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Iheanacho reveals City’s success story

After joining Manchester City’s Academy in January 2014, Kelechi Iheanacho was not expecting a quick breakthrough into City’s first team, but his success means there are much greater expectations from the young Nigerian striker.

Born in the city of Owerri, the capital of Imo State in Nigeria, Iheanacho move to Etihad stadium have attracted many fans from Nigeria following Man City.

His old friends will be queuing up on weekends in various match viewing centers where they pay to watch Premier League football actions and also keep in touch with him display his God given talents.

Growing upthose days, sometimes with hundreds packed around one television screen was the only way those in Iheanacho’s neighbourhood could follow what was happening in the Premier League.

“We didn’t have a television at home,” says Iheanacho, in his interview with the Guardian UK (www.theguardian.com). “Even the people who have televisions wouldn’t have the right channels to show the games. So if you want 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 N50, 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 like biscuits, cookies or bread. I can remember going to watch one final between 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.”

A staunch follower of La Liga and a fan of Lionel Messi his idol, and more attuned to the happenings in Spain than English football.

“I watched the Spanish League more because it was cheaper at N30. Sometimes I would watch the Premier League if I found the money or go to the viewing center anyway without the money and try other ways. Sometimes I beg them to let me in. At other times I try to sneak in for the second half and pay half the money,” the 19 year old said.

More often than not, he would head to the local pitches or play in street games to showcase the skills that caught the attention of a local team, the Taye Academy, and represented Nigeria at every age level from under-13 upwards before coming to City’s attention during the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013.

Iheanacho netted six goals in that tournament, including one in the final to win the Golden Ball and was being lined up to join Porto until City’s scouts got wind of the move.

“There were other clubs as well but Porto in particular,” Iheanacho recalls. “I was really ready to go. It was very close.”

Making a deal to the tune of £350,000, may prove to be one of the outstanding business City have carried out in recent years given Iheanacho’s impressive introduction to the first team this season. After scoring a hat-trick in the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Aston Villa four weeks ago, a dressing room filled with seasoned internationals songs of him with the “Iheanacho” chant that had been heard in the away end – “I think Joe Hart started it,” he says – and his stylish finish against Tottenham was further proof why Manuel Pellegrini recently cited the youngster’s potential while explaining why the club did not bring in another striker to replace EdinDzeko.

“I was happy to hear the manager say that and for him to introduce me to the first team,” Iheanacho added. “It means he has confidence in me. He has 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.”

His father, James Iheanacho, who made his living from selling men’s clothes, joined him in Manchester for the early months to help the settling-in process and though there is the obligatory mention of the city’s weather, Iheanacho does not seem to have struggled too badly with homesickness. “It’s different from the place where I grew up, but I really wanted to play football. I would have gone anywhere for football. It’s a bit cold here, but I would have done anything to have a chance.”

His current mood can probably be summed up by the fact he uses the word “happy” half a dozen times, but there have been some difficult times, too. His mother, Mercy Iheanacho died few months before his move to Manchester and he says his career is dedicated to her. “It was hard when my mother left us. I said to myself: ‘You must keep working hard for her.’ She was a teacher, a big influence. She made me work harder. So when I’m not doing something right or when I’m not playing or working hard enough, I remember what she used to say to me. She gets me moving. She pushed me to work hard.”

Currently, Iheanacho wears the No72 shirt for City but it would be no surprise if he takes the vacant No9 shirt next season to signify his relevance at a club where Brian Marwood, the academy director, has said they want three to five of their own products eventually to become first-team regulars.

Iheanacho was also in City’s squad that triumphed over Liverpool in the final of the Capital One cup final at Wembley Stadium on February.

The League Cup is Iheanacho’s first piece of silverware as a senior Man City player in his first senior season.

“Am proud to be among the champions. Thanks to all the fans that came to support.”

Iheanacho is expected to lead Super Eagles strike attack against the Pharaohs of Egypt in a crucial 2017 AFCON qualifiers. The young lad is included in Samson Siasia’s fourty two-man squad for the double-header tie in Kaduna March 25th and in Alexandria on March 29.

Anthony Nlebem

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This post was syndicated from BusinessDay : News you can trust. Click here to read the full text on the original website.


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