IKENWA NNABUOGOR looks closely at a purported return to the Super Eagles by Odion Ighalo…
Odion Ighalo has been mulling the idea of a Super Eagles comeback since he signed off in style by emerging top scorer at 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
The former Watford striker dusted his boots full of goals in his later years in the Eagles days after a difficult start to rain in the goals which ultimately landed his country their record eighth AFCON bronze medal.
Amidst tales of threats to life by angry fans for missed chances at Russia 2018 World Cup, Ighalo came back gamely to fire Eagles to the 2019 AFCON with his goals and emerge tournament’s goal king with five goals.
Napoli striker Victor Osimhen inherited Ighalo’s boots soon after and responded gamely, netting four times before the Covid-19 restrictions paused football activities worldwide and buried another for a personal five-goal haul post-Ighalo.
With Osimhen fighting back injuries, struggling to get back to back to scoring ways in Italy after contracting Covid19 and getting hit hard for violations, as well as Paul Onuachu finding scoring range for his country off his radar, Rohr has been singing Ighalo’s songs for possible comeback from retirement.
This is not the first Rohr had hinted on having his trusted marksman back in the fold, the renewed interest in this latest wish appears that he may have concluded talks with Ighalo.
Ighalo, on his part, has reportedly mulled the idea, but has yet to conclusively rubber stamp his comeback.
Has he finally given it thought and concluded he was coming out of retirement to help solve Eagles goals issue a la Christian Chukwu’s ill-fated comeback in 1981 that ended before it had even started.
Chukwu, nicknamed ‘Chairman’, was highflying as the undisputed best ever Eagles captain and bowed with his head held high after leading his men and country to their first-ever AFCON title year earlier.
Qualification was in top gear for one of Africa’s two slots at Espana’82 World Cup and the setting was the first leg of the final round qualifier against perennial rivals and the 1980 AFCON beaten finalists Algeria in Lagos on October 10, 1981
It was a comeback gone wrong for ‘Chairman’ as he posted a stinker of a performance, and allowing fast Algerian strikers make a mincemeat of him and inflicting a deadly 2-0 defeat before the furious fans at the National Stadium Surulere.
The team were roundly booed with ‘Chairman’ at the centre of the national shame and that ended Chukwu’s erstwhile illustrious Eagles’ career on a brutal note.
He was not considered for the mountain to climb second leg two weeks later in freezing cold Constantine in the game that threw up a certain 19-year-old defender Stephen Keshi, who gladly stepped into Chukwu’s shoes and the rest is history.
Ighalo’s parting words after the Cairo night with the bronze medal round his neck was bowing out when the ovation was loudest and his young head held high and letting younger strikers have their chances to continue where he left off.
With these words in his mind to ponder, has Ighalo really thought about this well before agreeing a comeback?
Could he have bowed to pressure to return to conclude his unfinished scoring business with his country?
It is argued that most comebacks have not left cheering tales, but exceptions abound, though few, and the comebacking players ending up as everlasting heroes.
Sad but true, Ighalo’s comeback could be met with concealed frowned faces among his younger teammates and the result of this situation most times may not be pleasing.
At the ripe old age of 31, well-traveled and better experienced, Ighalo’s comeback dreams could be painted in glowing colours, but one wrong step could tarnish all that he has achieved with the national team.
Ighalo’s Eagles’ goals account currently stands at 16 in 35 appearances and no way near late Rashidi Yekini’s record 37 and a return could give him a better chance to match this record.
Smart money will be on Ighalo to come out of international retirement to add to his goals tally and bring his experience to bear on younger strikers like Osimhen, Onuachu, Iheanacho, Taiwo Awoniyi and Terem Moffi.