Wednesday, November 8, 2017 will make it exactly eighteen months that Chigozie Ihunda suffered a career-threatening injury while in action for his club Rivers United in a top flight game in Nigeria.
Nicknamed ‘Turkey’ for his twisting abilities by his admirers, Ihunda who was having a stellar season for Stanley Eguma’s side in their first season under the name “Rivers United” sadly had his good run of form cut short after a horrendous collision with Warri Wolves goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye (now of Plateau United) at the Warri Township Stadium on May 8, 2016.
It was first feared to be a tear in his knee ligaments when he was stretchered off around the 29th minute of play on that fateful day but was confirmed by the time he was flown to India over seven months later that it was actually a cut in the ligaments.
“The experience taught me a lot about football and life in general,” began Ihunda to www.aclsports.com
“It taught me how to be patient, taught me how to be calm, taught me to know that tomorrow is greater than today,” he added in a mini-philosophical manner.
With the poor shape of the Nigerian Medical system in terms of infrastructure, it was not unexpected that Ihunda will have to go abroad for adequate operation on the injured knee. That he did, belatedly but his recovery was not in any way hampered by the lateness of the surgery.
“The (Rivers) state government flew me out to India for the surgery which I did at the Artemis Hospital in New Delhi on December 26. (over seven months after the incident)
“My return date (to action) was three to six months and when I found out that my rehabilitation was going smoothly, I now gave myself like four to five months, then went for gym sessions.
“Without letting anybody know, I paid for the sessions myself. I wasn’t really feeling any pains after the injury but just that I couldn’t bear weight with the leg so during my sessions in the gym and I discovered I’m running and bearing weight gradually then I got the confidence that I’m now getting closer to return,” narrated Ihunda.
One key importance of Chigozie Ihunda to his club is his surreal versatility. In that 2015/16 Nigeria Professional Football League season, Ihunda had started all fifteen games for Rivers United, playing in different positions such as right back (mostly), left-back and in the game against Wolves, was the lone centre forward.
There is already a vacancy at United’s right back position with the departure of Ifeanyi Nweke but Ihunda who is a natural striker is ready to come back and play in any position on the field of play.
“Those that know me very well know that I am a player of every kind of positions. I don’t choose positions to play. Like today in training, I played at centre back. I don’t care.
“My own is to go to any position and play better than people expect and even better than the players who own the position. That is my own focus,” he stressed.
Another long-term absentee is Ihunda’s Rivers United teammate, Abiodun Akande who is still out after suffering an injury in United’s victory over Wikki Tourists on July 23.
The goalkeeper is also expected to be out until the new year and Ihunda, having just tread the same path offers his advice to Akande and others facing a long time out, including Abia Warriors’ Sunday Adetunji.
“To those that have lengthy injuries like mine, the advice I can give them is to hold their God strong. I am a living example. I do not have anyone to help me in this life but the God I serve never lies, never sleeps nor slumbers,” preached Ihunda whilst adding relevant scriptural verses.
Chigozie Ihunda is expected to be part of the Rivers United side which travels to Ilorin for a pre-season tournament next week.