By Norbert Okolie
It’s no longer news that the ‘Flying Antelopes’, Rangers International F.C failed in its bid to be crowned the inaugural champions of the NPFL/DMF Preseason Super Cup Tournament 2022 thereby losing an opportunity of becoming one hundred million Naira richer which is the prize money attached to the tournament’ trophy.
Despite enormous effort put in place by the management of the seven-time Nigeria League champions coupled with the technical inputs from the coach Abdul Maikaba led crew, the players failed to deliver when it mattered most.
With two goals scored and four conceded in two-hundred-and-seventy minutes of football in both Ikenne and Lagos that amounted to two losses and one drawn game to place last on the log was not what management, coaching crew, and supporters of the Enugu side expected in the build-up to the 2022/2023 football season.
A little peep into preparations for the coming season, including the Dozy Mmobuosi Foundation sponsored NPFL/DMF preseason Super Cup Tournament 2022, management sought and got approval from the government of Enugu state under H.E, Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (CON) for a close camping exercise which saw a delegation of over seventy personnel that had players, coaches, backroom staff, and other officials of the club storm Awka for nine days to strategize.
However, the shocking results from the preseason tournament should serve as a wake-up call for both management, coaches, players, and all staff saddled with one task or the other as December 18, 2022, speculated date for the start of the 2022/2023 NPFL season is around the corner.
The philosophy and ideology of the club must be internalized by all concerned in the push for the NPFL title, Aiteo cup, and any other championship that the club would be participating in the coming season to serve as a send-forth gift for our sports-loving governor, H.E Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (CON).
A visibly disturbed Administrative Secretary of Rangers, Barrister Ferdinand Ugwuarua, could not place his hands on what went wrong with the club’s aspirations at the concluded preseason tournament despite all that was put in place for success which included but not limited to nine-day close camping, getting 95% of players requested by the coaching crew, provision of motivational incentives, and many other things that should have translated to a victory at the tournament.
“The results we came up with at the NPFL/DMF Preseason Super Cup 2022 were not what we had worked or planned for from the management angle and it is a call for great concern as we gear up for the coming football season”,
“I am sure that none of the teams that were at the preseason tourney got the kind of preparation we had before coming to Lagos but our players just did not come to the party when it mattered most. Almost all the players requested by the coaching crew to beef up the squad were gotten and I am at a loss where we got it wrong”,
“However, let’s take it that this happened for a purpose and we shall rectify it before the start of the regular season,” stated the astute administrator.
Coach Abdul Maikaba, who was worried at the turn of events at the preseason tourney took solace in the fact that the tournament was an eye-opener for him and his assistants as we advance stressing.
“The result of our matches in the concluded preseason tournament was not what we actually prepared for. We were not lucky but this does happen in some instances I must say that we are not happy. However, I am positive going forward as this tournament has helped us to notice the lapses in the team and we have to work on it before the start of the new season”,
“The management did a lot to motivate the team coming into this tournament and I hope they keep the motivation level high as we work around fixing the noticed lapses in the squad.”
“We are hopefully going to reinforce the team, especially in the attacking department but getting one is not that easy. We need a striker that can score a minimum of ten goals a season. Let me also say that winning a preseason tournament does not depict what will happen in the league properly”,
“Cases abound of preseason champions getting relegated at the end of the season but this is not an excuse for our poor performance at the preseason tournament. We shall bounce back to our respectful best when the season kicks off and hopefully, we shall have something to celebrate at the end of the season.”
On his part, skipper of the side, Uche John, who fought like a Trojan in the two matches he featured was pained that despite all the club’s management put in place for them, they failed to rise to the occasion when it mattered most stressing that it was a good omen for the side to work extra hard in its preparations for the coming season.
“What we saw here was not what we actually came here for. To a large extent, we were unlucky in this tournament. The management did all it can to ensure we were well motivated and we were really motivated but some tactical errors cost us games we should have won. We were also low on the ‘Rangers Spirit’ as you know, this club was formed on the blood of millions of youths that sacrificed their lives some fifty-six years back”,
“However, it is good that we experienced this now for us to get back on track and work harder for us to get back our grove. It will surely get better in the season proper,” he stated.
A staunch follower of the Nigerian Professional Football League and renowned sportswriter, George Akpayen, in his view of Rangers’ performances at the preseason tournament posited,
“The team Rangers paraded at the NPFL Dozy Mmobuosi Super Cup still need a little touch to make it an all-round side. Rangers to start with need to work on their game management and then featuring players outside of their natural roles can be counter-productive”.
“In their two games against 3SC and Bendel Insurance, the team failed to keep their lead. Against 3SC, their lead lasted 10 minutes and against Insurance, it was two minutes. It’s vital the technical crew help the players in this aspect before the season kicks off”,
“At the Super Cup, Rangers are the most technically gifted side despite their poor finish. I don’t think the coaches should dwell much on this as they are covered”,
“In my opinion, the coaches still have work to do. I see that they play a mix of high press, short passes, and at times wing play. Yes, it’s a good mix but do the coaches have the playing personnel to change plans in the heat of trailing as they did against Insurance when they resort to route-one football”,
“Reuben Bala isn’t the biggest of strikers when he came on and didn’t look like a good plan to go route one. Overall, I will say keep the team and strengthen in defensive midfield and striking roles”.
Going forward, it behooves all actors in the club to bring their best to the table to ensure that the realization of set targets for the coming season is achieved even when the big loss experienced at the NPFL/DMF preseason tournament, that was won by 3SC who defeated Enyimba International F.C, 3-2 in the championship game, can’t be equated, there is a big room to go back to the drawing board to re-rout the club’s way towards being celebrated as the NPFL champions of 2022/2023 NPFL season.