September, 1 2023.
The management of Rangers International FC of Enugu believes the desire by their new Technical Adviser, Fidelis Ilechukwu to steer the club back to continental at the end of the upcoming Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season, is a realistic and achievable target and in sync with the aspirations of the Flying Antelopes in the 2023/24 season.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rangers, Barrister Amobi Ezeaku stated this while speaking exclusively to our correspondent on the sidelines of last Tuesday's season-long NPFL draws held in Jabi, Abuja.
According to Barrister Ezeaku, one of the only two Nigerians that currently has a FIFA Masters Degree, building-up the dwindled fortunes of Rangers, requires a lot of work, and he's in no doubt that Coach Ilechukwu has got all that is needed to deliver the goods.
"It's of essence that he is a South Eastener and should easily connect with the rich history, tradition and heritage of Rangers, what it means to the people, it's checkered past, and present struggles.
Having also qualifed MFM FC and Plateau United to play in the continent, we are reassured that we got the right man for the job", Ezeaku said.
He described Ilechukwu as a fit and proper man for the big and compelling job, but assured that the Head Coach won't be put under any pressure by the management, being that everyone at the club realizes that all the components, (including fans) must work as a team, for set goals and objectives to be achieved.
Prior to his being hired, Ilechukwu was Head Coach of Plateau United of Jos, meaning he is the successor of Abdullahi Maikaba who left his position, after the management of the Flying Antelopes opted not to renew his two-year contract in the aftermath of their failure to win the 2023 NFF Federation Cup, and having lost 0-1 to Bendel Insurance, in the final at Asaba, Delta State.
According to Barrister Ezeaku, fans of Enugu Rangers can be rest assured that the team will be to a reasonable extent better this season, but they will still have to endure, as their home games will for the time being, be hosted at the Awka City Stadium, in Anambra State.
"The state government, Rangers as a club and the Enugu State Football Association are all committed to our returning to Enugu, our natural habitat, and precisely to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium aka the Cathedral. Luckily, all resources have been provided by the government and the contractor has assured us of his resolve to keep to the new timeline for the competition of the job", the Rangers CEO posited.
He expressed optimism that the team will soon be back in Enugu to host their home games, being that the only subsisting aspect of the work is the laying of the turf. Thereafter, they will seek the green light of the NPFL board, to return to Enugu and start playing on the new turf, immediately.
The Rangers CEO reminded us that the pitch was in good condition, until it was removed for a new turf to be laid and once the new floor has been successfully laid and trialed, Rangers will return to Enugu, to the warm embrace of thousands of their fans in the Coal City State.
Ahead of the new season, and their opening game at home to Doma United FC of Gombe, Rangers have embarked on a two-week close-camping, geared towards intensifying their preparation for the 2023/24 season.
The seven-time NPFL champions, who will also be campaigning in the 2024 domestic cup competition, are already in Awka the capital of Anambara State for the close-camping exercises.
The Flying Antelopes were on Thursday held to a 1-1 draw by Oriental arch-rivals, Heartland FC of Owerri, in a pre-season friendly at the Awka City Stadium.
Meanwhile, the management of the NPFL have announced minor scheduling alterations, while making clarification on the opening-day fixtures; www.ckdmedia.ng reports.
According to the league body, only the star match in Ibadan, between Shooting Stars Sports Club and visiting Plateau United of Jos, will hold on September 9th, 24 hours earlier than the scheduled kick-off day, repeatedly announced by the league body.
Apparently, the game which will be LIVE on the NPFL App, was moved forward after a late request by the Nigeria Football Federation, whose hierarchy will be in Uyo, where the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Seleção dos Falcões e Papagaios of Sao Tome and Principe, will be trading tackles in their final Afcon 2023 qualifying fixture, which happens to be a dead rubber.
It means the NFF big wigs can now grace the NPFL season opener in Ibadan, before hopping to Uyo for the Afcon qualifier, whilst the bulk of the other Day-1 fixtures will now be played the upper weekend.