FT World Cup Focus: Does Nigeria have three reasons to ‘Kelechi’ (Thank God)?

In Nigeria, particularly in the Igbo tribe, Kelechi happens to be a very common name given to children coming into this world. Loosely translated, the name means “thank God” or “glorify God” that speaks to a people expressing gratitude to a Higher power for the blessing in form of the child born to them. In the football media, we have been recently exposed to three Kelechis. Do they perhaps resemble the three positives that the green and white army can be cognizant of heading into the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia next month? Let us find out

Kelechi Iheanacho

Leicester City FC Forward, Kelechi Iheanacho, Arsenal Kelechi Nwakali and the Nigerian fan, Kelechi Anyikude represent three factors that could prove crucial in Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World campaign and the future of Nigeria football as a whole.

The Leicester striker joined the foxes in the summer of 2017 from Manchester City in a £25 million which made him the third most expensive African player at the time, after Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s transfers to Liverpool. He had become famous for scoring goals from the bench at City, becoming the most prolific Premier League scorer in history at 1 goal every 96 minutes, a ratio higher than the likes of Thierry Henry and Sergio Aguero.

Things did not, however, go as planned at Leicester in the 2017/18 campaign as he continued to fall out of favor with coach Claude Puel for the better part of the season. Iheanacho got a nod from the coach in the closing stages for the season and did put in some applaudable performances, including a fine strike in Leicester’s win over Arsenal. For the entire campaign, he made only seven EPL starts but scored 3 goals and registered 3 assists, not bad at all for a striker. In my humble opinion, the 21-year-old is not too far away from being a seasoned goal poacher who would not become as great as Okocha but will certainly provide goals for his country and club when they need them the most. He is poised to make it to Gernot Rohr’s final 23-man squad and I strongly believe that he can deliver the goods for the Super Eagles if given the chance.

Kelechi Nwakali

He is the kid who has recently made the headlines after a man of the match display in Nigeria’s 3-2 loss to Atletico Madrid as part of the GOtv Max cup clash. Nwakali steered the Super Eagles in front on the 31st-minute mark by curling a beautiful shot into the net, beyond the reach of Jan Oblak. The 19-year-old has actually been crafting such crazy performances for quite some time now especially at the Dutch side MVV Maastricht where he is on loan from North Londoners, Arsenal. Prior to joining the Premier League club, Nwakali captained the Under-17 Super Eagles side to a 2015 FIFA World Cup title, winning the Golden Ball Award in the process. He is still yet to make an Arsenal debut and could soon join his compatriot, Alex Iwobi in the Gunners first team.

Even though he was not selected to be part of Rohr’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup finals in Russia next month, Nwakali represents a tantalizing prospect of youth who could continue building on Nigeria’s momentum and restore the nation’s position as a footballing powerhouse after the June finals.

Dr. Kelechi Anyikude

Leicester City FC Forward, Kelechi Iheanacho, Arsenal Kelechi Nwakali and the Nigerian fan, Kelechi Anyikude represent three factors that could prove crucial in Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World campaign and the future of Nigeria football as a whole.

Popularly known as Kelechi, the Arsenal fan has become known for fanatically backing the Gunners. The Ph.D. holder currently resides in the United Kingdom and considers himself an Unofficial Nigerian Ambassador, Environmentalist, and SDG Advocate. He is a regular on the Arsenal FanTV YouTube channel and a symbol of the funny, opinionated and widely outspoken fan who is not shy to express his feelings. He sings and dances a lot on the channel using his native Igbo language and also shouts when times are rough.

Kelechi will be fully backing the Super Eagles team in Russia and his energy represents the population of Nigeria fans who are known for assuming the role of the 12th player with purpose and pride. Pre-orders for the Nigerian Nike kit has reached over a record 3 million and you are guaranteed that in Russia and elsewhere around the world, the Super Eagles fans will be behind their heroes. Could the off the pitch hype aid Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign success?