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Ranked the best tackler in the world by a stats website whoscored.com, Nigeria and Leicester star Wilfred Ndidi is set to tackle the next phase of his career. To effectively do that, he told Taiwo Alimi he must first equipped himself by returning to the University.
At only 22 and the world seemingly at his feet, Leicester tough tackler Wilfred Ndidi is already thinking about the future. His recent enrollment and admission to study Business and Management at De Montfort University (DMU) was born out his strong inclination to secure a bright prospect for himself after a career in football.
Ndidi whose career has blossomed since moving to England in 2017 with World Cup and Africa Nations Cup appearances for Nigeria is eyeing a prospect in football related business in retirement.
Ndidi moved to England when he signed for Leicester from Belgian side K.R.C. Genk and has aspired to return to school ever since.
He said: “Since I moved to England I’ve been nursing that ambition to return to school to acquire new skills. It’s something I always wanted to do because the opportunity was not there in Nigeria for me. I had the desire in Nigeria to continue my education in Nigeria but the opportunity was not there. I spent much of my time playing football.”
Ndidi put his plans into action last year when he volunteered to work with the University located in Leicester.
“I remember some of us (Leicester players) manning the university’s hotline and getting the opportunity to speak with students applying for clearing at DMU. My club has a good relationship with DMU, and we joined the university staff to answer calls from students looking for advice on their course. “We made an acquaintance of Vice-Chancellor of DMU Dominic Shellard, who was happy to have us. He made us feel at home and I thought if I apply there I would not have any problem blending in.
Of course we received many calls from Leicester fans used the opportunity to say hello to us. It was an enjoyable moment.”
Ndidi noted that he won’t be the first Premiership star to school at MDU.
“Ji Sing Park, former Manchester United star study Management, Law and Humanities of Sport, here and even played for the school. DMU has a robust relationship with Premiership players and that is how I got the idea to also study here.”
To Ndidi’s excitement, his decision to acquire a university degree was greeted with greater excitement from his colleagues, Leicester management and his parents.
“When I broke the news to my parents I wanted to expand my scope of knowledge by returning to school, they were greatly excited.”
“They are really proud but for me. Education is very important because growing up in Nigeria I wasn’t in school and then seeing other kids not been able to go to school because their parent could not afford it. It is just a personal thing for me that I want to expand myself and know a couple of things and understand.”
They treat me nice
“The environment is really amazing, though I come [to school] been cool, no one knows when I step into the class and go. Sometimes I park further away from DMU so I can take a walk onto campus. I really like it.
I’m satisfied with the cooperation I’m getting from the teaching staff of the institution. Instead of sitting at home after training I come to DMU for my classes. The teachers have been amazing; they really try and help me understand.
Rather than just reading books they take time to explain things to me and they very well understand my training Schedule. I can come and go out as I like and they are really helping me and I’m coping quite well.”
Why Business and Management? Ndidi’s informed that his bigger plan revolves round this course.
He plans to set up a soccer academy which would help young Africans improve their football talents and at the same time keep them in school. “Back home (Nigeria) so many kids aren’t able to go to school because their parents can’t afford it. I want to set up a football resort where people can stay and play football while getting an education at the same time. I think it’s really important to try to learn things outside of your normal life. I want to do something that I can be fully part of so it’s important I know something about business and management, even though I’m still going to be in football.”
Ndidi feels divine that he’s doing well for club and country and don’t want to take it for granted hence the reason he wants to give back to African kids. “It is inspiring that my name has been linked to the very best in Europe, at least in the area of tackling. I got married to my friend and woman and the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt was memorable. For me whatever is happening I always say I am lucky enough that I am one of the few privileged to have played football. There are a lot of stories of how footballers from where I come from have made it big due to the talent but for me, I believe it’s my hard work and the luck that God has given me.
“I am just being real here – to come from where I come from, to be playing in the English Premier League and doing well. I don’t want to take that for granted. I’ve got to give back.” Ndidi also thinks that his club is playing well and will finish better than last season.
“Leicester City can finish in the English Premier League top six this season,” he stated.
“We narrowly missed out on Europa League ticket last term. Top six? I would say top three [is possible] but we have to get the points out of the games before we can place ourselves at the top.
“After the draw against Chelsea we knew we could have won that game. It’s a mixed feeling for me because in the first half we were not up to it. We tried to comeback in the second half, with better spirit and we tried to push forward. As I said, it was a mixed feeling because we should have got the three points even after the first half. We competed well and that goes for other matches too thereafter.
“My goal came at the right time too. We’re not here to compete, we’re here to contend. All of the guys have a good spirit and we know what we want this season. Getting this point, we’re not really happy, we’re kind of sad because we dominated the second half which could have brought a better result for us. Yes! We could have won the match.
“We’re really pleased. I keep saying, the first half was really bad. I feel bad about it. There are lots of positives for us in the second half. We’ll try to take it to the next game because we know we can actually do it.”
The Nigerian still remembers French player N’Golo Kanté like yesterday.
At the time of his signing, Leicester were struggling under the weight of being such unlikely Premier League champions. Kanté, so integral to that remarkable triumph, was long gone. Nampalys Mendy and Daniel Amartey had both tried to replace him but failed.
In the last Premier League season, Kanté clocked up 130 successful tackles and interceptions combined at Chelsea while Ndidi ended with 153, more than any player in Europe’s top five leagues.
“I just go out there to do whatever coach tells me and I guess I do it well and that is why I keep coming back. When I came here (Leicester) I told myself that if I played very well then someday I would also be remembered as a great. I want to say that I’m close to that now.”
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He also remembers Leicester marksman James Vardy in a special way. “Vardy is certainly one of the reasons why we are playing well. In the whole of England few strikers are like him. He’s smart and fast. Vardy for me is up there,” Ndidi added.