Aribo, Balogun, Bassey, Two Other Africans on Cusp of Making 50 Years History with Rangers
Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report
Five African players are aiming to make history with Scottish giants, Rangers tonight as they play Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of the Europa League in Seville, Spain.
They are Nigeria’s trio of Calvin Bassey, Leon Balogun and forward Joe Aribo. The other two are Amad Diallo (Cote d’Ivoire) and Zambia’s Fashion Sakala. These are the continent’s stars who are aiming to end Rangers’ 50-year wait for a European trophy!
To get to the final, Glasgow Rangers saw off former European champions Borussia Dortmund and Red Star Belgrade in the knockout stages before overcoming RB Leipzig in the last four to set up a date with destiny.
For the Nigerian forward, Aribo, he has been a key part of a Rangers team chasing their second European title. Today’s Europa League final against Eintrach Frankfurt will be Aribo’s 65th game of a season where he has played almost everywhere for the Gers.
His versatility has made him one of coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s most-trusted players. And while he may look thin and fragile, there is a lot of power in his sinewy frame.
The 25-year-old Londoner moved to Rangers in 2019 after a successful time with Charlton Athletic, where he helped the club gain promotion into the Championship. During his early days in Glasgow, he thrived under Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, winning the club‘s young player award in his first season. The next year he contributed eight goals to help the team to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade.
He became a Nigeria international after qualifying through his parents and scored in his first two games for the Super Eagles against Ukraine and Brazil. But he came under criticism after they failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup when he was outplayed by Ghana’s Thomas Partey in Abuja. A labored performance in midfield was not enough to see the Eagles reach the big stage.
He has recently been given the responsibility of leading the Rangers attack in a false nine role due to injuries to Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos. He told The Scotsman newspaper he’s learning as he goes along, with a little help from a former Bayern Munich man.
“It’s different compared to playing in midfield areas, of course. But I want to add goals into my game so in that sense there is an easier chance to score,” he said. “I’ve not really played that much up front. It’s one I’m still adapting to.
“When I find out that I’m going to be playing up front, I speak a lot with assistant coach, Roy (Makaay). He tells me some movements. He knows that I’m strong and can battle with defenders and back in.”
After having to be subbed off after 45 minutes of the semifinal second leg win against RB Leipzig at Ibrox, Aribo recovered quickly and is set to return to the team for the final at the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan Stadium tonight. “It means a lot to us. We know how big it is, for us personally but also for the club. It’s a massive one for us,” he said.