New Hearts striker Abi Dauda insists he can survive a baptism of fire in tomorrow’s powder-keg Scottish Cup clash with Hibs after recalling the mayhem that blighted the Belgrade derby.
Dauda is set to be handed an immediate debut in the televised fifth round tie after joining on Monday from Vitesse Arnhem on loan until the end of the season.
Showdowns between the Edinburgh sides are renowned for being combustible affairs but Dauda is unlikely to be fazed following his experiences with Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade.
The Nigerian admits their own fans would set off fireworks during training in the days leading up to derby clashes, while Partizan hooligans lit fires in the stadium during a victory for Red Star in November 2013.
Dauda said: “The Red Star-Partizan derby is really big.
“In Belgrade, everything starts always two weeks before the game.
“A lot of fans come to the training pitch and they bring fireworks with them, set them off at the training ground.
“They make us understand that this is a game for them, that we have to win it for them. We have to respect that.
“Yeah, it’s scary – quite a few fans would be there, setting off fireworks at the training pitch.
“Then there would be trouble at the game, fighting and destroying seats.
“The last time, there was a fire in the stadium and we had to stop the game.
“We won that game 1-0 and that was important for the title.
“If we lost that derby our own supporters would turn on us. I don’t think you could walk the streets for the next few weeks.
“For sure that’s difficult pressure for a footballer. But it’s about having mental strength.
“I think if I can handle the Red Star-Partizan derby, I can handle anything.
“It was always played in front of 50,000 fans, a huge atmosphere. What more could you want?”
Dauda has arrived as Hearts forward Osman Sow gets set to make a farewell appearance against Hibs after sealing a life-changing move to Chinese club Henan Jianye.
And the 28-year-old, who has also played in Sweden with Solvesborgs and Kalmar FF, is keen to kick-start his career following a frustrating spell in the Netherlands.
He added: “I came for the opportunity to play and to find myself again after a difficult time at Vitesse.
“I wasn’t getting as many games as I wanted. The coach just preferred other players, I guess.
“I didn’t know so much about Scottish football. Back in Sweden they showed a lot of Celtic games when Henrik Larsson was there.
“I know about the Rangers and Celtic rivalry, then Hibs and Hearts, Aberdeen – all the top teams here.”