CAIRO – He’s had to endure some of the most vitriolic criticisms that could have defeated a lesser man but Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo has shown great mental fortitude to block out the bile and provide answers where it matters most – on the football pitch.
The 30-year-old was vilified for a horrendous miss in the 2018 World Cup against Argentina which many said was the main reason Nigeria failed to progress past the group stage in Russia with many calling for the former Watford striker never to be called up again.
But Gernot Rohr stuck with the Shanghai Shenhua forward who responded brilliantly, ending the 2019 AFCON qualifying series as top scorer with 7 goals.
Ighalo has carried his rich form into the 2019 AFCON in Egypt where he came off the bench to score the winner against Burundi before notching a brace in the 3-2 win over Cameroon to become joint top scorer with three goals.
And speaking ahead of Nigeria’s quarterfinal tie against South Africa later today at the Cairo International Stadium, Ighalo said the criticisms never bothered him as he had always had the confidence of national team coach Gernot Rohr.
“I don’t really pay attention to critics,” Ighalo told the media ahead of today’s game. “I’m a professional and people are bound to criticize me but you don’t let that get to you. I just do my job as long as my coach here is satisfied with my job and everything I give in the field of play; I don’t give attention to what people say outside.
“I just do my job, give my best one hundred and ten percent in every game in okay sometimes it won’t be enough but I’m satisfied that I give my best.”
And ahead of today’s match against Bafana Bafana, Ighalo said the Super Eagles will make Nigerians proud and called on Nigerians to continue to stick with the team.
“My message to Nigerians is I just want to thank them first for their support so far because, without them, it’s going to be impossible.
“We are going to play a big game; we still need their support we need them to cheer and support us. The game will not always go the way they want but with their support, we will go far. So, I’m telling them to believe in us. We are going to make them proud.”