May 31, 2020

Rangers… 32 years ago

October 5, 2016

RANGERS opened a three-point gap over close challengers, Rivers United  to win the 2016 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), but it was a closely fought battle in 1984.

Until the last day of the 1984 league, fans of the IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Rangers International and the defunct New Nigeria Bank (NNB) of Benin fancied their respective club’s chances of nicking the League crown.

The Shooting Stars were shining brightly with players like Segun Odegbami, the late Muda Lawal, Raymond King, Wakilu Oyenuga and the late Nigeria goal king, Rashidi Yekini, but the Ibadan team had a final away game to the then Spartans FC in Owerri.

Rangers, on the other hand, were billed to play ACB of Lagos at the Onikan waterfront, while the NNB, starring Henry Nwosu, the late Stephen Keshi,  Samson Ozogula, Austin Popo, Sunday Eboigbe and Bright Omokaro, had a date with Calabar Rovers in Calabar.

Of all the three contenders, Rangers were considered favourites for different reasons.

A trip to Lagos to the ACB, fondly called Lagos Rangers, was considered a walk in the park for the Flying Antelopes.

ACB was called the Lagos Rangers due to the huge presence of Igbo kinship in the bank’s ownership, playing personnel and supporting base. It was easy to assume that ACB would lay flat  and allow Rangers a stroll to the title.

On the other hand, it was thought that Spartans of Owerri, being Rangers’ bitter rivals, could play soft with the Shooting Stars so that Rangers would be denied another glory. Just a season back, Rangers were the FA cup winners, beating Ranchers Bees on penalty shootout.

On the league table, all the home teams, namely ACB, Spartans and Calabar Rovers had nothing to fear.

The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) ran a simultaneous commentary on the games in Lagos, Owerri and Calabar.

Eventually, Rangers lost 1-2 to ACB, Shooting Stars lost 2-0 to Spartans; then the chance to win the league fell on the star-studded NNB. A win over Calabar Rovers would hand the Keshi-led side the crown and quite unsurprisingly, the team was leading by a lone goal until Sylvanus  Nsofor shattered their dream with a late-minute leveler.

In 1985, Sylvanus Nsofor crossed camps and joined Rangers on continental campaign.

Rangers won the 1984 League on the penultimate week, just like this season. The only difference is that their fans had their hearts in their mouths 32 years ago.

FINAL LEAGUE TABLE

TEAM                                P W D L GF GA PTS
1 Rangers                        36 18 9 9 53 37 63
2. Rivers United FC      36 19 3 14 38 29 60
3. Wikki                           36 16 9 11 45 28 57
4. Ifeanyi Ubah              36 16 8 12 37 33 56
5. Lobi                              36 16 7 13 41 35 55
6. Sunshine Stars           36 14 11 11 44 37 53
7. Kano                             36 15 7 14 47 40 52
8. El Kanemi                   36 16 3 17 37 42 51
9. Enyimba                      36 14 8 14 34 35 50
10. Nasarawa                  36 16 2 18 41 43 50
11. Niger Tornadoes     36 15 4 17 40 42 49
12. Plateau                     36 13 10 13 34 37 49
13. Abia Warriors         36 12 12 12 35 39 48
14. Akwa                         36 13 8 15 45 46 47
15. Shooting                   36 14 5 17 41 48 47
16. MFM FC                   36 12 9 15 36 40 45
17. Warri                         36 12 9 15 29 38 45
18. Heartland                 36 11 11 14 25 30 44
19. Ikorodu United       36 7 11 18 32 55 32
20. Giwa

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