Manchester City teenage sensation Kelechi Iheanacho has been a revelation so far this season. T...
Manchester City teenage sensation Kelechi Iheanacho has been a revelation so far this season. The 19 year old who is expected to start on Sunday in the FA Cup 5th round clash against Chelsea has lived up to the hype after emerging as the best player at the U17 tournament in 2013.
He's definitely one of Nigeria's brightest prospects in Europe right now. He almost ended up at Porto after his heroics at the U17 tournament but Manchester City hijacked the deal paying just £350,000.
This may prove to be one of the outstanding pieces of business City have carried out in recent years given Iheanacho’s impressive introduction to the first team this season.
|Kelechi Iheanacho has scored 9 goals in 6 starts for Manchester City in all competitions.|
He spoke to UK website Dailymail in his first major interview and revealed how difficult it was for him and his family while he was growing up in Imo state. Brought up in what he describes as a ‘poor area’, he was one of the worse-off kids and could rarely afford even 20p to watch football.
“We didn’t have a television at home,” says Iheanacho, in his first in-depth interview. “Even the people who did have televisions wouldn’t have the right channels to show the games. So if you wanted to watch football you had to pay to watch the games at the local sports centre. You would get hundreds of people paying to watch, all at the same place. The problem was I didn’t usually have the money to go. It didn’t cost much – something like 50 naira, about 20p – but I still didn’t have it.
“It was a poor area where I grew up and you can use that kind of money to buy other stuff – biscuits, cookies or bread. I can remember going to watch one final, Manchester City against Sunderland [in the 2014 Capital One Cup], but I’d usually stay at home, or be playing football, and I didn’t know what had happened until my friends came back after the match to tell me the score.” ‘Sometimes I watched the Spanish league — it was a bit cheaper, maybe 30 naira,’ he adds. ‘But the Premier League was 50.
Sometimes I’d watch the Premier League if I found the money, or I’d go there and beg them to let me in. Or sneak in for the second half and pay half the money.
‘I support Barcelona because I watched the Spanish league. I saw Yaya [Toure] playing for Barcelona... and now I’m playing with him. It’s a dream come true.
'I have to be my own man but he is a big influence in Africa. He has done a lot in Africa and I hope to do that as well.’
‘It’s amazing when you go back home now, when you remember how you were before. You go back home and all those people are calling your name, shouting. I get mobbed by the kids. They want to see you, want to know you.’
Iheanacho admits finding that drive did not come easily at school, even though his mother, Mercy, was a teacher. She passed away in 2013, a few months before his life-changing Under 17 World Cup, and her memory serves as a constant source of determination.
It was hard for us when my mother left us. We couldn’t do anything so I said to myself 'move on and keep working hard'
‘It was hard for us when my mother left us,’ Iheanacho reflects, suddenly holding back tears. ‘We couldn’t do anything so I said to myself "move on and keep working hard".
'She makes me work harder. When I’m not doing something right, or when I’m not playing or working hard enough, then I remember her. She pushed me to work hard.
‘There are jobs [back home] but football has always been with me. When I was growing up they didn’t want me to do it because my mother was a teacher — they wanted me to go to school. But I love football and wanted to play — they wanted to stop me but couldn’t.
‘They wouldn’t allow me to play out after school but I went out anyway. Maybe I lost a bit of focus on my studies.
|Kelechi Iheanacho first came on the scene at the U17 World Cup in 2013 where he won the trophy with Nigeria and emerged as the tournament's best player|
He has been a good backup and support for Sergio Aguero and has scored an impressive 9 goals in just 6 starts for City in all competition. That has made Manuel Pellegrini include him in his champions league squad after initially leaving him out. He believes the faith put in him by his manager and cited the youngster’s potential while explaining why the club did not bring in another striker to replace Edin Dzeko after he scored an hatrick against Aston Villa in the 4th round of the FA Cup.
“I was happy to hear the manager say that and for him to introduce me to the team,” Iheanacho says. “It means he has confidence in me. He’s given me the chance to prove myself, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly because I was working with the youth team. First of all, he told me I was going with them to Australia in pre-season and after that we came back and I was in the first-team squad. I was a bit surprised and sometimes early on I did feel a bit nervous because these are great players. But when you keep training with them every day you get used to it. I just have to keep my head down, listen to everyone and work hard.”
The teenager was born in the same state as former Super Eagles and Arsenal striker Kanu Nwankwo and the Nigerian legend who Kelechi idolizes feels he has an attachment to the prodigy, often travelling back to Africa during his playing days to coach the Taye Academy team that included Iheanacho. Kanu will definitely be pleased with the progress made by Iheanacho so far and will hope he carries on to become a force to reckon with in the future.
You can read the full interview on DailyMail