Former U-23 midfielder, Akeem Ogunlade, says he was a victim of ‘juju’ during his two-year spell at Ivoirian giants Asec Mimosas.
The 45-year-old played for First Bank, Stationery Stores and El Kanemi Warriors on the domestic scene, before joining ASEC in 1991 and winning two league titles with the former African champions.
“A day before the FA Cup final against Stade d’Abidjan in 1995, I could not move my right leg. We had defeated Stade d’Abidjan 4-2 in the previous final, so they saw me as a big threat,” Ogunlade told Saturday PUNCH.
“An Ivoirian teammate at the club then told me that my legs were locked with juju because they believed that without me ASEC will lose. But we won 5-4 on penalties after full time score ended 4-4.
“I struggled to walk for days but I’m grateful to God for life. That experience made me turn down Henri Kasperzak’s offer to play for Ivory Coast at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.”
Ogunlade is also ruing his luck 25 years later, after injury cost him a place in Nigeria’s 1996 Olympic Games football squad and a dream move to Borussia Dortmund in 1998.
He holds a UEFA B coaching license and currently coaches DJFA, an amateur club in Lagos.
“I had good moments playing football from a tender age but injury denied me two good opportunities to blossom when it mattered most,” Ogunlade said.
“I was part of the U-23 team that started the qualifying series for the 1996 Olympics but I sustained a knee injury in the first leg first round game against Kenya in Lagos.
“The game ended goalless and that prompted the Nigerian Football Federation at that time to invite some Super Eagles players who were still within the age range to bolster the team ahead of the second leg, which we won 3-0.