Hibs defender Efe Ambrose is desperate to feature in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup clash at city rivals Hearts – but has revealed how he tried avoid playing in derbies in his native Nigeria because he was terrified of the supporters.
The former Celtic centre-half admits the Old Firm and Edinburgh battles are a walk in the park compared to what he encountered with Kaduna United against arch rivals Ranchers Bees.
Clashes between Hibs and Hearts are renowned for being boisterous both on and off the pitch but the Super Eagles internationalist insists players face being beaten or harassed back in his homeland.
“When I was playing back in Africa, there was a derby just like Hearts and Hibs, my team against Ranchers Bees.
“But you didn’t want to play in this game. You always found an excuse, you were injured or sick, something else.
“You knew it wasn’t worth playing because you would get beaten, you would get harassed, you couldn’t even get into your house because the fans would be there waiting for you.
“Sometimes they couldn’t even finish the games, they had to abandon play because of the fans fighting and everything.
“I was scared, really scared the first time I was supposed to play in the derby; I didn’t go to training for a week, just so I would miss the game.
“The fans could follow you to your house and there would be no security.
“Here, you can play the game and go home, knowing there won’t be some crazy fans waiting for you.
“Here, the worst you get is some abuse on Twitter. In Africa, they come to you direct
“I heard a lot of stories from friends and team-mates about going home to find fans there, they mobbed him.
“This one was chased, that one was beaten on the street – you can see why I was scared.”
Ambrose, who moved to Celtic from Israeli side Ashdod in 2012, also believes the ferocity of the derby matches in Scotland has diminished over the years.
He said: “The experience here is different even from 15 years ago.
“Now I watch the Old Firm game and they really want to play football. There are not to many red cards or yellow cards.
“The mindset in every derby is a bit different now.
“You want to win, not think about breaking legs or trying to hurt someone, do something crazy just to appease the fans.
“We are all humans. We have to respect our opponents and protect them, if you have to.
“That’s the way it should be.”
Ambrose, however, insists there is no chance of him trying to dodge the fourth round trip to Hearts as Hibs attempt to extend their unbeaten run in the fixture to ten matches.
He added: “This is one of those games you want to play in, one of those games you want to compete in.
“Once it comes, you have to enjoy the moment. And win.
“Everybody wants to be the dominant team, everyone wants to beat their rivals.
“For the past few years, we’ve been the dominant side.
“For them now, they really want to get back to where they think they belong.
“I know their past history against Hibs, I’ve seen the head-to-head, I know that Hearts are still ahead of us.
“But, for the past few years, they’ve not been able to beat Hibs.
“So it’s a game that they really want to win – but that’s the same for us.
“We want it for the fans, for the club, to keep the winning streak going. We need that mentality.”