The Brand Kelechi Iheanacho
Psychologists schooled in the field of perception say that ‘perception is everything’. Socrates the Ancient Greek Philosopher is credited to have stated that ‘first impression matters in a whole lot of ways’. Similarly, marketing scholars have a high profile rating of products and services in terms of the brand name.
The US based lifestyles news magazine Forbes in their fine attempt to define a brand still went back to the earlier point I raised when they obviously concluded with the truism that Brand is everything.
The company stated in its website thus: ” Marketers realized that they could create a specific perception in the customers ‘ minds concerning the qualities and attributes of each non-generic product or service…put simply, your ‘Brand’ is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.”
Today’s reflection is on a budding football talent which Nigeria recently exported to the World’s most highly rated Leagues-ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP by name MR. KELECHI IHEANACHO who hails from Imo State, South East of Nigeria.
This young lad has turned out to be one of the finest sporting exports from Nigeria in this decade. He is creatively prolific in scoring goals and is very courageous even in the face of World rated top players who have been on the World Soccer stage long before he KELECHI dreamt of playing football as a primary school pupil somewhere in Imo State.
He now plies his trade in the top rated ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP side MANCHESTER CITY.
The Daily Mail of Britain wrote recently that the MANCHESTER CITY STRIKER is now a hero for kids in his home country, and he has spoken candidly about his childhood. This writer believes that if this great brand is professionally handled then Nigerian Youth would gain immensely therefrom.
In a published interview this youngster revealed what is actually no news in terms of the difficult upbringing he underwent. This is because a greater percentage of Children of Nigeria are born to poor homes since poverty is so high that nearly 100 million Nigerians live in excruciating poverty. Football is generally embraced by a lot of Children from very miserable backgrounds in far flung towns and cities such as Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kano and Lagos. Few dozens of these resilient youth have attained international limelight. Kelechi Iheanacho is the latest in the growing list of great sporting talents that have made it big in the Western World after moving over from Nigeria.
The Manchester City striker KELECHI IHEANACHO opened up about his Nigerian upbringing, admitting: “I couldn’t afford 20p to watch Premier League football.”
Iheanacho endured a difficult childhood in his home country, but now serves as a hero figure for kids who crowd round the television to catch a glimpse of him.
The player lived in such a perilous penury that he couldn’t afford a ticket to view any of the premierships in any of the many viewing centers in Nigeria. The British press reported that public pay a fee of 50 naira, around 20 pence, to watch the games, but Iheanacho reveals he couldn’t afford that cost as a child.
“We didn't have the money,” he told the Daily Mail. “Maybe after the game I'd hear the scores. I'd be at home playing football and my friends would come back after being there to tell me. We didn't have a television at home.
“Sometimes I watched the Spanish league — it was a bit cheaper, maybe 30 naira. But the Premier League was 50.
“Sometimes I'd watch the Premier League if I found the money, or I'd go there and beg them to let me in. Or sneak in for the second half and pay half the money.”
Today this young lad who couldn’t pay his way to watch the Premiership from his backyard in Owerri Imo State has become a recognizable figure in World football because of his phenomenal rise and the obvious fact that the brand Kelechi Iheanacho is one of the most sought after in European Soccer industry.
A respected website in the United Kingdom has even rated him as the new Hero in Manchester City given his prolific goal scoring talents which has seen him net in 13 goals so far since he broke into the top league from the academy few Months after arriving from Nigerian where he alongside his mates won Nigeria the FIFA under 20 World cup.
In what could pass as a great testament on his prowess in the field of football the news site www.readmancity.com  wrote as follows: “There's a perceived notion that Manchester City have no regard for their youth team and would much rather spend to fix their problems”.
“At Villa Park on Saturday that notion was totally dispelled an academy graduate scored a hat-trick, two others made their debuts and one had another run-out. £296 million – that's the exact figure City have spent on strikers since Sheikh Mansour's takeover with just three proving to be a success this season”.
“However with Sergio Aguero having his fair share of injury problems, a young striker signed and academy graduate signed for nothing may just prove to be the key difference maker for City in their quest for trophies”. The news site then added the clincher thus: “ Kelechi Iheanacho is the name on City fans lips this season and after his Man of the Match display at Villa Park on Saturday, opposition fans have now stood up and taken notice. There was more to his performance than just the three goals at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon, he posed the Villa defence constant problems with his pace, his link up play and movement off the ball”.
“He provided Raheem Sterling with an assist for the fourth goal and proved to be a nightmare to deal with for the beleaguered Villa back four. His three goals on Saturday epitomised him. Cool, calm, collected and ready to pounce on the slightest half chance that falls his way. Having just made five starts, incredibly Kelechi has eight goals and four assists to his name this season, scoring on average a goal every 44 minutes according to Squakwa “.
The news site which wrote the piece before Kelechi Iheanacho netted in additional goals had written thus: “ Iheanacho has staked a serious claim to be city's second choice striker ahead of misfiring Wilfried Bony, and with his display at Upton Park and at Carrow Road alongside Sergio Aguero there have been calls for a return to 4-4-2 such was the impact made by the youngster”.
The numbers however simply don't do Iheanacho justice. His natural scoring prowess is just one facet of his game.
“From his instinctive reactions to score the winning goal at Palace  to his first goal yesterday where he pounced on a loose ball in the box, what has been most impressive is his youthful vibrancy, his pace and movement off the ball the intelligent tactical runs he's made that has created space for others and dragged defenders out of place; qualities he has been displaying ever since his first appearance for the club in the Pre-season tour of the US in 2014″.
“These outstanding qualities were in full view in City's win at Norwich  and the draw at Upton Park last weekend. With Kevin De Bruyne injured in midweek and Samir Nasri not due back until March, it seems the time has come to give Iheanacho the chance show his burgeoning talent on the European stage and regularly in the Premier League .
The website then added: ” It must be noted a lot of credit must be given to Manuel Pellegrini despite the constant calls for Kelechi to play more often than not the Chilean has managed Kelechi's game time quite well. He has not been overplayed and has been kept hungry and on his toes with the amount of chances he's been given”.
It’s therefore not surprising to wake up and to read the story that this sensational player will be getting an extended contract with his team. He has made his modest request through his agents.
The agents have demanded a bumper new Manchester City contract that will pay the Nigeria starlet a mind-blowing 200,000 pounds-a-week over five years, AfricanFootball.com can exclusively reveal today.
“He has deserved his keep at City as he is now one of the most effective forwards in the whole of Europe when you put his game time against the number of his goals,” a top source argued.
The 19-year-old Nigeria international has netted 13 goals in all competitions this season with seven of them in the Premier League.
This indeed is Kelechi Iheanacho's era and one hopes that the brand Kelechi Iheanacho has come to stay for some times to come. He is indeed a pride to us back home in Africa.
Africa is a crisis prone region and Nigeria has found herself at the center of much of these crises with armed insurgency and terrorism being some of the most disturbing afflictions.
Tobias Denied with Axel Klein edited a well written book on the theme: “Fragile peace, State failure, violence and development in crisis region” in which they highlighted some of the basic challenges of development that Nigeria faces which I think a great brand like Kelechi Iheanacho if galvanised can propel positive trends amongst hundreds- of- thousands of youths in Nigeria who grew up in similar squalid existential condition but are caught up in the poverty circle unable to unbind themselves from these chains of poverty and want.
The book stated thus: “War and crisis countries are characterized by intractable structures of violence that stand in the way of prospect for peace…although the wide circulation of small arms is not a cause of conflicts in the narrower sense, it does indirectly influence the course of conflicts, the splintering of warring parties and shifts in the balance of power among them…as the state is not able to curb crime, sometimes even directly involved in it, it extensively fails as a guarantor of law and order in many countries”.
The writers of this book also asserted that: ” Seen against this background, prosperous individuals increasingly avail themselves of private security services. Companies as well as governments and rebel groups hire growing numbers of mercenaries with the result that we can speak of a 'privatization of security' analogous to the 'privatization of violence' by rebels, organized crime and terror organization.”
The Muhammadu Buhari's administration although battling to defeat Boko Haram terrorists should work out modalities that are sustainable using the Youth ministry to mobilise the Nigerian Youth to take interest in developing their innate sporting talents and governments at every level should provide the enabling environment for functional sporting facilities to be sited across the geopolitical zones so people can be guided in the grooming of their talents which if fully blossomed and exported to the more prosperous West can serve as foreign revenue making avenues for Nigeria. The brand Kelechi Iheanacho is beneficial on the long run.
Written b y Emmanuel Onwubiko , Head of Human R ights Writers A ssociation of Nigeria