Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Enugu Rangers are 180 minutes away from lifting the Nigeria Professional Football League with Imama Amapakabo as their team coach.

The last time Enugu Rangers won the Nigeria League title was in 1984 [32 years ago], since then they have come close numerous times under the guidance of different coaches, including few former legends.

Enugu Rangers and Shooting Stars of Ibadan dominated the Nigeria League in the 1970s and 1980s but Enugu Rangers dominated more ahead of their longstanding rivals from Ibadan.

Enugu Rangers were back-to-back champions in 1974 and 1975 and again in 1981 and 1982 ahead of shooting stars who won their titles in 1995 and 1998.
Rangers won their sixth and last title in 1984 with the likes of players that makes up Super Eagles of 1984 in the likes of Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Ifeanyi Onyedika and more.

Considering their dominance, pedigree and the seemingly endless pool of talent available to pick from in their catchment area, few could have imagined that Rangers would go five, let alone 32 years, without a league title.

They did, but all that looks like it is about to change. Not by design, mind, but when Kelechi Emetole was fired at the tail end of last season following a run of poor results, his assistant Amapakabo was installed as a stop-gap measure with the club in a mess, facing the real horror of relegation. The 1985 Under-17 World Cup-winning goalkeeper not only stabilized the ship, but helped Rangers keep up their record of being the only Nigerian club never to have been relegated as they finished a respectable 12th.
Nigeria football supporters

Even after that, he was not guaranteed the position when the 2016 season started, with reports claiming the club was still actively looking for a more experienced coach, with Imama expected to be demoted or sacked.

Thankfully for Rangers, their misfortune of being unable to afford a big-name coach has proved to be a blessing in disguise, with Amapakabo barely willing to contemplate the scale of the treasure he is about to bring to a football-mad city, saying the fans have played a big part

"This will be huge for me and the people of the state if it happens," Imama told ESPNFC. "To be able to achieve something that hasn't been achieved in over 32 years is massive.

"I thought I knew the history of Rangers, but I've never felt it like this season. I saw on social media how the people celebrated under the rain after our last game. I know how valuable this is to the people.

"We have been able to prove that the stands can still be filled with good football and results."

Good football and good results is what Imama's style of high-tempo, high-pressing possession football has brought.

He explains how: "When I was handed this responsibility, I wanted to do things my own way. Some said I was crazy. But I insisted because having studied the Nigerian league for a while, I had to go for speed, mobility, keeping possession and pressing to retrieve the ball as soon as we lost it."

The results have been clear. Rangers lead the league in goals scored including the most goals scored away from home with 15. That's just one away goal shy of Enyimba when they won the league last season and four more than their other three current title rivals. They have also accumulated the most away points (12) of any other team in the league.

That philosophy is on the cusp of landing a league title where others have failed, but he is not counting his chickens before they hatch.

"Anything can still happen. What I've told the people of the state is that we are like a bus that has been on a road trip, but we are now at the final junction before we get home and running low on fuel. So we need everyone to get behind the bus and push it all the way home even if we run out of fuel." he said.

That push starts this weekend at relegated Ikorodu United, who have seen a revival in form come too late to save their season. It will end in either despondency or ecstasy against El Kanemi Warriors in front of their home crowd in Enugu on the final day of the season.

Enugu Rangers are currently sitting at the top of the NPFL League ahead of Rivers United, Wiki Tourist and Ifeanyi Ubah among others.




Post a Comment