For Ikechi Anya, scoring a goal past Germany’s world champion goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was so implausible that it could not even have happened on a video game.
But it did occur, on Sunday night at the Westfalenstadion, in a match that Scotland were to unfortunately lose 2-1 to Joachim Löw’s side. “I scored past Manuel Neuer,” tweeted Anya, in capitals, yesterday morning. “I can’t even do that on Fifa!”
The obvious delight and enthusiasm was touching, while Anya has certainly energised Gordon Strachan’s new Scotland side over the last year and helped to give them hope of qualifying for Euro 2016.
“I said before the game if I scored I’d go to the bench to celebrate with the manager and everyone there for having faith in me, and there were some crazy emotions,” Anya told watfordfc.com afterwards. “I’m not sure it’s going to get any better than that! To score a goal against the world champions is something special and it’ll take some beating. When I saw the ball hit the back of the net it was the best emotion I’ve ever felt in football.”
Anya’s route to the Scotland national team, and to Dortmund on Sunday night, was not a conventional one and yet it speaks volumes about the quality and character of a rather unusual footballer.
He was born in Scotland to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother – both academics – although he spent most of his childhood in Kidlington, just outside Oxford, where his father worked at the university. While his father – Dr Chinasa Anya – wanted him to study, Ikechi took to playing football as a teenager.
“My dad is a proud African, he wanted his children to study, so when I started to play football, at first he wasn’t too thrilled about it,” Anya told The Independent in an interview last year. “There was a lot of pressure on me. My dad was into his academics, after school I would have to study for an hour extra. It wasn’t for me but luckily my football took over.”
Anya started his playing career at Wycombe Wanderers but was let go and ended up in Spain, at the Glenn Hoddle Academy for young players who had been released. But Anya learnt a lot from Hoddle – he said he was a “brilliant” coach and “very down to earth” – and performed well in exhibition games and was offered a contract at Seville.
There was only one other player at Seville who spoke English so Anya, who is also passionate about music and travelling, had to learn Spanish, which has been very useful at Watford, where he has translated for Spanish-speaking players Fernando Forestieri, Cristian Battocio and Javier Acuna.
Anya soon joined Granada and when their owners, the Pozzo family, acquired Watford, he was loaned to them, ending his spell in Spain and coming back to English football. At Watford, Anya has been one of the fastest and most exciting players in the Championship, but he also stands out for other reasons
“I’m not your average footballer,” Anya said. “I don’t want to generalise, but my team-mates are all quite into their fashion. Me, I could go to Sainsbury’s and buy a £10 pair of jeans and I’m happy. Some of my team-mates like Gucci or Louis Vuitton. It’s fine, that’s how they are, that’s how I am.”Reuse content