Yesterday, we read how Rangers mowed down the Nigerian Army. What is the secret to this Rangers’ power? Affliction? Maybe. But why don’t we hear from one who feels it and knows it all – Dominic Nwobodo?
What do we mean by the term, “Rangers Winning Spirit”? The first person to define the fighting “Spirit of the Rangers FC” was “Alhaji” Dominic Nwobodo, a foundation member from January 1970. According to Nwobodo, “the bitter way with which we fought the Biafran war remained fresh in our minds when we started playing as Rangers. “Most of us, at that initial line up, were all Biafran war veterans, and our minds kept wondering why we lost the war.
“In some of our analysis about the war, we blamed one sector of the Biafran Army for capitulating. But then soldiers in that sector would try to justify the immense pressure that broke them in the war and turned round to blame another sector for not coming to their rescue when a Signal was sent for reinforcement. To and fro, we blamed ourselves, looking for scapegoats.
So it formed part of our blame game in the field too. Woe betides you if we suffered defeat because of your carelessness in any match. That was how the Winning Spirit, the Indomitable Will to overcome all challenges in the field of play crept into our psyche. In other words, “the win-at-all-cost attitude pushed us to carry endure excruciating training programs and sacrifice happy party hours in order to be fit to fight to death on the field. Moreover, the way we prayed before a match, beckoning on the Holy Ghost to give us victory, the moving traditional Igbo songs we sang before a match, elevating the soul, and with either Okwodibia or Anaedobe (master singers and oral historians) leading those motivating sublime songs, the players are transformed at that point from mere human beings to assume the deity presence and overwhelming performances of the gods.
“Adorned in immaculate white, the Rangers FC’s dancing squad is ready for battle to Win or Die! When we played against Sharks Football Club in 1974 Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals, I nearly messed up our team when I missed the only penalty awarded to us. “Dom egbue anyi taa” (Dom has killed us today) ran through my mind as the game was approaching the dying minutes. I hurriedly rushed to Ogidi Ibeabuchi and begged him to send a pullout to me from his left flank because he had the herculean task to wiggle through the Sharks FC right back defenders. Ogidi told me that he was too tired to run again: ‘Agwa Zinam’, (Don’t bother me again!).
“I approached Ajero and begged him for another pull out and he flared up and told me that I wasted all his passes including a penalty kick. I then prayed to God for any little opportunity even if it meant scoring and breaking my leg. It was Kenneth Abana who in the remaining seconds nodded a high ball down to my ankle and I wasted no time in blasting the ball among the sea of legs to score against the wonderful Sharks’ goalkeeper, the legendary Raymond Quacopome. The players became transformed and possessed at that point.
“In Rangers FC, nobody talks about Juju or Charms. Everybody would avoid you if you introduce that in discussions. Nobody wanted to take the blame for failing the Igbos again in the Football field after the capitulation in the war we had almost won.
“It then dawned on us that the will, the determination to win at all cost and the need to sacrifice every limb in the field of play was the secret behind Rangers’ record winnings from the early 70s to the early decade of the 80s. Amongst the Players, none of them would take his blame if the fault was traced to one’s performance in the field. Dominic Nwobodo revealed that during the Biafra war, a soldier who abandoned his gun in the battle field, no matter the circumstances, faced a Court Martial. “If you listened to Ernest Ufele’s prayer sessions before we started a match, you will feel like dying in the field rather than lose a match. What about the songs composed by Afam Augustine (Okwo Dibia), our former Welfare Officer; or Joseph Aniedobe? When such people start our war songs, they move your spirit and take you to another world.”
RANGERS FC MOTTO: Through difficulties to the heights
According to Chief Jerry Enyeazu, the motto of a club determines the mission, the vision and a summarized history of the Club. Rangers’ motto: Through difficulties to the heights, expressed how a football club formed from the ashes of the war was able to attain an enviable height in a record time through its numerous successes in the field of play. The history of Rangers Football Club was such that within five months of inception, it recorded a huge success by defeating a football club that had existed many years before it. The vision of Rangers founding fathers was the concept of an extremely formidable clubside that would conquer other clubsides in Nigeria and Africa.
Therefore, the Rangers motto was to ventilate the Igboness in an average Igbo man who believes that life is full of struggles and survival of the fittest. By the same token, when sports officials in Igboland wanted to shape the motto of the Rangers FC, they did not base it on the sentiments of losing the war, but on how to prove to the world that the end of the war was not the end of the Igbos. In the midst of the confusion on whether to celebrate the survival of the war, or bemoan their fate after the war, the sports officials decided to move on. The concept of Through difficulties to the heights which became Rangers motto was to remind the players and also the entire world that hard times usually bring out the Igboness of an Igbo man. The players had to imbibe the vision of attaining greater heights in football wavering through the difficulties. Survival instincts imbibed during the war came readily as assets in absorbing most of the challenges encountered in the football pitch. The message was crystal clear, the messengers were forewarned and they did not give flimsy excuses. It clicked.
To be continued…