Odion Ighalo

Ighalo: I went hungry to watch United play

Monday 28 December 2020 17:00

Odion Ighalo has revealed he used to hold back some of his lunch money as a child in order to save up and watch Manchester United play at the weekend.

The Reds forward, who grew up supporting us in Nigeria, was speaking on UTD Podcast when he made the incredible revelation that he often went hungry during the week, in order to watch his heroes play on a Saturday or Sunday.

Odion explained to co-hosts Sam Homewood, Helen Evans and David May that many Nigerians would pay to watch football matches in local viewing centres, something he learned from a young age while growing up in a United-obsessed house.
Ighalo: That’s how I fell in love with United Video

Ighalo: That’s how I fell in love with United

Odion Ighalo reflects on growing up in Nigeria and watching the Reds play at local 'viewing centres'...

“I grew up in an area where everyone watched Premier League football. You either supported Manchester United or Arsenal or Chelsea back then,” said the Reds’ no.25.

"In my house, my brothers, my late sister, they supported Manchester United. I was very young and I didn’t know a lot about football, so when they went to watch the game they would come back and you would see they would be arguing.

“When I grew up, my brother started taking me to the viewing centre to watch Manchester United. That’s how I fell in love with the team, watching Manchester United playing week in, week out.

“It’s a very small place, you would have maybe 100 people, it was very tight and that,” Odion continued, when asked to explain what a viewing centre is like. “But they don’t care, they just want to watch the football.

“You see people who will pull a stool and stand at the back. On a small chair like this. They don’t care about the inconvenience, they just want to watch their team playing and doing well.”
Sadly, viewing United in the early 2000s was a luxury in Odion’s hometown, and as the striker recalled, he had to make an incredible sacrifice most weeks to see Sir Alex Ferguson’s men play.

“I had to save money,” he recounted. “Before you go to school, my mum would leave me some money if I wanted to eat lunch. From Monday I was saving my money because I wanted to watch Manchester United.

“I split it in two. Even though I would use part of the money for lunch, I would save some of the money because the weekend is coming. Sometimes you would be feeling hungry because you don’t eat properly, but you don’t want to miss the game at the weekend.

“You don’t want someone to tell you how Manchester United played, how they scored. You want to see it yourself. It’s that passion. You start saving money until the weekend.
“Ater Friday when school is done, you see everyone get happy. They get their Manchester United shirt, their Arsenal shirt; you wash it and dry it. Everyone’s getting set for the weekend. It’s like a celebration, like you’re at a party. 

“If Manchester United are playing on a Saturday, you have to pull on your Manchester United shirt and go to the viewing centre looking smart. When the game started, sometimes it would be so hot because there was no air conditioning, then you have to take off your shirt and you’re fanning yourself.

“Then after the viewing centre, at the end of the game we’re arguing about the match from the viewing centre to our home. Sometimes I cry if Manchester United lose a game. You cry because you come home and see people arguing and saying bad things to you. Sometimes I shed tears because you don’t want your team to lose. That’s how crazy it was back then.”

Odion’s not to be missed UTD Podcast episode is available now.