As Rangers International Football Club battles Kano Pillars of Kano State in this year’s NFF/AITEO Federation Cup finals in Asaba, Delta State capital on Wednesday, October 24, the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has called on all enthusiastic fans of Rangers across the country and indeed the Igbo nation, to offer special prayers for the club’s victory at the annual tourney.
The Governor also appealed to residents of Enugu State and the entire South East geo-political zone, including traders in Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Asaba, and others, to come out en masse to the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, to cheer the ‘Flying Antelopes’ to victory.
The governor noted that Rangers International is not just an iconic football club, but also a national brand and one of the oldest clubs in Nigeria that has remained in the competition, and has equally continued to receive the admiration of its staunch supporters across the country, stressing that, “Rangers F.C belongs to all Nigerians, as it was a club formed after the Nigerian Civil War to give succor to all those who have been bitter by the effects of the war.”
Ugwuanyi pointed out that it was because of God’s grace and the people’s unceasing prayers, goodwill and support that Rangers International F.C, under his administration, won the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) trophy after 32 years, stating that, the club’s victory on Wednesday would be another milestone achievement.
He therefore, charged the club’s management, technical crew and players to approach the Aiteo Cup final with all sense of commitment and dedication so that they will win the champion’s trophy which has eluded the team in the past three and a half decades.
He said equivocally: “As you go out there, remember what Rangers International represents us well and do us proud. Enugu State is in the hands of God!”
In a related development, the chairman of Delta Sports Commission, Tony Okowa has said that tomorrow’s Aiteo Cup final at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, would go down in history as one of the best ever in the country. Rangers International of Enugu will clash with Kano Pillars in this year’s final.
Okowa’s declaration came yesterday, just as an official of Rangers supporters club said that playing the final in Asaba would be like playing in their ‘home ground.’
Okowa told The Guardian that the state was set to host the best ever Aiteo Cup final saying: “We will use this Aiteo Cup final to showcase our rich sports culture to the entire world as we did during the African Senior Athletics Championship in August. The stadium is wearing a new look now, and we are ready.”
This year’s Aiteo Cup is all about history. Enugu Rangers had lost in the finals on four different occasions. The last time they won the Aiteo Cup (formally known as FA Cup and Federations Cup) was far back 1983. Though, Rangers won the 2015/2016 NPFL title after 32 years. On the other hand, the last time Kano Pillars played in the finals was far back 1991, when they lost to El-kanemi warriors.
The long wait by the people of Asaba to have a befitting sports complex had ended in August this year, when the city hosted the rest of Africa. But it was an athletics event.
The last time a major football event was played in Asaba was shortly after the Nigerian civil war in 1970, with the then Asaba Tex FC still holding sway as one of the biggest clubs in the then Bendel State
But from 1974, when the then Bendel State government took over Asaba City stadium from Asaba community, through 1991, when Delta state was created, all soccer competitions inside the complex were played in an open space until Governor Ifeanyi Okowa deemed it fit to complete the stadium recently.
Tomorrow’s Aiteo’s Cup final, which is the first major soccer competition inside the complex, is expected to attract a large crowd of football enthusiasts from neighbouring Onitsha, Akwa, as well as Owerri and Enugu.
It was learnt yesterday that the floodlight at Asaba stadium, which could not be installed for the athletics competition in August has been put in place ahead the Aiteo Cup final.
It was also learnt that Rangers Supporters are planning to storm Asaba with about 50 buses comprising Marcopollo, Coaster and mini buses, with a large number also expected from their branches in Nnewi, Abakaliki, Onitsha and other cities.