The team manager of Rangers International FC of Enugu, Amobi Ezeaku, 27, educated as a lawyer, was not yet formed by 1984 when Rangers last lifted the title but he is looking a sure fit to inspire and bring out the best from his peers on the field. Fired-up and passionate, Ezeaku credits the fans for the resurgence of the Enugu-based club.
As a young hand in club management what has the experience been like for you?
The experience has been memorable. You know, it is my first time as a team manager. I came on board as the youngest team manager in the country. It has been tasking, but to the glory of God and, following the laid- down rules of the LMC and the guidelines of the NPFL, I have been able to cope.
As the youngest team manager in the NPFL what challenges have you encountered managing a club as big as Rangers with such huge tradition and array of stakeholders?
The challenges are enormous. You know, people in this part of the world do not believe the youth should be left to do certain things. In our case, we have been able to break through this barrier. Look at where we are today.
I will say that being anxious about breaking new grounds has helped us to sustain the tempo. There have been pressures on me as a young person handling a club as big as Rangers. Rangers is a household name, a big brand, but it has not been difficult for me [to handle] by the grace of God and goodwill.
For about three decades, Rangers fired blanks, as far as the league title is concerned. What has informed the revival of the club this time?
True, after 1984, we have been unable to win the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL). This season, however, we realised that the players are good, but many didn’t have in-depth knowledge [of the game and how to comport themselves]. We liaised with the board, the technical director and Coach Imama (Amapakabo) and we started series of lectures focused on building their mentality and their psychological strength. That went a long way to rekindle the never-say-die spirit and the will to win. After that, we took into account and acted on welfare of the players. The state government decided to take it upon itself to ensure that the players and officials are very comfortable, happy and enthusiastic. This brought a great departure from what obtained in the past.
The club is now truly professional, thank God, who is the pillar. The players and the coaches are tactically sound, so the players’ major role is to abide with the instructions of the coaches and I thank God we have come this far.
Another aspect of the club which has experienced resurgence is the support base which has becme awesome every match-day. How did you achieve that?
We all chose to work together. The government, the board of Rangers, all of us understood and we passed the message to the fans that the club belongs to them. The club does not belong to any of us; not the team manager, technical adviser, but to the fans. All we did was to take the club back to the fans and, today, every Rangers’ supporter has that sense of belonging and ownership which gives him/her say in issues affecting the club.
We believe that, by next season, when we play in the NPFL and the continent (CAF Champions League) we will see a lot more good things from the fans.
It seems almost certain that Rangers will win the title. The worry for many Nigerian fans is about the quality of game and representation by Nigeria clubs in the continental competitions. Can Rangers make the difference again for Nigeria?
In Rangers, we believe in one game at a time. We will win the league by God’s grace and we hope to do well and make Nigeria proud in the continent. We are not just going to the continent to be numbered; we are going to the continent to make an indelible impression, an impression that will last a long time and bring fame and pride to the Nigeria Football Federation, the League Management Company and the nation.
What has been your involvement in sports or football before getting into Rangers as team manager?
I have been long involved in football from my school days; I captained the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and the University of Nigeria team to the NUGA (Nigeria Universities Games) and the West Africa Universities Games (WAUG). Also, I captained the NYSC National Team headed by Coach Rotimi Salau. I was also in the Flying Eagles and the Dream Team before I ventured into club management.
When I left the Dream Team’s camp, I tried out with Wikki Tourists before hanging my gloves and, to the glory of God, I did my National Youth Service with the NFF under Barrister Okey Obi. My life has been about football and, more seriously so, in the past 15 years. In December last year, the Enugu State Government asked the board to re-organise Rangers and I was invited to the interview. Subsequently, I was appointed the team manager of Rangers. That is the journey so far.