By James Bailey
Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi has said that he is amazed by the level of support there is for his football team at home in his native Nigeria.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Iwobi revealed that during an international match, supporters were shouting out his team’s name – rather than his! Arsenal are a football team which enjoy a strong following in this country, which is one of the most populous in Africa.
Some of this support is definitely due to the success enjoyed by Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu between 1999-2004 in North London.
In 2015, Twitter data placed Arsenal just ahead of their local rivals Chelsea when it comes to the most popular side to support in Nigeria. Along with this, Iwobi’s success with his competitive debut whilst playing internationally for Nigeria has only helped to garner more support from Nigerians for the Gunners.
Speaking to ESPN Brazil, Iwobi told them that playing internationally has given him a prime experience to see just how much love the fans have for the game. He described the fact that fans shouted for Arsenal, rather than his name (even though they know it) when he came onto the pitch as ‘actually funny’ and described the support that fans in his home country have for the game as ‘amazing’.
He described the supporters as extremely passionate, and that their favourite league is most certainly the Premier League. Recently, Iwobi found himself at the other end of a last-minute tussle regarding his senior international future, however, having played for England in his youth, he opted to represent his country of birth as a senior player.
In the Family
By playing internationally for his native Nigeria, Iwobi hopes to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha, who represented Nigeria to win a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The 20-year-old clearly has a lot of respect and admiration for his uncle, who he says helps him ‘both on and off the pitch’. Speaking about his relative, Iwobi said that Okocha is not only a big figure in Nigeria, but is well-known for his sporting success across the whole continent of Africa, so it’s not surprising that the midfielder describes him as his ‘idol’ and hopes to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.
According to Pulse Nigeria, fans of Arsenal in the country have good reason to support their boy. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has recently expressed that he is very impressed with Iwobi’s determined attitude, something which has surely played a part in getting him into the senior side of the club.
Iwobi was first promoted to senior football last year, and has so far managed to hold down a regular place this season. Speaking to Sky Sports, Henry said that getting from the youth team into the senior Arsenal team is no easy feat, and that Iwobi should be praised for this achievement.
He went on to say that during his own time at the academy, he found Iwobi to be a model student – listening intently, working hard, and always making sure to turn up on time. With Iwobi on the team, Arsenal’s chances for this season look promising, so don’t forget to check out the McBookie offer 2016 if you’re planning to place a bet.
What Does the Future Hold?
So far, the future looks very bright for Alex Iwobi. Spotted celebrating out on the town with his girlfriend, Iwobi has also recently received praise from legendary former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, who’s being very generous with his encouragement this season after recently showing support for rival boss Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool FC. Although the Nigerian striker has yet to score for Arsenal this season, his efforts on the pitch have already been noticed, with Ferguson noting the player’s potential.
Are you a Nigerian fan of Arsenal? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.