By Remigius Akinbinu
‘Clash of the brothers’; that, exactly, was the way the Nigerian press tagged the tie, back then. It was the way they wanted Nigerians to see it regardless of which of the two major tribes involved you’re from.
But in truth and naturally so, vast majority of Igbos and Yorubas rooted for the club from their own side of the divide in a titanic clash that captured the attention of the entire country while it lasted.
It was the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup first semi-final between Rangers International Football Club of Enugu and the Industrial Investment Credit Corporation (IICC) Shooting Stars Football Club of Ibadan.
That time, I was only an 11-year-old boy in my first year in the secondary school but (without being boastful) with an unimaginable interest in the round leather game.
In June that year, my father, a school teacher bought the family’s first television set. It was black and white of ‘National’ brand. This kindled my interest in football the more because, from following via radio commentaries and newspapers, I graduated into watching live and repeat telecast of matches on NTV Ibadan. This afforded me the opportunity of watching continental club football and following the Super Eagles’ Argentina ’78 World Cup qualifiers against Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt and Tunisia on TV.
In our house,that time, the clash -of-brothers tag actually played out for the Rangers/IICC tie as my immediate elder brother and my immediate younger brother,for reasons I found difficult to understand, were all out in support of Rangers while I, like virtually all other boys on the street (except my good friend, Christopher Ifeanyichukwu Okanu and his housemates) rooted for Shooting Stars. I still remember my elder brother, Basil, threatening to beat me if Shooting Stars managed to beat Rangers.
The tension that gripped the Nation’s football family before and after the first leg was made more intense by the boastfulness of the promoters and fans of the two top Nigerian clubs.
Defending champions, IICC which the previous year became the first to win a continental trophy for Nigeria were asking Rangers fans to go and inquire about them from their quarter final victims, FC Stade de Abidjan while Rangers felt it was tougher for them getting rid of A.S. Police of Senegal in their own quarter final tie.
To qualify for the semi-final, IICC pulled up all the tricks in their Pandora box to overcome a two-nil deficit suffered in Abidjan to outscore Stade by three first half goals. A Garuba Umoru brace and a Segun Odegbami header sealed it for the Oluyole warriors at the Liberty Stadium Ibadan.
The starting line-ups of IICC that year looked more like this; (1) Best Ogedegbe 2. Joe Appiah 3. Sam Ojebode (C) 4. Muda Lawal 5.Idowu Otubusin 6. Sam Asante 7. Segun Odegbami 8. Phillip Boamah/Nathaniel Adewole 9.Moses Otolorin 10. Garuba Umoru/Dauda Ladipo 11. Kunle Awesu.
If IICC had it tough qualifying for the semis, Rangers literally went through hell before making it to the semis. The first leg which was played at the National stadium,Surulere Lagos was almost uneventful as it ended goalless as the team from Senegal ‘packed the bus’ and frustrated the Chairman Chukwu led side.
In the 2nd leg played at the filled-to-capacity Sedar Senghor stadium in Dakar, the home crowd never bargained for what hit them for they had thought after holding Rangers to a draw in Lagos,they will easily trash the visiting coal city Boys.
First half ended one-nil in favour of Senegal Police (who scored through a controversial penalty kick) and it remained so until the 75th minute or thereabout when Rangers struck.
Coach Roberto had just replaced the injured Stanley Okoronkwo with Chimezie Ngadi who with his first touch of the ball raced past three Senegalese defenders before silencing the home crowd with a deft volley. Before the home team could come to terms with what hit them, Ngadi struck again when it was about five minutes to the end.
Two-one it ended and all hell was let loose in Dakar. Rangers’ players and officials were stoned and beaten by the disappointed Senegal Police FC supporters. Several players sustained various degrees of injuries and I can still remember Emmanuel Okala recounting his experience and claiming the stonning actually started before the final whistle as he tried to use the net as cover to no avail. An apologetic President of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor (One of my favorite African poets) had to visit Nigeria to apologise to the then head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo and the Nigerian people. Senegal Police FC was suspended from playing on the Continent for a number of years by CAF.
The typical starting line-up for Rangers that year looked like this:(1)Emmanuel Okala 2.Charles Adimorah 3.Ignatius Ilechukwu 4. Christian Madu 5. Christian Chukwu 6. Nnamdi Anyafo 7. Stanley Okoronkwo 8.Ogidinma Ibeabuchi/Chimezie Ngadi 9. Emeka Onyedika 10. Alloy Atuegbu. 11. Nwachukwu Onyekwelo .
The Nigerian National team, the Green Eagles was dominated by players from these two clubs. Coach ‘Father’ Tiko that year invited four each from the two clubs for the World Cup qualifiers. From IICC were Segun Odegbami, Mudashiru Lawal, Sam Ojebode and Best Ogedegbe. While Rangers had Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Aloysius Atuegbu and Ignatius Ilechukwu invited.
The typical starting line-up of the Green Eagles side which at the the National stadium surulere Lagos, beat Ivory Coast 4-0, beat Senegal 3-0, beat Egypt 4-0 and lost 0-1 to Tunisia in 1977 was as follows: 1. Emma Okala (Rangers) 2. Pat Ekeji (Vasco) 3. Sam Ojebode (IICC) 4. Muda Lawal (IICC) 5. Christian Chukwu (Rangers) 6. Godwin Odiye (National Bank) 7. Segun Odegbami (IICC) 8. Adokiye Amiesimaka (Sharks) 9. Thompson Usiyen (USA) 10. Aloysius Atuegbu (Rangers) 11. Godwin Uwelumo (ACB Lagos)
The first leg of the clash of the brothers was played in Lagos and it ended goalless. The return leg two weeks later which was played at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna also ended goalless. Allan Hawks-tutored IICC appeared to be the better side that day but couldn’t score because of the water tight Rangers’ defence marshalled by Chairman Chukwu who ensured that Nnamdi Anyafo man marked the dangerous Odegbami through out the game. I remember the words of Earnest Okonkwo the legendary radio commentator “Nnamdi ‘the Policeman’ Anyafo effectively policed Segun ‘the mathematician’ Odegbami.”
Rangers International won the penalty shoot-out that ensued 4-2 to qualify for the final of the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup which they won after beating Canon Sportive of Yaounde Cameroon 5-1 on aggregate.
The first leg was played in Lagos and Rangers won 4-1 with goals from Christian Chukwu,Christian Madu (penalties) Alloy Atuegbu and Emeka Onyedika. Canon’s only goal was scored by Eugene Imbida who also scored the indomitable Lions equalizer against Italy at Espana ’82 World Cup.
The return leg in Yaounde ended 1-1. Eugene Oley Oley put Canon up in the first half while Ibeabuchi silenced the Cameroonians with a back breaking equalizer in the 2nd half.
That day, in Yaunde Cameroon, Enugu Rangers lifted the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup thereby becoming the second Nigeria club to do so after IICC which beat Zamalek of Egypt to emerge winners in 1976.
(C) Remigius Akinbinu.
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