Onuachu), I said no and asked for number 21 they said the jersey is not up to 21, I told them to give me any jersey available but number nine jersey no way will I put it on because when I retired, I left it and Victor is using it and he is doing well we are not going to start talking about jersey. I can play with my bare skin for Nigeria, I’m a patriotic Nigerian. If it means playing without a jersey I will play, it’s not jersey that scores the goals.

“Like I said I prayed about it, I talked to my mum, talked to my pastor about it and he asked if I want to go and I said of course, it’s my country it’s a privilege to play for Nigeria. Nobody is going to turn down an invitation to play for Nigeria but the circumstances back then. And my mum said to me ‘my son if you want to go, I give you my blessing go God will protect you and guide you’. So, I made the decision to come back and I’m happy I’m back,” he said.