Nigeria Star Kelechi Iheanacho Used to Be Beaten by His Dad for Playing Football… Now He’s His No1 Fan


KELECHI IHEANACHO’S father used to beat him with a belt for playing football — but now he is his No1 fan.

The Nigeria striker, 21, revealed his strict dad James was worried he would not make it as a footballer and warned him to concentrate on his studies instead.

Kelechi Iheanacho has revealed his dad would ‘beat’ him for playing football

But the disciplining subsided when Iheanacho’s school teacher visited their home in Obogwe to announce he had been selected for a regional tournament.

The Leicester striker said: “It is ironic my father is now my biggest fan. I got beat up by him whenever I stepped out to play football!

“I was always on the receiving end of my father’s belt or whatever else he could find.

“Sometimes I laugh, but I guess it’s been written by God that my life would take such a route. He was only looking out for me.”

Kelechi Iheanacho called his dad’s attitude to football now ‘ironic’

Mum Mercy was a lot more supportive but she passed away when Iheanacho was just a teenager.

Yet the star believes she will be cheering him on from heaven and has promised to dedicate all his World Cup goals to her.

He added: “It makes me sad that she is not with me in Russia. Death was unkind to me but life has given me a chance to make her proud.

“Sometimes you wish there was a way to send a message to heaven and remind her that I will forever cherish her support.

“I always dedicate my goals to her when I point to the sky. It’s for her and to thank God for everything.

“Football is a team sport and I’d rather place the team above my personal desires.

“But, as a striker, you’d fancy some goals at the World Cup so if I get to score I’ll dedicate them all to her.”

Mercy died after a brief illness while her son was starring for Nigeria at the 2013 African Under-17 Championships in Morocco.

He said: “She was my only supporter in the beginning. She believed in me. Something tells me she’ll be watching from above and clapping.”

Iheanacho has enjoyed a meteoric rise since those early days.

He was voted the Most Valuable Player at the 2013 Under-17 World Cup and snapped up by Manchester City in July 2014.

Leicester then splashed out £25million to sign him in August and last season he bagged ten goals in 34 games for club and country despite a niggling foot injury.

Now he is ready to showcase his talents after being told eight years ago he would grace the 2018 World Cup.

Iheanacho added: “When I played for the Under-13s, then Nigerian Football Federation president Sani Lulu said we would be playing at the 2018 World Cup.

“And here I am, going to my first World Cup. It’s a complete circle for my career.

“I played in the Under-17 and Under-20 Fifa tournaments for Nigeria but if anyone had said I would be playing in the World Cup four years ago I would have thought it was a joke.”

Iheanacho and Co open their Group D campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad today and also face England’s Euro 2016 conquerors Iceland and Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

Nigeria take on Croatia in their first game of the 2018 World Cup

Iheanacho scored in Nigeria’s 4-2 friendly win over Argentina in November and played in the 2-1 Wembley defeat to Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions earlier this month.

But he admitted: “Everyone says it’s going to be different with Messi. We have two important games before then, so Argentina can wait.

“We’ve been criticised a lot because of the results from our friendlies but our fans must understand we learned lessons from those.

“Favourites we are not but we are a good young team with positive vibes. You go into the tournament to compete — not to just feel the moment and return home.”

Regardless of whether they progress in the finals, Iheanacho says the team’s fluorescent lime green retro shirts have already made them one of the most talked-about teams in Russia.

Kit suppliers Nike took a staggering three million pre-orders, while the shirts sold out within minutes of their launch.

And Iheanacho revealed: “I’ve had a number of people asking me for a shirt, while some friends have told me not to swap shirts in Russia.”

By Socceruncle
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