The Rangers In Us All, By James Eze

The Rangers In Us All, By James Eze

By James Eze | Op-Ed Contributor on October 6, 2016
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A selfie by James Eze taken at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu as the Rangers played on Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rangers is to the Igbo what Barcelona is to the Catalan. And there’s probably no better way to look at it than this. Except that this season, Rangers has closed the gap by playing exceptional football that is not only pleasing on the eye but intensely focused on results. Pray, is Rangers the Nigerian Barcelona? Never mind. Anyway, that’s why they are on the verge of lifting the Nigerian Premiership League trophy in the next few minutes after 32 long years. (This article was written on Sunday, October 2, 2016. The Rangers did lift the premiership championship title).

And that’s how come that I’m here in the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu to witness history. Yes. Win or lose, this is history to me. The last time Rangers lifted the cup, I was a mere boy. So, I’m here to witness history that was 32 years in coming. And it feels so good. I wore a red cap (Rangers colour) to show my support for this great club.

Well, the pay off of FC Barcelona is “More than a Club.” To any true Igbo who is aware of our rugged history, Rangers is actually more than a club. True, there are many great football clubs in Igboland but Rangers is special. And this is why…

The Rangers in the final match of the Nigerian premiership on Sunday, October 2, 2016 | James Eze
The Rangers in the final match of the Nigerian premiership on Sunday, October 2, 2016 | James Eze

Rising from the ruins of the Biafran War, bruised battered but unbowed, the Igbo needed a fresh symbol, a rallying point, a new proof that their irrepressible spirit which dazzled the world during the war did not flicker out with the dying embers of Biafra. So, in a sense, Rangers became the metaphorical battleaxe of the Igbo. Animated by all the genius and vitality that the war could not kill, the club went on an amazing winning spree in Nigeria and on the continent and added “International” to its name. It was a period of invincibility anchored on beautiful football that felt like the touch of good poetry. But like everything else, it came to an end.

Truth be told, to the immediate post war Igbo, Rangers was truly more than a club. It was the new religion. It was a reflection of the Igbo creativity, the Igbo aesthetic, the Igbo drive for excellence and the Igbo philosophy of strength in number. Nothing else embodies the deep philosophies of the Igbo like onye kwe chi ya ekwe, onye aghana nwanne ya and of course nzogbu-nzogbu (the war song which turns the blood warm in the veins of the Igbo youth) like Rangers International. Nothing. Rangers is our pride and glory, our war shield and an incredible source of entertainment.

I don’t know how true it might be but some people have drawn comparisons between the tragic decline in Igbo values and consciousness with the decline in the fortune of Rangers in the past 32 years. True or not, 32 years is indeed a long time for a club to wait for a rebirth and even longer for a people to rediscover their winning touch. The question now is, will this imminent Rangers victory ignite the long awaited search for Igbo renaissance? Although there have been echoes and rainbows signifying that possibility but it remains to be seen.

Be that as it may, I’m delirious with happiness to be here among my people, like a tiny speck in this large crowd of equally delirious fans who look like me, who talk like me and who share the same sense of history with me. And with two goals already in the El-Kanemi net at halftime, I’m not just a witness to history but a winner with my people.

And to show how happy we are with the Barca-like display of Rangers, we are doing rounds upon rounds of Mexican wave! And I’m loving it all. Next, the victory dance. I can’t wait!

Up Rangers!

James Eze is a writer and senior special advisor to the governor of Anambra State on media. He can be reached by email HERE

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 

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