By Nnamdi Ezekute in Kaliningrad:
A ride around the city of Kaliningrad is bound to make a Nigerian feel as though the Super Eagles will be playing their opening Russia 2018 World Cup match at home against Croatia on June 16. That was exactly how I was pleasantly surprised by the giant billboards mounted at strategic locations in the city and the complimentary remarks made by Russians about the Nigerian team.
‘Welcome Come Nigeria’ is the bold message on the big billboard with the image of Ahmed Musa more prominent in a photo of the Super Eagles’ goal celebration. The same message is replicated in Russian language on billboards in other locations.
Though there are the Croatian team version of the billboards, Kaliningrad people are very excited at the prospect of seeing the African giants live in the city.
A co-passenger in a taxi from the Kaliningrad Airport saluted with a thumbs-up gesture each time the cab passed by a ‘Welcome Nigeria’ billboard and and the driver will concur in a smattering of English, ‘Nigeria good, good’.
Another driver who drove me from the Kaliningrad Stadium to my hotel said, ‘Mikel, Moses your best’ as he pulled by the roadside to offer me the convenience of taking a shot of the billboard.
Dmitri, one of the volunteers at the Kaliningrad venue, sees the Super Eagles as Africa’s best.
He said: “Nigeria is my best African team. It will be a joy to watch them here.”
Alena, a volunteer supervisor, hailed in good English: “People I know talk so good about the Nigerian team. Many Russians here want to support Nigeria to win. I wish you the best.”
The Super Eagles are expected to arrive Kaliningrad from their Essentuki Team Base Camp a day before their first Group D match against Croatia on Saturday, June 16.