Sport

I Was Known For Selling Groundnuts – Leicester City & Super Eagles’ Wilfred Ndidi

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Nigerian professional footballer and defensive midfielder has opened up about his tough childhood.

Wilfred Ndidi says he helped his mum sell fruits and food as a child
Wilfred Ndidi says he helped his mum sell fruits and food as a child

Born on December 6, 1996, Ndidi was part of the Nigerian youth setup during his time at Nathaniel Boys of Lagos.

Though he is one of the most recognizable soccer stars in the country, the 24-year-old player had it rough while growing up in the streets of Lagos, Nigeria.

He recalls how selling fruits then was a battle on the streets while he tried to find a way around his father’s hostility towards his interest in football.

Ndidi in action
Ndidi in action

Ndidi disclosed that he had to help his mother sell fruits and food in order to sustain the family while playing football and hoping for a breakthrough.

In a chat with the Out of Home Podcast, Ndidi said:

Though we had some ups and downs and trying to meet up with some bills, I was always there for my mum.

My mum was a food vendor and I supported her by hawking. I don’t regret that because growing up was really tough because it was all about survival. There were no fruits that I didn’t sell.

I was the market boy and I was known mostly for selling groundnuts because it comes out every season. Just name them – I sold peppers, tomatoes and avocado. We basically sold fruits that came with different seasons. All these were done to survive in the military zone and outside.”

Ndidi said that he was punished on several occasions for playing football.

It was difficult because my dad wanted me to go to school but there was no money.

What made it easier for me was that when he was transferred out of Lagos. I had the freedom because when he was around, if I go out to train and he gets home before me, I have to explain where I was coming from. When I tell him I went to play football, I get whooped.

There was a time I got whooped with a cow skin ‘Koboko’ and it was like a tattoo on my body. I couldn’t wear my shirt because when I put my clothes on, it becomes sticky and it’s painful. It was a military kind of discipline.”

Ndidi also revealed that unlike other children, he never had a chance to train with his age mates.

Growing up, I didn’t get a chance to play more with my peers because they were training in the evenings while the bigger guys were training in the morning. I was training with the bigger guys but just for ten minutes because I was too small.

They always put me in when everyone is tired and also for them to be able to give me the training bibs to wash and bring the next day.

My mum kept complaining because I didn’t have the time to wash them because I had to go hawk for her, but before I return, she would have washed them. That was the routine until I left my mum for Nath Boys.”

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