Former youth international, Olaitan Yusuf Otubanjo has warned that the Super Eagles must be wary of the passionate Kumasi fans in the capital city of the Ashanti Capital region when they face the Black Stars in the first leg eliminator for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The Baba Yara Stadium is one of the oldest stadiums in Ghana with the highest seating capacity at 40,528 and it was there that Nigeria’s U-23 team saw their dream of qualifying for 2011 All Africa Games shattered following a 2-0 defeat to Ghana.
Nigeria had won the first leg 3-1 only for the ‘star-studded’ side to capitulate in Kumasi under the watch of Coach Austin Eguavoen to crash out of the race for Maputo 2011 on the superior away goal despite a 3-3 aggregate scoreline.
In that ill-fated squad that promised so much but delivered little is Olaitan Otubanjo, the former youth international who is now plying his trade with FC Ararat-Armenia in the Armenian Premier League.
The former Red Bull Salzburg who scored an impressive 34 goals in 39 matches for Blau-Weiß Linz between 2015 and 2016 in the Austrian second-tier league, said the Super Eagles must be ready for some harsh treatment in Kumasi in order to grind a positive result ahead of the second leg in Abuja to progress to Qatar 2022 World Cup.
“Intimidation is part of the game if I could remember better, the Ghanaian fans (in Kumasi) were throwing some water on us before the game and chanting some abusive words as well,” the 29-year-old and former Atletico Madrid apprentice stated.
“That was part of the ways the fans did to make us get cold feet before the game.”
With the stakes higher for a ticket to Qatar 2022, Otubanjo further warned that the Super Eagles should be conscious of their environment given the peculiar rivalry between the two West African sides, adding every other country always wishes to take Nigeria to the cleaners.
“The game then was part of my life now and what I can say is not to get close to the fans of the opponent, you don’t know what the fans can do like I always say before and now.”
“Nigeria is always a threat to all nations when it comes to the game,” noted Otubanjo who was a silver medal winner with the Golden eaglets when Nigeria hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009.
“But I know we have the advantage against Ghana but we need to make it happen in the field of the game.
“Go Super Eagles and soar higher,” he added even as he reflected on the national U-23 team shock 2-0 defeat by Black Meteors in 2011.
Playing in the West Africa Zone 3 eliminators for Maputo 2011, the national U-23 under the current Super Eagles’ interim technical adviser, Eguavoen, sent Liberia parking with a flattering 7-1 aggregate win and a passage to the decisive round against Ghana who had walk-over neighbouring Republic of Benin.
The Eguavoen-led side took an impressive 3-1 win in Benin City only to lose 2-0 in the return leg in Kumasi and crashed out on the superior away goal rule despite finishing on a 3-3 aggregate.
“I can’t remember everything about the match but the tactics then were okay,” Otubanjo explained.
“The coaching staffs were so nice with the players and had a good relationship both on and off the field.
“The coaches were so confident that we can make it happen there but we didn’t match up the same energy the opponent brought to the match.
“We lost because we didn’t defend well compared to the way we attacked; we made some simple mistake and then they secure the game.”
He added: “We did everything to defend the game but I think some of us don’t know what it means to wear the national team jerseys then.
“Some felt it was their right because they had been in the camp for long; and we that have the chance as fresh callers gave it all but it was not enough to defend the 3-1 win at home and we lost out,” Otubanjo recalled.
Nigeria vs Ghana: Otubanjo cautions Eagles about ‘unruly’ Kumasi fans