Iwobi: How My Parents, Okocha, Ozil, Sanchez Have Influenced My Career

Iwobi: How My Parents, Okocha, Ozil, Sanchez Have Influenced My Career



By James Agberebi:

Super Eagles forward Alex Iwobi has expressed confidence that his Champions League goal in Arsenal's 4-1 Champions League win over Basel in midweek will serve as the catalyst for more goals this season.

Despite providing three assists so far this season, Iwobi has struggled to get on the score sheet.

"That’s what the big players get recognised for, scoring goals or creating goals,” Iwobi told The Guardian.

“I feel like I did, then I had a little drought, but I think that this goal against Basel will give me a confidence boost.”

Iwobi then explained the part his parents played in his rise to footballing fame and the influence of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in his Arsenal career.

"Because I wasn’t as big, fast or strong as everyone else, there were question marks on me and my ability that I wasn’t imposing myself on the game as I should,” Iwobi recalls.

“It was upsetting because I was going to school thinking, ‘What can I do to improve?’ I would have extra sessions with my dad or friends. My mum made me do kick-ups in the living room. My sister even tried to play football. Everyone was trying to help me.

" I just want to enjoy the time with my sister. We are close, we are always together, having a laugh. I’m always trying to take care of her.

"I have to call him ‘my boss’ (Ozil) because he assisted me. Alexis likes to take the mick out of me when I don’t score in training. They are funny.”

Iwobi reflects the role his uncle and legendary Nigerian footballer Austin Okocha has played in his development.

He said: "We speak every couple of weeks. He does advise me, not just on the pitch but off it too. Football is a short career so he is telling me to maintain the lifestyle you have to get businesses and properties. He is trying to keep me level-headed and to help me plan for the future after football.”

On his experience with Nigerian football fans and his first home game for the Super Eagles at the Ahmedu Bello Stadium against Egypt during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, Iwobi said: "Everyone appreciates you. You’re almost like a king! 

"When I arrived at the airport I thought, I’ll just have my earphones in, but everyone was like ‘Iwobi! Iwobi!’ Oh gosh. Hi guys! I didn’t know what to expect. It was just mad. I always go with Kelechi Iheanacho. When we go we get escorted. Because I’m not used to the Nigerian culture as much as they are, they do help me with it. I can’t really speak the language that well. They help me with the fans. The fans are very different there. They don’t ask me for autographs, they ask for boots, money.

“At my debut we played in a stadium that holds 30,000 and there was 60,000 – I don’t understand how. People were standing on the floodlights, on the scoreboard. I was thinking, ‘What? This isn’t even safe!’ But people there will do anything to watch the match. Sometimes in a Premier League game the fans are a bit quiet but in Nigeria you just hear trumpets, everything. The atmosphere is so different compared to England.”

Iwobi hopes to emulate some of Arsenal's legends who brought honour to the team, adding: "Some of the players Arsenal used to have were scary. But even now the quality we have now, this season could be our season. It is wide open.

“I walk past the corridors and see all the pictures of players holding a trophy and celebrating but my face is not there. I want to be there. Hopefully one day my face will be on the wall celebrating too. That would be amazing.”