Wilfred Ndidi says he can’t wait to get back at former Leicester City teammate Riyad Mahrez whose last-minute freekick for Algeria ended Nigeria’s hopes in the semifinal of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The loss still rankles deeply within Ndidi who said in an Instagram Live conversation with former Super Eagles Media Officer Colin Udoh that memories of that match “make me de hate Riyad the more”.
“I no wan think of am, honestly,” a still distraught Ndidi told the ESPN journalist in pidgin English.
The reason for Ndidi’s pain is not hard to discern.
It was the 23-year-old Ndidi’s foul on the edge of the box that handed Mahrez the dagger with which he pierced the hearts of millions of Nigerians and punctured the Super Eagles dreams of glory in Egypt.
Algeria went on to defeat Senegal in the final to lift their second AFCON trophy.
Many Nigerians blamed goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi’s suspect positioning for the goal and Akpeyi himself recently gave his verdict on who was at fault.
Some others also pointed the finger at Ndidi for conceding the foul in the first place.
The match had been heading for extra-time with both sides level at 1-1 before Ndidi’s infringement opened the door for Mahrez to hand the Foxes victory with virtually the last kick of the game.
Even though Algeria looked more likely to win it in the dying minutes with Sofiane Feghouli and Ismael Bennacer both going close, many felt the Super Eagles would have won in extra-time if they had held on.
And Ndidi said Mahrez, with whom he shared the dressing room for a season at Leicester before the Algerian’s move to Manchester City in 2018, told him something similar at the end of the match.
“He was honest, he said they were tired and if to say we go extra time, the game for come our favour because we [still] de strong,” Ndidi revealed.
Ndidi acknowledged that a player of Mahrez’s quality was always going to grab the opportunity to win the game from the free-kick.
“But na Riyad, Riyad effect, na one player wey I respect eh, you know he is not strong [but] you can hardly get the ball from Riyad, he’s very tricky and very skillful.”
The former Genk midfielder joked that he avoids thinking about the defeat because it only makes him “hate” the 2016 African Player of the Year more.
Ndidi expressed hopes of being in a position to turn the tables on Mahrez in the future as recompense for the hurt and pain the Algerian wrought when he sent Nigeria packing from the 2019 AFCON.
“That [game] I no wan even think of am because e de very sad, e make me de hate Riyad the more so, hopefully, payback one day and I’ll go to his face and say remember yes na so I feel that time when you score against us.”