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From The ‘Slum’ To World Stage! 3 Nigerian Players Who Made It Big Despite The Tough Challenges

3 min

The dream of most Nigerian footballers is to play in the top clubs in Europe where they would be recognized and later handed a call up for national duty to play for their national team – Super Eagles.
However, not many local talents have been so lucky to get the recognition needed to travel out of the country, despite being overly talented.
Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Victor Osimhen are some of the Nigerian players who rose from playing soccer on the streets to playing for big clubs in Europe.
Here are their inspiring stories of how they grew from grass to grace.


When Odion Ighalo tweeted “favour is better than labour” on November 26 2019, many disagreed with him and a mob of netizens made him a subject of internet trolling for several days, forcing him to reframe his tweet to meet their narrative.

24 hours after, Ighalo tweeted: “Labour is better than favour, are we ok now?”
Well, he had his reasons for rating favour over labour and it didn’t take too long before his trolls saw things from his perspective.
His deadline day loan move from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua to Manchester United in January was the eye opener.

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The Ajegunle born striker defied all odds to become => the first Nigerian to play for Manchester United .

He started his career with Prime F.C in Osun before moving to Julius Berger now Bridge FC. He landed in Europe in 2007 joining Lyn Oslo of Norway, he thereafter joined Italian Serie A side Udinese and Spanish club
Grenada and played for Watford in England before he eventually moved to China in 2017.

His loan move to Manchester United in January 2020 was one of the most shocking stories of the January transfer window. Many mocked, trolled the club for considering Ighalo.

Against all odds, in the most unlikeliest form, Ighalo’s dream of playing at Old Trafford, his boyhood club, eventually came to pass at 30 when many players would already be considering hanging the boot.
Ighalo earns £300,000 (N140m) a week wages before his loan move to Old Trafford.
If that is not favour, we wonder what else it could be.


Born December 29 1998 in Olusosun area of Lagos, Victor Osimhen who is presently Lille FC’s wonder kid had been forced to drink from the sour grape of life’s disappointment.
From battling hardship – hawking sachet water on the streets of Lagos, to his injury spell just after joining Wolfsburg in Germany, Osimhen’s story is that of dedication, grace, and hard work.
Osimhen stepped into global prominence after his outstanding outing at the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile where he scored 10 goals and won the tournament’s golden boot as the
highest goal scorer, as well as, the Silver Ball as second most valuable player.

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He quickly caught the attention of Europe top clubs, but he chose Wolfsburg. His two seasons in Germany were bedeviled by injury and sickness and he made just 14 appearances without a goal.
He later moved to RSC Charleroi in Belgium before joining Lille last summer where he has been outstanding.
His outstanding performance for Lille has made him the toast of top European clubs – Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham who are eyeing a move for the Nigerian forward.
Today, the former sachet water hawker is currently valued at €30 million (over N12 billion) in the football transfer market.


Unlike Ighalo and Osimhen who rose from the lowest class of the society to grace, Kelechi Iheanacho came from a relatively lower middle class. Before his rise to global fame, his father James Iheanacho was a building material trader in Imo State while his late mom was a teacher.
His parents never wanted him to be a footballer, for them, education is a more assuring route to success than playing soccer, judging by the huge number of talented players who never made it beyond the street and local soccer.

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But Kelechi was determined to prove his parents wrong and he set out very early in life to do just that. His parents became convinced and started supporting his dream when the young lad started winning laurels from local and interstate football competitions.

His outstanding performance at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup made him a toast of big clubs in Europe, but his father preferred Manchester City and there he went after the competition.
The 23-year-old now plays for Leicester City and is presently valued at €12 million according to TransferMarkt.
Thanks so much for reading guys.

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Jake Clifford

Jake Clifford is a Nigerian Born blogger and a fast growing Journalist, whose aim is to inform Nigerians with happening across Nigeria. Send story tips to him via [email protected] or


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