Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

English Premier League Player of the Month Kelechi Iheanacho giving glory to God

Playing behind one of the world’s most dangerous strikers in Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho hasn’t gotten many opportunities to make a major impact since joining Leicester City in 2017. He started just 12 times in the English Premier League last season, the highest total in any of his first five campaigns in England’s top flight (117 total appearances).

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But when Vardy was sidelined in late January after undergoing surgery, Iheanacho got his chance. He was inserted into the starting lineup and scored in the Foxes’ 2-0 win over Fulham on Feb. 2, beginning a run of nine goals in nine games across all competitions.

When Vardy returned Feb. 7, manager Brenan Rogers altered his formation to get both strikers on the field together. The results speak for themselves.

On Friday, Iheanacho was named Premier League Player of the Month for March.

On Saturday, he signed a contract extension through 2024.

Iheanacho netted his first Premier League hat trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield United back on March 14, with Vardy setting up two of the goals. After the game, the 24-year-old Nigerian gave thanks to God:

“I don’t know how to express this, I’m over the moon,” he told Sky Sports after the game. “I’m delighted. I thank God Almighty for this day because I’ve been waiting for this day to come. I’ve been working really hard for this day to come. So I’m really grateful to God, my teammates, the manager, for helping me to grow. I thank everyone in the club for helping me as well.”

He dedicated the hat trick, scored on England’s Mother’s Day, to mothers everywhere. Iheanacho lost his own mother after a short illness when he was a teenager. He explained in an interview with The Nation that he points up to the sky after every goal he scores as a way to honor his mom and praise God.

“The reason I point to Heaven is because I think there is a God in Heaven and also it’s for my mum, I know she’s watching when I score,” Iheanacho said. “So I want to show my appreciation for God and for my late mum.”

Iheanacho came up huge again a week after his hat trick, producing two goals and an assist to help defeat Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

The way Iheanacho sees it, his entire career is a credit to God.

“I kicked a ball around as a boy, every day,” Iheanacho said back in 2017. “God got me into football, it wasn’t my family.”

Now, all of a sudden, the Manchester City academy product has become a crucial part of Leicester City’s push to qualify for next year’s Champions League. With eight games remaining, the Foxes sit in third place, four points behind second-place Manchester United and four points ahead of fourth-place West Ham. The top four teams earn a spot in the Champions League, something Leicester City has only done once before.

Iheanacho and his teammates can take a step toward reaching that goal when they face West Ham at 9:05  a.m. ET Sunday.

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