More details have come to light as to why one of the country’s most hard-working defenders spent only five years playing for his dearly beloved fatherland
Former Super Eagles left fullback Ifeanyi Udeze has revealed that a recurring knee injury that defied several surgical operations was behind his decision to quit playing for the national football team when he did.
Udeze made his international debut at the turn of the millennium aged just 20 and was expected to be the long-term challenger to Celestine Babayaro’s dominance of the Super Eagles’ left-back role.
The former PAOK ace quickly made his impact on the team, helping the former African champions to a third-place finish at the 2002 AFCON, earning a place in the CAF Team of the Tournament alongside Taribo West and Julius Aghahowa.
But Udeze picked up an injury while featuring for Nigeria in a 2006 World Cup qualifier against Angola in 2005 and didn’t wear the green-and-white kits again till he hanged his boots three years later.
Speaking to the Sporting Sun, the former West Bromwich Albion defender admits that injury put paid to his international career.
“I actually broke my left knee against Angola during a World Cup qualifying tie in Kano,” the 40-year-old said.
“I thought it was a minor injury, so I hid it and was managing it when I returned back to Greece.
“I didn’t want the club to cut my wages or use my salary to offset my medical bills. I managed the injury, and it got worse. I had no other option than to go for surgeries.
“Due to the injury, I missed the 2006 Nations Cup. I tried to stage a comeback, but I couldn’t. I had surgeries in Belgium, but after the third one and there were no improvements, I decided to quit football.”
Udeze played 35 times for Nigeria, representing the three-time continental champions at two Afcon tournaments as well as the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.