Dynamo Kiev winger Muyiwa Olabiran, otherwise known as Benito, has revealed that his dad forced him to play for Nigeria ahead African rival Côte D’Ivoire.
The 21-year-old was born in Abidjan to Nigerian parents, making him eligible to play for two West African powerhouses but became provisionally cap-tied to the Anglophone nation after featuring in the 2019 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Libya.
Benito put himself in the line to make Ivorian U23 squad after impressing in a trail game against the side, but his father made it clear to his son his international future lies with three-time Africa Champions.
Former FC Tambov forward said in an Instagram live conversation with Eagles Tracker: “We had a game against the Ivory Coast U23 national team, I came late for that game because I went to meet my dad at the shop,”
“They were leading us 5-0 so ten minutes to the end the coach asked me to enter and I scored one goal, making it 6-1.
“Immediately after the game the head coach of Ivory Coast U23 team told our coach that he wants me to join the Ivorian U-23 national team but then I wasn’t having the Ivorian passport, I was supposed to travel that time so it was difficult.
“The coach said he’ll speak to the President but the President said I cannot because I didn’t have the passport, they said they’ll do it but that it will take time and I have to travel.
“That’s how I missed out but they later called me. My dad said I have to play for Nigeria. Ivory Coast saw me before Nigeria”.
During Benito’s time with FC Tambov in the Russian First Division, the Nigerian Federation were monitoring his performances and handed him a maiden call-up for the U23 AFCON qualifiers vs Libya.
“I was in Russia, the team I was playing for Tambov were in second-tier and we won promotion to the top-flight, during the season, I played 25 games.
“During the period, my agent got some calls from the national team and told him they’ve heard about a young guy playing in Russia. That’s how I got my call-up to represent Nigeria U23s.
“During that time, we were still playing in the league. When I got to the national team, I didn’t know anybody apart from Chukwueze because he came to Russia with Villarreal to play against Zenit, and Awoniyi another amazing player.
“It was during the qualifiers, we played against Libya in Tunisia, that was the first time I played for U23.
“The next day I received some messages asking where I was playing, that I’m an amazing player. That wasn’t the moment because we lost the game so I wasn’t in the mood, some journalists were trying to reach me. In the return leg we won 4-0,” Benito added.
The Dynamo Kiev star claims he was guaranteed a roster spot by ex-Dream Team coach Imama Amapakabo ahead of the U23 Africa Cup of Nations, where he came up against his country of birth in the group stage.
“The coach said he really wanted me and I will go to the U23 AFCON and told me I should make sure I am available and I should speak with my club.
“My club said if I go I’ll lose my position but we were already in the Premier League.
“I had to choose Nigeria over the club because it was an opportunity for me to help my country.
“The day we played against Ivory Coast, the Ivorians begged me that I should not hurt them though I am playing for my country, I have some Nigerian friends in Ivory Coast and they told me to ignore them,” he concluded.
The pacey winger began his career at Moldova side Saxon Ceadir Lunga in 2017 before a short stint at Lokomotiv Tashkent and FK Dnyapro. He, however, enjoyed club success at Tambov when he joined in August 2018 as he helped the club gain promotion into the elite league before quitting last February for Dynamo Kiev.