Rangers Int’l Football Club (7): Immortal roles of Great Patrons & Supporters

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Rangers Int’l Football Club (7): Immortal roles of Great Patrons & Supporters

FIELD MARSHAL IDI AMIN

The strong man of Uganda was a celebrated Rangers supporter. When his team, Express FC of Uganda, suffered defeat in Kampala in the hands of Rangers in 1977, the Manager of the team, a Lt Colonel, ordered the Ugandan Players who were predominantly soldiers to be locked up in military cell. But Idi Amin heard the news and ordered the players to be released. Amin believed that his players met Africa’s best club and therefore should not be punished for losing to the champions. He also organized a reception for Rangers players and officials and commended them for a well-deserved victory.

COLONEL JOHN ATOM KPERA

Colonel John Atom Kpera’s arrival to Enugu in 1975 brought Rangers closer to the Government House. Colonel Kpera had innate love for Igbos even though he hails from Benue State. His engagement with the Rangers was complete and sometimes superseded his other extra-curricular activities in the Government House as the military Governor of East Central State. He followed Rangers to its engagements in Lagos, and directed the club to flout NFA’s directive not to field national team players in their Semi Final against I.I.C.C. Shooting Stars in the 1977 Cup Winners Cup Competition.

Colonel Atom Kpera saw Rangers as his pet that must be given the best. When Rangers clinched the Africa Cup Winners Cup in 1977, he enthusiastically organized a rousing reception for them at Enugu Township Stadium, now Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. He declared that the stadium should be expanded to attract international matches. He directed old Anambra State Sports Council to move to a temporary site to enable the State Government complete the renovation of the stadium which was completed in 1986

He re-named the “Independence Avenue” to “Rangers Avenue” in appreciation to the boys’ sacrifices and wonderful victories in Nigeria and outside during his tenure.

CHIEF IFEANYICHUKWU JIM NWOBODO

In 1979, Chief Jim Nwobodo, the former Chairman of Rangers International was elected the first Executive Governor of old Anambra State. Chief Jim Nwobodo was a popular and a successful business man. As the Chairman of Rangers FC, Jim had led the team to successful exploits at home and abroad. However, his performance as the chairman of Rangers made him more popular in Africa. The Igbos loved him for his role in the Rangers FC Administration and voted for him to lead Anambra State. He was bold, courageous, and iron-willed. He readily addressed Press Conferences in defence of Rangers. Jim’s Government took Rangers International to the highest level of performance. For the first time in the history of the Club, a foreigner, a Brazilian, Roberto Paulo Diaz, was hired as Rangers Coach. Another Brazilian Footballer, Da Silva Periare was also signed to play for Rangers International. Jim Nwobodo also started the construction of Rangers permanent camp at Independence Layout, Enugu after the Club had won the Africa Cup Winners Cup in 1977.

The record set by Jim Nwobodo both as the Chairman of the club and the State Chief Executive is yet to be equaled. During his tenure as the Governor of the greater Anambra State, rangers won all the trophies in the land and made appreciable impact on the continental scene. Chief Nwobodo as Chairman clinched the Africa Cup Winners Cup in 1977. It was not only with the Rangers International FC that Chief Jim Nwobodo triumphed. He was the Sports Minister when Nigerian won the gold medal in Football in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

 GOVERNOR ALLISON MADUEKE

Navy Captain Allison Madueke was appointed Military Governor Anambra State in 1984. He constituted Anambra State Sports Council Board with Chief Goody Okonkwo as the Chairman, and also appointed former Rangers Captain, Dominic Ezeani, as the Sole Administrator of the Club. He pursued vigorously the completion of Enugu Township stadium. He sought funds for the project in big towns of Onitsha, Jos, Kano, Lagos and Enugu. He followed it up with levies on school pupils who paid 5 kobo while secondary school students paid 10 kobo. The stadium was almost 80% completed before Allison Madueke was posted out of Anambra State. It was during his regime that Rangers won the National Football League for the last time in 1984.

GROUP CAPTAIN SAMPSON EMEKA OMERUAH

Group Captain Sampson Emeka Omeruah took over from Navy Captain Allison Madueke in 1985. He had just returned from China in 1985 when he led Nigeria U-16 team to clinch the maiden edition of FIFA/KODAK trophy in 1985. His arrival in the old Anambra State brought a lot of Sports awareness to the state. He moved Rangers International Football Club out from the control of the State Sports Council. By 1986 Edict, he promulgated Rangers a Government Corporation. He also constituted a Management committee to run the affairs of the stadium in the state. Omeruah successfully completed the stadium, commissioned it on January 18, 1986, and named it Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. Emeka came into power in Enugu State in 1999. He constituted Rangers FC Management Corporation Board by appointing Business mogul, Chief Dr. A.B.C. Orjiakor as Chairman. Rangers consequently resurged in 2002 when it came tops on the League Table but due to the obnoxious format called “Super Four” Rangers dropped to the third position but also qualified for continental competition. Rangers FC played last on the continental stage in 1985.

Throughout his tenure, Rangers FC never lacked funds and played in continental competition in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. However, the Club never went beyond the semifinals of the competition in African Cup Winners Cup 2003, Africa Confederation Cup 2004, Africa Confederation Cup 2005, and Africa Confederation Cup 2006.

GOVERNOR SULLIVAN IHEANACHO CHIME

Governor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime came into office in 2007. His entry into power saw Rangers FC at the threshold of winning both the League and the Challenge Cups. Rangers had played two Cup Finals in 2007. Governor Sullivan Chime would have collected two Football Trophies that year, but lack of coordinated program and efficient strategy by the Club Management denied the club those opportunities. The club’s leadership denied the Governor his rewards despite all he gave out to the management.

He bought a Marco Polo bus for the Team, cleared all the arrears owed the club by releasing N150m to the club in 2008 notwithstanding that the committee that disbursed the money short-changed many people especially drivers, supporting staff, etc. That was the highest sum of money to be released to the club in a single cheque since its inception. He also constituted the board of the club after sacking the first board he appointed, and increased the club’s subventions, more than twice.

  1. OKWESILIEZE NWODO

Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo was elected the first Executive Governor of Enugu State in 1991. On the 2nd of January 1992, he was sworn in as the Governor and on the 3rd of January, the first Warrant he signed was the release of N1.1m given to Rangers Management to pay sign-on fees and prepare the club for the 1992 Football season. His experimental signing of first Warrant, as Governor of Enugu State, to release money to Rangers International signaled his unprecedented love and responsibility to the beloved club.

  1. HON. IFEANYI UGWUANYI

He ascended into the highly exalted office of Enugu State Government House on May 29th 2015 with a lot of challenges including indebtedness to Local Government workers, arrears of salaries owed some parastatals, including Rangers; new minimum wage which Enugu had refused to implement since 2009; massive rural development, and sports development.

He immediately started with Rangers by inviting the management to government House on Thursday, July 30th 2015. The Management reeled out a debt of N102m owed Rangers players, officials and supporting staff. The Management also requested for the clearance of January to July salary arrears.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi immediately approved the release of June and July arrears of salaries and also promised to buy a new coaster bus for the club. He promised to study the club’s debt profile with a view to addressing it. The Governor with his massive support for Rangers broke a 32-year jinx of championship losses. Rangers won the coveted League Championship Cup before a mammoth crowd at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium. Rangers in Enugu in September 2016 defeated the hard-fighting Elkanemi Warriors of Maiduguri.

These were the select few, among the lot, who came all out to associate with Rangers International. They were the golden Governors who helped Rangers International Football Club to remain on course to avoid relegation and clinch most of the coveted trophies in Nigeria and Africa.

Edwin Eze and Emma Okocha (2017) Rangers International Football Club: History of a People. Gomslam International Limited: Enugu.

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