The Nigerian midfielder could have missed out on the dream of playing football to the highest level had he not brave out the risk of incurring the wrath of his military father.
Leicester City star Wilfred Ndidi has confessed that he took to football against the wishes of his father – a soldier in the Nigerian Army – who wanted him to go to school and get an education.
Millions of Nigerian kids play football on small pitches, but only a few ever turn professional, and even fewer number go on to play in Europe’s top leagues.
This scenario must have occupied the mind of Ndidi’s father, who insisted that it was either schooling or nothing for the young boy.
But being in the military, the father spent very little time at home with his family. Young Ndidi took the opportunity to skip school and register at a football academy – Nath Boys Academy.
Ndidi’s abilities were evident even at a young age, and it was only a matter of time before national team coaches sighted him and invited him to camp ahead of the 2013 African U-17 Championship.
It was that tournament that convinced Ndidi’s father that his little boy could be one of the chosen few destined for the top of the game.
“As my father’s military life was marked by many assignments and a certain distance from the family, I took this opportunity to go to the Nath Boys Academy without his knowledge,” the Foxes star was quoted as saying by Afrique Sports.
“This time, going to school completely escaped my mind because I had confidence in my abilities.
“He only learned when Nigeria called me for the 2013 African U-17 Championship. This time, he gave me fatherly blessings and full support,” he revealed.
As fate would have it, the former Genk star was eventually dropped from Nigeria’s squad to the African U-17 Championship, following an MRI age test that suggested he was just slightly above the threshold.
However, the defensive midfielder has barely missed a tournament for Nigeria since making his international debut.
Ndidi featured at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and was a key member of Gernot Rohr’s side that clinch bronze medal at the 2019 African Cup of Nations.