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Ndidi speaks about his coping mechanism to the lockdown

Ndidi speaks about his coping mechanism to the lockdown

Nigeria and Leicester midfielder Wilfred Ndidi has described the lockdown orchestrated by the COVID-19 pandemic as difficult yet necessary. Ndidi, whose career has blossomed since moving to England in 2017 with World Cup and Africa Nations Cup appearances for Nigeria, has joined thousands of professional players in the lockdown since March 23, when U.K mandated the forced shutdown and stay at home order.

In a recent interview after 35 days on lockdown, Ndidi said he has been doing a lot of movie watching and FIFA 20 video games. He actually joined a challenge put together by the Premier League to promote competiveness among players and teams through FIFA 20 online game.

Ndidi representing Leicester gets to play Wolves attacker Diogo Jota. The challenges get to chose players from their team in the contest which FIFA is using to raise fund for U.K National Health Service (NHS).

Ndidi and Leicester were knocked out in the last 16 of the ePremier League Invitational tournament by Jota and Wolverhampton Wanderers in an 8-2 thriller.

Speaking on the game, Ndidi lauded Jota for his mastering of the game, which he is just learning. “I think he can actually win the tournament. He’s really good. I’m not up to that standard yet, but at least I learned a few things. He’ll go far.”

Ndidi moved to England when he signed for Leicester from Belgian side K.R.C. Genk and has become one of the best attacker in the Premier League winning the honours back to back.

Speaking further on the impact of the lockdown, he noted that it’s been difficult for him and his mates and especially missing country mate Kelechi Iheanacho and others.

“I’m missing not just Kelechi but the other guys; Maddison and all of them. For me, I’ve miss them a lot and this is not just about training but personally. All the fun we have together after training, when we eat together, the trainers, the gaffer, the medical staff and everyone. I’ve missed the group entirely and I can wait for this to be all over and everything to get back to normal. And everyone gets back to how it used to be.”

In the interview, Ndidi speaks about his coping mechanism to the lockdown, Coach Brendan Rodgers, his rising profile and life after the pandemic.

It’s obviously a very strange situation for everybody at the moment. How have you been coping and what have you been doing to keep busy?

I’ve been indoor; and training in the garden, watching movies and playing FIFA video game. It’s just the same everyday and going around the same things.

Have you been given a pack by Leicester on what you need to achieve, like a fitness plan?

Yes! We got the plan and so we do it like every day. We try to keep fit and follow the plan. If you want to do extra, you can but the least you can do is to follow the plan and do what you have to do.

How much are you missing the rest of the lads?

I’m missing everyone. I’ve never been under lockdown like this, but we just have to do what we must do. It’s quite difficult staying indoors and not meeting with your friends. I hope everything comes out well and then we can meet up again. But, for now we just have to train in the garden, go on the gym and just keep going so as not to drop your fitness. We just have to keep going on a daily basis until this is all over.

You must be missing Kelechi (Iheanacho) a lot? You’ve not seen him for a while?

(Laugh) Not just Kelechi but the other guys; (Daniel) Maddison and all of them. For me, I’ve miss them a lot and this is not just about training but personally. All the fun we have together after training, when we eat together, the trainers, the gaffer, the medical staff and everyone. I’ve missed the group entirely and I can wait for this to be all over and everything to get back to normal. And everyone gets back to how it used to be.

You mentioned Brendan Rodgers there, have you been in contact with him?

He called a couple of times to check upon me and I’m sure he did the same for other guys too. It’s good because we know he’s fine and we are all doing fine too. Same for our families we know they are okay. It is very good at this period.

At a moment like this, do you think about what he has done to you as a player?

The gaffer is a big part of my career. I’ve developed as a player and I now know some details that I never knew and I think he has developed me as a player. He’s not alone in this, though, the training staffs have all helped me one way of the other. They have all given me special attention to ensure that I get better. This point in my career there is more to actually gain in terms of quality of game and what you can do on the pitch. I give kudos to him (Rodgers) because, since he came I’ve been doing better as a player and I can say that because I now know things which I never knew before now.

I’m sure as a Premier League player you are missing the competitive edge of playing football but you going to play on FIFA 20 this week and it’s going to be competitive. Are you looking forward to it?

I’m actually nervous. I wanted Maddison or Ayoze (Perez) to actually go for this but maybe because I play a lot online and with some guys, even those I don’t know. I won’t say I’m really, really good on FIFA but I will just try not to embarrass the whole team since I am representing Leicester on the FIFA tournament. I don’t know how it’s going to come but I will put up my best and try to win. It’s going to be a tough test and I’m going to practice hard for it and play a lot online because I want to learn. I hope I do well.

Back to real world football, although you have missed a couple of matches this season through injury, you’ll still third in the Premiership tackling task this season, you also topped those tasks for two seasons, it’s clearly an important part of your game, isn’t it?

Yes! There is one thing I always tell myself that it is important to be myself. We have different players with different qualities, but don’t forget your own qualities. In as much as I want to develop myself I don’t forget my qualities and what I can do to help the team, which is good and also try to develop myself in that area. I learn from other players too and my focus is not on this individual achievement but on the overall performance as we try to get points. If we get these points in and the team comes second on the league table it would be more important to me than all the individual honours or me getting the starting shirt. So, I will say it is okay and good but most importantly I must keep on developing myself for the good of the team.

When you look back at your career so far how much pride do you have? You are only 23; you have played at the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations. You have played over a 100 times in the Premier League and played at the Champions League, you have achieved a lot in a short career so far?

I’m grateful to God and the people around me that encouraged me to do better. I will always be myself. At this point in my career, I still want to develop myself really well. I listen to the gaffer and accept that I’m still developing myself. I try to enjoy the game and do things that will make the team win more games and gain more points. That is what gives me joy because that will bring personal achievement. I just look forward to what come out in the future for me. We don’t know what we can actually achieve together as a team and can add on to my career and my personality.

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.

You said you have been on some movies; do you have a favourite one now?

I’ve been watching Monk; a comedy series. I’m also on ‘Breaking Bank.’ I actually like Monk because he’s comedy that can be annoying but he’s a detective and very good. He’s a Police detective and he’s very good. I will recommend Monk.

How important is it that everyone follows the guidelines under this lockdown?

It is very important because it reduces the work for NHS. The longer we stay inside actually helps to determine when we will go out when everything is over. But the more we go out it becomes difficult because more people get infected with the virus.

So, it's better we stay indoors and keep believing in the good work that the NHS is doing. It’s not easy to stay indoor because the sun is out and everyone wants to enjoy the weather but it is very important to know what is out there is not good for us. Let us protect ourselves and think about others. Let us stay inside and follow the rules.
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