Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo has said he considered retiring from the national team after the Russia 2018 World Cup following death threats to him and his family over his performance at the tournament.
Ighalo endured a torrid tournament in Russia in June as the Super Eagles crashed out in the group stage of the competition – failing to find the back of the net despite being served chances – especially in the 2-1 loss to Argentina in their last group match.
The performance earned him criticisms from fans back home, with many taking to the social media to vent their anger on the 29-year-old.
However, the Chanchung Yatai striker has once again found his way to the hearts of the team’s fans after scoring five goals in the double-header 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Libya in Uyo and Sfax.
The former Watford striker in a video interview with KweseESPN said the period after the World Cup was tough for him and considered quitting the team.
He said, “I know the fans want me to score goals. I understand them. But some of them took it to another level. They said a lot of things. To my innocent kids, to my wife, even to the extent that they threatened my life and the life of my family.
“I felt very bad. I had to talk to my wife because she could not take it – some words they said about my kids, about me and some words they said to her, the threats and all. That is beyond football.
“You know women and how they react when you talk about their children. But I never said a word to anybody and I never replied anyone. My wife said ‘you don’t have to go there (to Nigeria) any more’. And I knew it was because of all what they said to her and to our family.”
The former Granada striker said he did not quit because Eagles’ coach Gernot Rohr convinced him to stay with the team.
“I want to thank Rohr because after the World Cup and all those things happened, he called me before the Seychelles game and I told him I was contemplating stopping because it is not easy,” he said.
“But the coach had belief in me. He said ‘I know you are a good goalscorer and I know you can do it. Come and show them that you can score.’ If a coach believes in me, then I will come. I told him ‘coach, if I am in your plans 100 per cent then I will honour the invitation any time you call me.’
“He said ‘yes, you are in my plans for the games’. Then he said ‘don’t be under pressure, just go do your thing, I know you can do it.’ That gave me the confidence which I believed I needed. I want to thank him for defending me, and giving me the words like a father, encouraging me, talking to me. He gave me more belief and I thank God for repaying him with these goals.”
He said the goals he scored against Libya were not to prove his doubters wrong.
“I am not trying to prove anybody wrong, I am just trying to work hard for my country and I always give 100 per cent. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen the way I wanted it at the World Cup. But life did not end there. I went back to my club, and I continued my game,” he said.
“Now, I am back here to play for my country. I just want to give hundred per cent whenever I play, goal or no goal. As long as the team win, I am satisfied.”