By Oluwashina Okeleji
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo says death threats aimed at his family after the World Cup were not enough to make him quit playing for the Super Eagles.
Ighalo, who failed to score for Nigeria in Russia, produced five goals against Libya in back-to-back 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers as the Super Eagles went top of Group E.
His five goals in two games also made him top-scorer in the qualifiers so far with six goals, but he admits some fans of the three-time African champions took things a bit too far after the tournament.
You have to pick yourself up from scratch and continue, which I did after the World Cup. I continued doing what I know how to do best in my club, and I’m happy everything is going well
“They want Nigeria to win games, and they want you to score as a striker. So I can understand them,” Ighalo told BBC Sport.
“It was painful but not enough to make me quit the country. Taking it to the other level that some of them took it to, it’s crazy.
“I don’t bring myself down to reply to all sorts of negative comments. Criticise me, fine. But don’t go to the extent of threatening family, threatening my wife, my kids; threatening my life and all that, which I had people saying on Instagram.
“I didn’t pay attention to all that, because I know that the same people saying all that, if they see me, they are still going to ask for money.
“So I don’t bother myself too much about that. I just concentrate, go back to my club, and start playing my football,” Ighalo said.
The former Watford striker bounced back from his World Cup disappointments, by scoring 20 goals in 25 matches for his Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai.
“I’m a professional. I’ve been playing professional football for 13 to 14 years now. So I know that criticism is a part of the game,” he added.
“If you’re getting paid well and you’re representing people, you have to accept criticism. So I accept whatever anyone says, but football doesn’t always go the way you want it. That does not mean you are going to kill yourself.
“So, the World Cup has come and gone. Now, it’s time to forge ahead and look forward to the future.”
Champions in 2013, Nigeria who lost their opening Nations Cup qualifier at home to South Africa last year have missed the last two tournaments in 2015 and 2017.
However, victory over Seychelles and two wins over Libya have kept them on course to qualify for the 2019 finals in Cameroon.
Their resurgence has seen them leapfrog South Africa and move to the top of Group E with nine points.
Nigeria striker ; Odion Ighalo ‘said You have to pick yourself up from scratch and continue, which I did after the World Cup. I continued doing what I know how to do best in my club, and I’m happy everything is going well’. BBC Sport.