Sports Analysis: Governor Ugwuanyi And Challenge of Restoring Rangers Lost GloryLatest News, Sports Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015
By IGNATIUS OKPARA, ENUGU
BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – When Rangers International football club of Enugu was established about 45 years ago, 1970 precisely, the joy of soccer enthusiasts in the entire Igbo nation knew no bound as they saw it as a virile institution and source of inspiration to the people.
Shortly at the end of the Nigerian/Biafran civil war, the club became the vanguard that re-integrated the Ibos into the mainstream of Nigeria socio-economic activities.
It also showcased the determination of the people to rise through the ashes of a war defeated race to prominence.
Barely four years after it was founded, the club, proved its mettle and stuff it is made of in the field of play, as it captured the most revered and prestigious trophy in the Nigerian football arena, the then challenge cup, now known as federation cup.
Rangers, won the trophy for three good consecutive times, (back- to- back) in 1974,1975, and 1976 respectively.
The club, which use to be among the Nigerian top flights teams in the 70s through early 90s, once had a checkered highest record of the most featured premier league club side in the finals of the federation cup history.
It is also on record that Rangers and Heart Land FC of Owerri Imo state, remain the only two domestic clubs in Nigeria that had not gone on relegation since the inception of the nation’s football league.
The Enugu based team, became a house hold name and popular amongst her teeming supporters and Nigerian soccer fans because of its fantastic style of play and distinguished achievements in 80s and 90s .
Due to her wonderful performances and soccer artistry in those good old days, its fan base especially in the 80s surpassed that of any other club side in Nigeria.
Rangers match attendances be it home or away, used to be intimidating and superb.
Apart from 3SC of Ibadan, which may be ranked in its cadre, Enugu Rangers lost all its contemporaries in the old Nigeria national division one league
The Flying Antelopes, as it is fondly called in the football cycles, once paraded legendary players, such as Christian Chukwu a.k.a Chairman, the influential captain of Nigeria national team, Green Eagles, that won the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations, goal Keeper Emmanuel Okala, the late Allocious Atuegu, Ogidi Ibeawuchi, Christian Madu, among others.
Some of the above mentioned ex-Rangers players, and soccer gurus, were all part of the victorious 1980 Green Eagles Squad.
Suffice it to say that those crop of players in the 70s’ and early 80s’ were responsible for virtually all the club’s achievements.
But sadly, the once cherished, powerful, and darling team, which use to be the pride of eastern Nigeria, had remained a lame and toothless bull dog in the soccer field of play for over two decades now, as it has functioned without any trophy.
Rather than putting smile on the faces of its teeming fans and supporters across Nigeria via winning of trophies, Rangers have continued to compensate them with tears and anger at the end of every soccer season due to its poor and abysmal performances.
Since after the club won the League and Federation cup title in 1984, it has never laid its hands again on any trophy, whether local or international.
The age long trophy draught status of the club, no doubt, has continued to affect its image, as many of her ardent fans and supporters have dumped the Enugu club side for other sisters teams in the south east region, such as the “Peoples Elephant”, Enyimba of Aba, Abia state, which has been doing marvelously well, as well as Heart Land FC of Owerri, Imo state.
Apart from winning this year’s GLOBACOM Nigeria Professional Football League trophy NPFL, which it had also won in the past, the Aba club side, has won the federation cup title severally, including wining the Confederation of African Football (CAF) competition back to back.
Even though, the standard of Rangers was already falling before the incumbent General Manager/chief Executive officer, Ozor Paul Chibuzor, took over mantle of leadership of the club some nine years ago, many soccer analysts and the club’s supporters, believe strongly that mismanagement of funds under the watch of Chibuzor had remained one of the greatest challenge confronting the club.
Despite the huge amount of money being accrued to the club from the Enugu state government coffers on monthly basis, Rangers management has continued to complain lack of funds to pilot its affairs.
Aside, the one million naira monthly contribution each of the17 local government Areas of the state makes to the club, which is usually deducted at source once the monthly statutory federal allocation is shared among states, the team also gets financial support from other well-meaning citizens of the state and south east Nigeria, including Enugu based Catholic fire brand Priest, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka of the popular Adoration Ministry.
Regrettably, the alleged lack of transparency and non-judicious management of resources in the club by the Chibuzor led administration, had remained a serious cog in the wheel of progress of Rangers.
However, many stakeholders in the round leather game in the coal city state of Enugu, are of the view that for the team to rise up again, as well as regain her lost glory, there is urgent need for the state government, under the watch of Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to rise up to the challenge as chief financial of the club and carry out total overhauling in the place, including probing of its finances in the last eight years.
But For such cleansing exercise to really yield positive result in the club, Governor Ugwuanyi, must embark on it without sentiment, as experienced during the era of his predecessor, Barrister Sullivan Chime, who made ethnicity his watch word in appointing officials of the club.
Frankly speaking, for the almighty Rangers to return to her rightful place in the Nigeria soccer arena, the right people, beginning from technical crew, management, and utility quality players must been assembled, irrespective of tribe or state of origin of such individuals.
It is no longer news that the poor and dwindling state of Rangers in the field of play in the last decades, had indeed remained a source of serious concern and worry to soccer lovers and major stakeholders within and outside Enugu state.
One of such group that is deeply worried over the club’s present situation is the Enugu State chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN.
The body, had recently decried the abysmal performance of the club in the nation’s professional football league in recent years.
It regretted that the Enugu premier club side, which use to be among the key teams in the country has over the years, remained stagnant at the middle of the league log, leading to incessant sorrow instead of joy to its teeming supporters across Nigeria.
The Enugu SWAN, in a communique signed by the state chairman, Nobert Okolie and secretary, Ignatius Okpara at the end of its congress held at her secretariat at the Nnamdi Azikiwe sports stadium Enugu, had urged the state government to as a matter of urgency intervene before the 2015/ 2016 league season commences.
The body therefore, enjoined the state government to urgently fill the vacuum created by the recent sacking of the club’s entire Technical crew and other officers.
The communique reads: “SWAN in Enugu is seriously disturbed and worried over the abysmal performance and trophy draught of Rangers inter. FC of Enugu in recent years, and would want government to remedy the situation for the interest of its fans and supporters.
“As key stakeholders in the round leather game and other sports in the state, we are not comfortable that when other club sides in the country have already begun preparations in style, ahead of next season, noting seems to be happening in the flying Antelopes office and camp.
While hailing the state government for her resilience in promoting and developing sports in the coal city, including sustaining Rangers, despite its poor outings, the association, called on managers of the team to make recruitment of quality players in the next season its watch word.
“We want to also advised that the incoming management, and Technical crew of Rangers, must make players welfare, as well as engaging of quality players its priority, because that is the only way the club could make meaningful head way next season.
However, as clubs prepares ahead of the 2015/2016 league season the Enugu state government should endevour to clean up the mess in Rangers, before recruiting new honest and dedicated officials with passion for the game, and not those who will be only interested in smiling to the banks to the detriment of the club and its teeming fans and supporters. Because a stitch in time they say, saves nine.
Enugu state government must shine its eyes this time around, by beaming her search light on the club, so that it won’t be business as usual.
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