Kelechi Ihenacho was born on 3 October 1996 in the town of Obogwe in the state of Imo, Nigeria by Elder James Ihenacho (Father) and Late Mercy Ihenacho (mother).
He was the last son and third child out of a family of 4 children (Parents gave birth to 3 Boys and a Girl).
Starting, Kelechi played football every day with his two brothers and friends in the street and his school.
Football was all he ever wanted to do as a kid. His elder brothers also played football and were quite good but weren’t as determined as their little brother was. At some point, they provided him with all the assistance he needed after observing it was his destiny.
Iheanacho was not just intelligent as a little footballer. He was also among the top three best pupils in his class during his days at Nursery and Primary school. Initially, his academic performance was something his parents loved more than the fact that he could kick football very well.
His family thou had a TV, but would not access the Premier League games back then when he was still very young. This is a general problem in Nigeria.
The only means to see the games was to pay the sum of 20 cents to football viewing centres scattered across the country.
Kelechi could not afford such monies at all times. At some occasions, he would be chased away if he couldn’t afford monies needed to watch these live games. Back then, he was a confirmed Chelsea Fan.
As Kelechi Ihenacho puts it, “I had to beg to watch the EPL as a child because, at some point, I couldn’t afford the N50 (20 pens) gate fee at the viewing centre close to my house.
When such occasion comes, I would sometimes sneak into viewing centres or beg my way in just to have a glimpse of the action. There was no way my parent would have to afford monies to subscribe to DSTV, which shows the Premier League“- He revealed.
A MESSAGE FOR THE FRIENDS WHO CHASED HIM WHEN HE HAD NO MONEY TO WATCH FOOTBALL—“Little did they know he would be the one they would be watching on the screen just a few years later”
Kelechi Ihenacho needed to come out of poverty and found soccer as the only option that could drive him to greatness.
He only hoped for one thing. Convincing his parents, (notably his dad) to accept and sponsor his dreams and leave the fact that ‘Having Education was the only key to success’.
This, unfortunately, didn’t go well as they disagreed severally. At some point, he stood his grounds as the head of the home and warned his last son never to bring up any issue of football in his house.
He urged him to concentrate only on his studies. On a few occasions, his parents would flog him for going to play football in the evenings instead of reading his books and doing his assignments.
According to Kelechi, …“Both my dad and mum didn’t want me to play football on a full-time basis.
They told me the chances of making it big was slim and it would be a waste of time if it ends up becoming a fruitless pursuit as it does for many Nigerian youths. They wanted me to concentrate only on my studies and get a good education.
Because of this, I had limited time to play football and could only play more at school.
Sometimes i would go far away from home to play football in the evenings so they don’t see me.
A miracle happened on a fateful day. My dad changed his mind when my school teacher came to my house to tell him I had been selected to represent the school team in a state competition. He approved i go represent the school.
That it was the only and last opportunity I will get from him to prove my self that I can make it in football. I played the competition like my life depends on it’.
Kelechi Ihenacho’s team won the state competition and he became the most promising youth footballer in his state. This made his father very proud and marked a turning point to the positive start of his career.
Kelechi Ihenacho’s dad accepted his decision to pursue football and started supporting him as soon as he learned his son won the golden ball award, medals and several incentives from the state commissioner of sports.
This award was handed over to him from his school sports teacher as seen in the picture.
Its an award for being the star of the state schools competition tournament after much hard work.
Upon being convinced and observing he would make a breakthrough in life through football. Elder James Ihenacho (His Father) quickly register his son at the best football academy in the state.
It didn’t take long before his son got registered at the Lagos state branch of Taiye Football Academy at Owere, the capital city of Imo state, Eastern Nigeria.
This time it was all about the national football competition which is held in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Kelechi who played for the Imo state was known to be their captain.
He led the team to victories in several national competitions. He gained national recognition when he single-handedly led his state team to win a major national youth tournament in Abuja, the home of Nigeria football federation.
Since then, all local scouts started keeping their watchful eyes on the young lad. Again, it didn’t take long before he got selected to represent Nigeria on their U14 Level.
Continued success saw him progress to the U17 level where he unleashed his talent to the world.
His first major international tournament was the 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco, where he bagged a hat-trick against Botswana. He dedicated his goals at 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco to his mother, who passed away two months before the tournament.
Kelechi Ihenacho became the hottest teenage footballer in the world after being voted as the Adidas Golden Ball Award winner at the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
His performances led to interest from clubs in Europe; teams that followed his progress included Arsenal, Manchester City, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Porto. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) named him the Most Promising Talent of the Year for 2013 at the CAF Awards.
He was close to going to Portuguese side Porto until father James told him he would have a brighter future at the Etihad Stadium.
According to him: “I had played a few games at the Under-17 World Cup finals, and that’s when I agreed on a deal with City.
In all honesty, I didn’t know that much about the club at the time. I was close to signing for FC Porto where I wanted to go. I didn’t believe I’d have a future at Manchester City.
But my father did believe and gave me the confidence I needed. I’m happy I took his advice.”
He added: ‘I first heard of City’s interest when I was with Nigeria for the World Under-17 qualifiers,” he said. “When we finished the qualification process, I had a few scouts approaching me and telling me I had quite a few clubs interested in signing me. I was so happy and wish I could sign for them all. I was enjoying my football at that time.”
It was Manchester City who clinched a deal to sign him when he reached his 18th birthday. Asides monies paid to Taiye Football Academy in Nigeria, his dad was paid a whopping 300,000 pounds (142 Million Nigerian Naira) for his son as promised by scouts from the rich club.
Kelechi Ihenacho comes from Eastern Nigeria, a region dominated by the Igbo speaking tribe. His father, Elder James Ihenacho is a trader who once traded in building materials in Owere, Nigerian capital city of Imo state. He is now his son’s agent and manager.
He is someone who once believed in education and has always wanted it for his children before they join him in the line of trade.
Before his son excelled in football, Elder James operated a lower middle-class family. Today, he is rich and now belongs to the first class citizens of the country all thanks to God using his football to save his family.
He is the top decision maker when it comes to managing his son and shaping his son’s career path. Ihenacho’s decision to join Leicester City on a transfer and not on loan was a decision made his dad.