Meet one of Nigeria’s finest goal kings Idion Jude Ighalo who spoke with National Daily Esther Egbe about his football carreer and more. Excerpts
Where are you from and how were you discovered?
I hails from Agidigbo Imadu in Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State.
Born in Lagos and raised in Edo, Ighalo played in his country with Prime F.C. and Julius Berger FC, where he was discovered by FIFA agent Marcelo Houseman who recommended him to Atta Aneke, being subsequently taken on trial by Norway’s Lyn Fotball.
When was your debut?
I made his Tippeligaen debut on 16 September 2007 at the age of just 18, scoring in a 2–0 home win against Viking FK. He scored six goals in 13 games in his second year to help his team to the seventh position, and subsequently arose interest from other clubs in the country, with SK Brann reporting Lyn to the Football Association of Norway for unfairness in the negotiation process.
When did you sign with Udinese / Granada E?
On 30 July 2008, Ighalo signed for Udinese Calcio in Italy, moving alongside teammate Jo Inge Berget and agreeing to a five-year contract. He appeared rarely in Serie A in his debut season, scoring against Cagliari Calcio in a 6–2 home routing –four of his five league appearances came as a late substitute.
You were loaned in 2009?
I was loaned to Granada CF in the 2009 summer, as part of the partnership agreement between Udinese and the Spaniards. He scored 17 times in his first year (playoffs included) and five in the second, as both seasons ended in promotion;m this was interspersed with a brief loan stint back in Italy with A.C. Cesena.I continued playing with Granada in the following years, still owned by the Udine side. He played his first La Liga match on 27 August 2011, starting and playing the full 90 minutes in a 0–1 home loss to Real Betis.
When did you join Changchun?
I joined Chinese Super League club Changchun Yatai F.C for a reported £20 million in 31 January, 2017.
What do you think about the recently Eagles?
With what we have on ground Super Eagles is on point,We are good to go.
What made you sign for Watford then?
Before I joined on loan, I had been following the team for about two years when the Pozzo family took over. I thought it was a good team who could gain promotion to the Premier League. With me joining them, I felt I could help the team and fight together as one to get promoted. My aim was not to come and play Championship football, it was to come and help the team get promoted to the Premier League which I am very happy we have done.
You’ve already shown your goal-scoring capabilities, what’s it like to score in the one of the best leagues in the world?
It’s a great feeling for me, it’s a great moment because as a striker you want to score goals and of course you want to score in the Premier League. I’m grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to score in the Championship and now I am grateful to him I can score in the Premier League. But, you know, I’m not going to get carried away with it, I just want to glorify God, I want to keep pushing and working hard everyday to help my team win and score goals.
Do you set yourself targets as a striker?
I never really try to set a target as it then puts a lot of pressure on me. I just keep working and the most important thing is to be a team-player; when the team wins a game, I am happy. If I score, then thanks to God, but if I don’t, then I move on to the next game, working hard for the team.
How did you come to faith?
I was born in a Christian background in Nigeria. As a Christian, I believe in God and I have seen him do wonders in my life in many ways on many occasions. Any time I get on my knees and pray to God, I see a difference. Everything I have, everything I have achieved today is because of the grace of God. I made a vow that every glory be given back to God in my life. As someone who believes in God I know I am not perfect, but I do acknowledge that there is somebody out there who is keeping me going when I cry out to him.
How was your growing up like?
I was born in Lagos on 16th June 1989. But my origin is from Edo State. It was really tough growing up but thanks to God for where I am today. Playing football was a normal thing in the neighborhood where I grew up. I grew up in Ajegunle. Frankly, I never thought I would get to where I am now. I grew up as a young footballer watching the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Samson Siasia, Jay Jay Okocha, Samuel Eto’o, Andy Cole etc. They were like my role models and they inspired me to become a striker.
Best and worst imes in your career?
The saddest moment of my life was when I got injured two years ago and did surgery. I thought I was not going to play football again. I was very sad. But thank God, I pulled through that phase. One of the best moments of my life was when I got double promotion with Granada to La Liga and Watford to Premier League and winning player of the month of December 2015.
How rich is Odion Ighalo?
I’m not rich but I’m blessed.
How do you unwind?
I love watching movies and football matches on TV. I also love sleeping and spending time with my kids.
Will he let his kids play football?
Of course I will support my kids to play football because my mum supported me growing up and still supports me till date.
What’s your fashion taste?
I’m not crazy about clothes but I always like to look good. Dolce & Gabbana and DSQUARED are my best fashion designers. I also love to spend on good accessories.
Who is your favorite footballer?
I don’t have a favorite footballer but I like Samuel Eto’o and many more.
The kind of songs you will catch him listening?
Most of the times you will find me listening to gospel songs. Then I’m a huge fan of Nigerian artistes. I love Naija songs.
How he felt the first time he played for the Super Eagles?
It was a great feeling and a moment of fulfillment because that’s almost every footballer’s dream; to play for their country’s national team.
Expectations from government?
I would like governments at all levels to work towards eradicating poverty and corruption in Nigeria.
One thing people don’t know about Odion Ighalo?
Many people don’t know this. But the truth is, I have a deep love for God and humanity.
What should upcoming footballers do?
They should keep working hard and pray because that’s the key to success. They should also believe in themselves.
What Is your plan for World Cup?
We are ready to face any team in the global .We are not afraid to face any team in the group stage because we believe in ourselves and have resolved to do well at the World Cup and are confident that we can overcome all challenges that come our way,”we will confront the team we will play with the strength of our might.