There are “No Holds Barred” as Odion Ighalo sits down with Ifeanyi Udeze to discuss his Manchester United contract extension and his work outside of football.
IU: Hey Odion, how are you?
OI: My brother, I am fine. Thank you
IU: My brother, on behalf of the Brila family, I want to congratulate you. Yes. On the big announcement of your loan extension at Manchester United. And we’re very, very happy for you. It is a good thing and nice development.
OI: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
IU: Nice. How do you feel now that you have extended this loan, as it is?
OI: I thank God for that because this is what I want. You know, God made it happen. It is also a reward for some of my sacrifices. So, I thank God that that deal is being extended. I’m looking forward to getting this started again and continue from where I left off.
IU: Nice. Nice. Now that is out of the way, In the dressing room, you know, who would you say is your main man? Your closest pal…
OI: They are all nice guys. I talk more with Eric Bailly, Juan Mata, David de Gea, Sergio Romero, Bruno, everyone in fact and We have fun. It’s a great dressing room to be in.
IU: You are living your childhood dream at 29, 30. How does that make you feel as a player, as a senior player?
OI: I feel good you know, I thank God because not every dream comes to reality in the world. But I thank God, mine has come to reality, because those who know me, know how much I love United when I was younger, even all my siblings, my late sister as well, my brother would not stop watching Manchester United. Playing for Manchester United is not something I cannot put in words; No matter how I explain it to you, you will not understand. I am the only one who knows the feeling. This is my biggest achievement in my 15years in professional football.
IU: Let us talk about your club in China, Shanghai Shenhua, They were offering you about four hundred thousand pounds per week. No? (Ighalo laughs) That is a lot of money, and I honestly thought about that. Look at Manchester United, they offer you one hundred and thirty thousand pounds per week. What made your stay in Manchester?
OI: Sometimes money is not everything in life. I will not say I have enough money in my life, you understand. God has blessed me. Playing for Manchester United is something people won’t see now. It’s after I have retired. People will see that its not just about making money for one or two years, but an avenue to be set for life. I won’t say many things but playing for Manchester United, It’s my dream, It’s a big club. It’s going to open so many doors for me. My new contract in Shanghai will give me money for two or three years, that is it. Playing for Manchester United for six more months will open doors for me in ten and even twenty years, people will not understand what I am talking about. It’s not like I don’t want the money, I want the money, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture, not just immediate gains but future gains as well, post-football. I have deeply thought about it and meditated on it. So, I am sure. I don’t want to cut my dream short because of money, because once this ship sails, it never comes back.
IU: As an ex-international, I strongly believe you have a lot to offer the national team. Are you still thinking of a national team return?
OI: I am still in contact with the National team coach, Gernot Rohr, he sent me a congratulatory message after the extension, told me the door was still open and that he knows I have a lot to offer the team, help groom the young lads and all that. The NFF President, Amaju Pinnick also contacted me but I’m still thinking about it. But for now, I want to enjoy my club football, you know. I stopped then because the journey was too long for me because of my age. But now I am in Manchester, so we’ll see how it goes. I just want these young guys to keep making good plays, enjoy themselves, the Osihmens, Iwobis, Chukwuezes. We have good players, they just need to be encouraged so they can elevate their levels then we’ll see what the future holds. For now, I just want to concentrate on my club career. So, we’ll see what happens. I’m still in steady contact with the coach, with everybody in the team, whenever they’re playing games, I send them good luck messages, post-game, I send congratulatory messages. so, we never can say, you know, you never can say never in football, anything could happen.
IU: You spoke about Osihmen and Chukwueze, these are good young players, how do you advise them in your capacity as a senior international to keep the eye on the tip of the spear?
OI: I talk to Chukwueze, I talk to Osihmen more though because he is very close to me. These are young boys playing well. I encourage Osihmen very well, advise him to keep working hard, not get distracted, just concentrate. He is a good boy, always listening to advice, you know, He is a fantastic player and is going to be playing for one of the biggest clubs soon by God’s grace. He will also lead the national team attack. We need to put them through you understand. Because fame does not last forever, money if you misuse it, is gonna go away. It’s your reputation, the way you live your life that matters. I hope they keep making Nigeria proud.
IU: What inspired you to run the orphanage home and take care of kids?
OI: I was born and bred in Ajegunle, and I know how difficult it was for me growing up. Building an orphanage doesn’t equate to having a lot of money. Giving to the society and putting smiles on people’s faces makes me happy. Charity is a beautiful thing. It has helped me achieve a lot. It is evidence of the blessings of all the things God has given me. They pray for me, we speak on the video call. It stemmed from the sights of homeless kids on the streets of Ajegunle, children who have been cast away by their parents. I purposed in my heart then that if God blessed me, I would do everything to help such kids. Once I had the opportunity, it was a high priority. I completed the project before heading to China. We take care of widows as well.
IU: Wow, this is moving and touching, odion, this is without the academy.
OI: The academy is in Lagos, the plan is to focus on it after retirement, to groom players and give them an opportunity to succeed. It will be a standard academy with proper training facilities.
IU: Chairman CEO Brila media extends his greetings to you Odion.
OI: He is the big boss. My regards to him. Hopefully, I will be in the studios soon. Cheers.
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