Rangers in the 70s
Nigeria Premier League club, Enugu Rangers FC will make a return to Africa’s premier club competition, the CAF Champions League, for the first time since 2006.
This will be the ninth appearance of the Flying Antelopes in the Caf Champions League including seven when the tournament was known as the African Cup of Champions Clubs.
Last appearance on the continent
The year 2006 was the last time Rangers made an appearance in any CAF club competition. It was also the first time they would take part in the new format of the CAF Champions League.
That year, the Flying Antelopes scaled Police XI of Botswana in the preliminary round before Sudanese giants, Al-Hilal, halted their progress in the first round.
Instead it was South-east rivals and two-time African champions, Enyimba who progressed into the group stage of the competition that year.
But this year, the Enugu-based club start off against unknown Sporting Club do Principe of Sao Tome & Principe on Sunday.
“We don’t know them but that is no excuse,” Rangers’ head coach, Okey Emordi, told supersport.com.
“My team has prepared for this game with several friendly matches and we are confident going into this (game). The plan is to win and win well ahead of the second leg.
“The only thing we know about them is that they are champions of their country and that shows they are a good team. We also know this is their first time in the CAF Champions League.”
Star players to watch
But the Rangers’ coach have a glut of stars to bank on for this game to fire his side to a big win. Emeka Eze, Sunday Chinedu, Ugonna Uzochukwu, Cyril Oriaku, Nnaemeka Anyasodo and Godwin Ayalogu are among the old guard retained by the club.
The club have also strengthened their squad with signings such as Sanusi Sani, Ousmane Pape Sane, Nzube Anaezemba, Solomon Jabason, Lazarus, Uche Oguchi, Itodo Akor, Thompson Ezekiel and Emmanuel Daniel.
But the transfer to bring in Super Eagles’ duo of Sunday Mba and Chigozie Agbim has suffered a setback despite registering the pair for the CAF Champions League.
Super Eagles’ goalkeeper, Agbim, could yet join Rangers but Mba now looks a doubt after his superb performance at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, where Nigeria emerged champions.
Rangers will also miss the services of Ejike Uzoenyi and Ifeanyi Ede. While Ede is away on trials in Europe, Uzoenyi is on a trophy tour with the Super Eagles across the country for winning the AFCON.
Okey Emordi factor
But Rangers’ fans will be hoping that Emordi’s experience in the CAF Champions League will help the side progress beyond their first hurdle from the island of Sao Tome and Principe.
Emordi also hopes his second attempt as head coach at Rangers will come good after his first try in 2008.
“It’s a familiar terrain for me here in Enugu. I’ve also won the Champions League before with Enyimba (as a coach in 2004). So I’m praying this time will be as successful,” said Emordi.
Definitely, the expectation will be no other outcome than a win this Sunday inside the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu when the Flying Antelopes play their first CAF Champions League match for the first time in seven years.
And new front men, Sani, signed from rivals, Gombe United acknowledged this.
“We know the fans are expecting us to win this game. So we are very prepared for this and we will give our best to win. It is my first time in this competition and I want to impress and start on a winning note,” said Sani.
But Rangers’ supporters will have to wait till the first weekend in March to know if their team will progress into the next round of this year’s CAF Champions League.