Nollywood actor, Ikechukwu Ogbonna, who gained prominence in 2015 when he was nominated for the African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, talks about his passion for football in this engaging interview with PETER AKINBO
We’re you involved in sports while growing up?
Yeah, I played football, I played basketball almost every day because we had Physical and Health Education. So, we were supposed to engage in almost every sport, including long jump.
Did you go for any tournaments?
No, I wasn’t good enough to make it to the school team.
Did you want to pursue sports?
I wish I was a football player. I mean, they’re making so much money. Don’t get me wrong, I have passion for it but there’s also money there, so my business side is always on alert.
If you played football, what position would you play?
I would either be the striker or an attacking midfielder.
What were the things that stopped you from becoming a footballer?
Back then, when your parents came back and saw you playing football on the streets, they’ll beat you instead of encouraging you. Nowadays, parents are more aware of what football pays and they support their kids. I feel like, if it was now, and my parents saw that I had that much love for football, they would have probably put me in a football academy, but back then, it was more of you had to hide to play football because we didn’t even play with boots, we played with bare feet, so, it was not encouraging. Almost everyone talks of how they had to force their way into playing football.
Who is your favourite footballer?
I would have said Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but I think they’ve lost the pace they used to be back then. My best player is Victor Osimhen, he is an outstanding player, there are a lot of talented players in the team (Super Eagles) but Osimhen is a standout for me. He is literally Africa’s best player now and I am very proud of him.
What club do you support?
Chelsea. I am a Blues man, I know it’s not the rosiest of times now but I am still a Chelsea fan.
Why do you support Chelsea?
I joined Chelsea in the early 2000s when Jose Mourinho came. I was an Arsenal supporter at first because of Nwankwo Kanu but then Mourinho came and I moved to Chelsea. The thing about football is, if your spirit just likes a particular club, it’s not something you can control, you don’t choose your football club just like that.
How did you feel last season with Chelsea and even with their form this season?
Last season was a very challenging season. They say when you get to the top, that’s when you begin to face a lot of challenges to test your true character. Our major issue that season (2022/23) was the finishing. We created many chances but we hardly finished the chances, we needed a top number 9, which I still don’t think we have signed with the way Nicolas Jackson is playing and missing chances. We also started having injuries to key players, it has been a very challenging period for the club and honestly I am even losing faith for this season. I still think the best is ahead of us and that we can get better. Christopher Nkunku gives me hope, those players are good and we just need to gel. I am not sure of (Mauricio) Pochettino but I am not sure about who else they could have gotten to manage the club.
Who do you think is Chelsea’s worst signing ever?
Romelu Lukaku, I think he is the worst signing in the history of English football. The interview he did was a sign of gross unprofessionalism on his side, there’s no way that a club comes for you and pays over €100m, and bring you to the club showing enormous trust and faith in you only for you to grant an interview insulting the club because they are not playing to your style. As a professional, if they’re not playing to your style, you try to fit into the style of the club because the club comes first. And as a top striker, you should be able to score goals anyway, that’s your job. The way he handled everything was terrible, leaving after one season and taking a salary reduction to go back to Inter. I don’t know whether he wanted to punish Chelsea, for me he’s the worst signing on every level.
What’s your opinion of the Super Eagles?
The Super Eagles are a bunch of fantastic players but poor management and the politics involved in everything that happens in Nigeria affects them. I feel that we should be better than we are today, we can do better if we can honestly take away politics from the game and allow them to flourish.
Do you think the Super Eagles can win the AFCON?
We have everything it takes to win AFCON, we have an amazing first eleven, we have an amazing bench, we have the African best footballer of the year in our team, Victor Oshimen, we have one of the top goalscorers in Bundesliga, Victor Boniface, we have elite midfielders and defenders that are playing in Europe. All we just need is time to prepare as a team, because individual quality is not going to be enough to win, we have to get players firing from all cylinders as a team. (Samuel) Chukwueze is firing right now in AC Milan. We have lots of players that can put up good individual performances but I hope they have enough time to play together as a team and understand each other and understand that they are not just playing to sell themselves but also playing for the country. Hopefully they bring it back home, I know we will at least get to the semi-finals, and hopefully, we win the final. So with God being on our side, prayers and hard work, I know we can win it. Go super eagles!
Would you support your children in sports?
Yeah, I am a fan, so, I would support my kids as much as they would want me to, if they desire it. I won’t try to force them. My son was even in a football academy when he was in Nigeria. That’s how much I love football, so if I identify anything in my child, I’ll push on it as a father.
Do you regret not going into sports?
I have no regrets in life, everything happens for a reason. If I were playing football, I probably won’t be where I am today. I believe that every step and what you do in life changes your future, you’re only where you are because of the decisions that you’ve