Welcome on board Odion Ighalo
By Tony Ademiluyi
Welcome on board Odion Ighalo… Nigerians have been diehard fans of many of the English football clubs since Pay TV Operator, DSTV liberalized the market and made it possible for the English Premier League to be beamed into the homes of many of them as they watch the matches from the comfort of their living rooms or bedrooms.
Manchester United is one of the most popular clubs in the country and it has a large followership in the country. The Red Devils as the club likes to be called has many football ‘pundits’ who know more about the club than many of its English fans and are ready to die for the club even though a sizeable majority of them do not know the way to the Muritala Mohammed International Airport and have no chance in hell of ever making it to Old Trafford to watch a live match.
This club and Chelsea once fought over John Mikel Obi who at a time was ranked alongside Lionel Messi as the next big thing to happen in the round leather game. In the end Chelsea emerged victorious but critics of the former Super Eagles Captain argue that the Roman Abramovich owned club killed his career as Jose Mourinho the then coach made him a defensive midfielder instead of an attacking one that Sir Alex Ferguson would have made him.
History was made as Jude Odion Ighalo signed up to the club on a six month loan deal from his Chinese side, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
The coach of Manchester United or Man U as the fans love to call it beat the transfer window to make the last minute signing. The club has been fumbling since the departure of Ferguson and there was the need to inject a fair pair of legs especially in the attack. The club was losing too many games especially to smaller sides and a potent strike force was desperately needed.
I have been a fan of the club since 1999 but lately I haven’t bothered going out of my way to watch the games as the club can send a hypertensive patient to an early grave. I was even tempted to launch a hash tag on twitter, ‘Bring Back Fergie’ as the coaches after him have failed to strike the right chord with the players. Not even the ‘special one’ Mourinho succeeded. Sir Ferguson owes it not only to Man U fans but to football lovers in general to write a memoir on how he succeeded at the club in his sterling twenty-seven years at the helm of affairs.
Odion Ighalo isn’t a stranger to English football as he once played for Watford before ‘porting’ to use the Nigerian parlance to China which is the goldmine of footballers as they earn what many European clubs cannot pay. The Ajegunle born footballer even revealed that he took a huge pay cut to play for the Red Devils.
The pay cut was necessary for his career as playing for the reds will be a huge boost on his career. The Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr was so happy that he said he will persuade him to rescind his earlier decision of his retirement from international footballer to come back to the fold of the eagles.
Even though we are overjoyed that his number for the club is 25, the red devils are different from the Man U of old as this is worse than a shadow of its former self. Ighalo needs to brace up and rise up to the challenge of banging in as many goals as he can as that is what will make his stay there permanent when the six months time frame elapses.
The Legendary Man U defender, Rio Ferdinand expressed fears that Ighalo may not be the messiah that the struggling club needs as the standards of the Chinese league and English are miles apart. The former is still in its infancy while the latter is well developed. The Guinness global brand ambassador who was recently in Nigeria described Africans knowledge and enthusiasm for football as ‘crazy’ and hoped that Ighalo would rise up to the occasion.
I sincerely hope that he exceeds the expectations of both his fans and critics so that he can land a permanent contract with the club and write his name in gold as the man who helped bring back the club from the brink of annihilation. We haven’t been playing the Champions League for some seasons and it’s been ages since we won the English Premier League, FA Cup,Carabao club etc. We are tired of just making up the numbers and pray that Ighalo can do his country proud.
We recall with gusto how he emerged as the highest goal scorer in the last nation’s cup and how his goals helped the rather wobbly Eagles to get to the Semi-Finals. We hope he can replicate this with the Red Devils.
Welcome on board Odion!
*Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com