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Rangers FC is the only club in Nigeria currently with the full compliments of in-house professionals – An interview with Amobi Ezeaku, GM, Rangers
Amobi Ezeaku, Esq.; GM/CEO, Rangers FC

Rangers FC is the only club in Nigeria currently with the full compliments of in-house professionals – An interview with Amobi Ezeaku, GM, Rangers


Barr. Amobi Ezeaku, a consummate sports lawyer with the UEFA certificate in Football Management and the FIFA Master is the General Manager and CEO of Rangers International Football Club of Enugu. In this exclusive interview with Pacesetter, he bares his thoughts on his achievements so far, the future of Rangers FC, how to better polish the NPFL and lots more. Dateline: December 18, 2023.

Tell us about yourself. Before you became the General Manager of Rangers Football Club, what have you been up to?


Before now, I’ve been in football all my life, I was at the Nigerian Football Federation for one year, at the Legal Department. Then I came to Rangers as the Team Manager, but before then I was the legal advisor to the Nigerian Players Union. I came to Rangers in 2016, we won the league together in 2016 after 32 years and in 2018 we won the Federation Cup, then it was the AITEO Cup after 35 years. In 2021, I resigned and travelled for some courses, the UEFA certificate in Football Management and the FIFA Master. Sometime in August, His Excellency Dr. Peter Mbah invited me back to become the General Manager of Rangers. From childhood I’ve been a lover of the Game, playing football, I’ve been a captain in the University, I played in the NUGA and the West Africa University games, and I was a captain of the NYSC National Team, Abuja. I also played a couple of games against the Super Eagles Home Based Team.

What were things like in the football club when you took over?

As the Team Manager, when I came for my first missionary journey, we met a team with a very low mentality. Good players who needed to be encouraged, supported and reminded that they can be the best and win the league. When I came back I saw a team that needed more professionalism and guidance on the business and commercial aspects of football. So, we took it up from there, we went ahead to get jersey sponsorship deals, upgrade our website, improve our social media appearance and other strategic plans we set out. We have been able to get all these with the support of the state government .We hope to continue to push, to send the football club to the greater heights we want it to reach because we’re hoping to really compete among the comity of clubs not just in Africa but around the world. 


We have made achievements. You can see the renovation going on. Some of the players who were not properly treated in the past we had to call them back for proper medical care. We don’t think it’s time to begin to count all the successes. We think that in humility we will continue to strive to make Rangers FC a club of everyone’s dream. Beyond all these we understand the need for certain professional personnels to render services and be involved in the activities of rangers, the nutritionists, the psychologists, the physiotherapists. Rangers is the only club in Nigeria currently with the full compliments of in-house professionals like these. We approach whatever we do with all sense of leadership and humility from every quarter because we’re here holding this club in trust for the teeming followers of Rangers especially Ndi Igbo. On social media the fans are excited that Rangers FC now has a physical store where they can buy their jerseys and other merchandise, they’re happy that there’s an email where they can send in their opinions, they’re happy they can reach out to this management, they’re happy that we have an Innovation Hub where people who are innovative can present whatever they have invented, for instance, an updated jersey for 2025 or an upgraded app for Rangers to display at the Innovation Hub. There’s the Hall of Fame as well, we want to go back and recount the history of this club in photos not just in this office but also at the camp of the players and on every property owned by Rangers. We want to tell these stories because when you tell these stories, it makes the club. It is these stories that make big clubs, the clubs we love in Europe, Asia, Africa, everywhere in the world

You just made an audacious claim of Rangers being the only club in Nigeria that has a mixture of these professional personnels. You are sure of this? 

Yes, Rangers is the only club in Nigeria that has a full-time, in-house nutritionist, a psychologist, physiotherapist that execute their jobs efficiently and conduct research to foster and develop the club and the games. Some of these things are the road map towards true professionalism, these things are not taken for granted. We’ve gone on games where it took the intervention of our team to save the opponent’s player because we travel with our oxygen tank every time. We always invite people to come and verify, see for themselves, find out what is happening and offer their suggestions. We’ve always said that the club belongs to everyone.

The last time Rangers FC won the Nigeria Premier League was years ago in the 2015/2016 season and AITEO Cup in 2018. With Rangers’ position on the NPFL table, what do you foresee? 


Well, the NPFL is a marathon, right now as we speak we’re occupying the lead table and we’re just few points away from those up there. I foresee an interesting season, a season that’ll end in a dramatic fashion. I foresee a Rangers that will compete till the end, the second round of the league is always the business round of the league, our players are getting to know themselves, they are getting to understand the playing patterns, the combination, the philosophy, so, we are not meant to be left out in the competition. I’m a believer in the pure philosophy of football, they call us the ‘purist’ and that’s what I believe in. I believe that players and coaches should be allowed to enjoy themselves. I let the coach, Coach Ilechukwu to try whatever he wants, you take risks in Football and sometimes it works, some other times it doesn’t. If it works you celebrate, if it doesn’t work we have to stick together. At times, when we lose, our fans say a lot of negative things but when we win, they begin to celebrate and they forget we see some of the things they write and we’re human beings, this can affect players if they don’t have a strong mentality. They write these things because they love the club but then they should also support in a positive way and not to say negative things about players because they’re also human beings. 

Are there Rangers FC exports to the national team or in other international clubs?

Yeah, we’ve had players in the past that went to the National Team. We’ve also had players who currently play abroad a few days ago, two of them visited – Chisom Egbuchula who plays in China and Obinna Nwobodo who plays in Cincinnati in America. We’ve had players like Ibrahim Olawoyin who plays in Turkey now, they were all in the National Team. In May.2016, we had players like Bobby Clement, Chibuzor Madu, they were all there in the National Team. In 2018 and 2019, we had Ugwuoke Kenechukwu, Agụ Kenechukwu and Christian Nnaji, who is now in Europe. Also, Eziekwe Chinonso, they were all in the National Team. So, Rangers is a team known for producing boys who go all out to play in the National Team. It didn’t just start with this current season. I know that soon, our players will get invites to the National Team. 


Is there an academy? How do you scout for new blood to ensure the longevity of the club?

Yeah, part of our strategic plan is to have the Under 13 to Under 17 Academy and then the women’s team. We were meant to have announced the establishment of the women’s team for 2023 but then what is delaying it is that the person to oversee this project is not yet in the country. We have a plan, just like what happens in Barcelona, our under-13 will be children who go to school, our under 14, 15, 16 and 17 will be children as well who also go to school so that we can monitor their progress, academic wise and sporting wise. Understand also that these things don’t happen immediately, you have to nurture this, and it’s like a nursery. When you scout a player who is 15, you will know that in three years the player is ripe to sign a professional contract without the guardian and then begin to instil in the player the mentality of the club. So, yes, we believe in the power of having academies for the sake of sustainability. These plans are contained in the strategic plan we announced three months ago.

How are you looking to foster the “Rangers spirit” in the upcoming generation who do not know what the ‘Never Say Die’ mantra represents?

Education is key to whatever we want to do. Education is not only within the four walls of the school, Education is on the street, Education is in our churches, Education is in our mosques, everywhere. We’ve had times we went to radio stations, TV channels to talk about the Never Say Die spirit of Rangers. We’ve had one on one conversations with children on the street to talk about Rangers. And now we’re coming back to the cathedral. Soon, the kids’ jerseys will be available, they will wear the jerseys, and they will understand what the badge means. We want an average child on the streets to comfortably say: yes, I know, he or she knows that Rangers was formed in 1970. He or she knows that Rangers won the league last time in 2016, and have won the league seven times, to talk about the history of this club. I’ve spoken about Rangers everywhere I’ve gone to in the world. My first presentation in the UK, in Leicester was about Rangers. Rangers is the truest identity of our race. Because after the war, Rangers came to bring the people together and we started playing football, we started enjoying ourselves. And I really encourage everyone to read about the history of this club, to be happy when you read about how we played in the African Cup in the 70s, to be happy to read about the Madam Rangers saga in the airport in Egypt, where the immigration authorities refused her entry saying she was a woman and she insisted she must go in, that it never mattered. She eventually went in. That’s why when you talk about Rangers, you get emotional, you talk about those who have died; the Ex-Rangers. The people who work for this club, currently they work because of the passion they have for the club. That’s why when you see, we adore Christian Chukwu, Emma Okala, and we literally worship them because we see them as gods. That is Rangers for you, it’s the only club in Nigeria that has never gone on relegation.

Rangers signed a deal with Afrinvest, how much has that helped, and what else is the management doing to get more and bigger deals like that? 

Yeah, commercialization is part of what we want to really embrace. Afrinvest, we are grateful they’ve come on-board and we are talking to a lot of other organizations to also make them our partners, because we believe that when we have these partners, when we have these sponsors, we reduce the burden on the state government. We are also able to cater for certain needs of the players of the club, to educate the coaches more, to send our technical officials on more courses with the resources coming from sponsors and in return, we give the sponsors value for their money. Afrinvest for instance, we’ve given them so much visibility within a short time and they can attest to that. And the visibility continues because everywhere Rangers play, they display Afrinvest around Nigeria. We want other corporate entities to come on board, airlines, banks, insurance companies, mining companies, just come. We are open to collaboration, we are open to partnership. We believe that this partnership will foster stronger institutions for us and the FIFA rule approves about six locations where you can advertise on your jersey. These locations are available. We invite these entities to come and talk with us. You go to Europe, you find that the jerseys are like designs, you have companies everywhere; on the shorts, on the socks, on the sleeve, on the back, everywhere. That’s what we want to be and that’s the club we will be.

Surely you must have enjoyed your Governor’s support. How would Rangers FC add to his vision of growing Enugu’s economy from $4.4bn to $30bn within the next 4-8 years? 

Football is big business, the transfer market in football is a big market on its own, Rangers is not left out. We are very active on the FIFA transfer matching system and on the transfer market. We are talking with top agents, top clubs in Europe and we believe that whatever activity or action we conduct on the transfer market will positively affect the Governor’s vision of increasing our GDP. We have seen big transfers but also in Rangers we understand the transfer market a lot to think long term. So, if we transfer a player for free, tomorrow with a 30 to 40 percent future sale clause, it means that if this player is transferred subsequently for maybe 90 million pounds, 30 to 40 percent of it comes to the state government and that is a lot. We believe that is why we are doing the things we are doing, trying to make sure we have a proper foundation for the marketing aspect of football. We can’t talk about being a commercially viable club without having a proper structure, proper office, proper male team, proper women team, proper physio, proper gym and all the things that top football clubs enjoy. That’s why we are taking the club licensing seriously. Club licensing entails that the infrastructure, personnel, administrative, financials are well taken care of and yeah, we announced before that at the end of this season we will publish our audited account and have our annual general meeting, the first if its kind in the history of our football. We do these things because we are talking with clubs, potential investors, clubs who would want to come to Africa to seek for transfer of the rights of our players to them. What we are doing will impact positively on the growth of the GDP from 4.4 billion to 30 billion, we truly believe and I know the governor believes in that vision. The sports sector has a lot to do with the growth of any nation’s economy. If you go to Barcelona or Ajax Amsterdam, you will see and understand what sport has done for them. 

In what ways can we get NPFL to become as enticing to Nigerians as the EPL or other leagues? 

First, the fans should come to the stadium. 

(Cuts in) But that’s part of the problem. People complain about fights breaking out in our stadiums 

No, it’s a narrative, people just cook up these stories and tell. Have we fought in Enugu before? No. So, the fans should come to the stadium and see for themselves. When people say they fight in the league in Nigeria, they fight everywhere. I did the FIFA Masters, I did the history of football. I can tell you they fight everywhere. The big derbies for instance, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, you go to Turkey, they fight everywhere but then we try to push out the negatives from our league. Come to the stadium and watch the game. In 2016 we used to have a stadium filled to the brim and people were enjoying Mexican waves and singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Enugu Rangers…” How many people spoke about it? So, we have to project the positives from our league. Now, our leagues are on TV. First thing first, come to the stadium and see, some of the stories people are selling never happened. They say you go to the stadium and there’s a fight, there’s no fight, fans shout on top of their voices, they are passionate about this game and they pour water into the pitch. Everywhere in Europe, you see fans throwing balloons, throwing bananas into the pitch, everywhere in Europe, everywhere in Asia, so if it happens in Nigeria, it becomes different or what? I agree that we have a lot of work to do. I also want to tell you that we overblow this negativity, we broaden the concept of how bad our league is. It’s a thing of narrative. In Europe last week a player collapsed and was taken off, if it happens in Nigeria and a player was taken off from the pitch, the narratives will change. I have followed lots of comments on the internet. I can tell you for free, it is as if people pray for negativity. It’s for us to tell the positive from our league, again our league officiating is improving, we can see what the NFF is doing, when a referee is found wanting, the referee is asked to step aside, that’s a step towards making our league perfect, we can also see what most clubs are doing with respect to welfare of players, sanctity of contract, respect for contract, it’s a thing and has to be applauded. I think that the glamour that people seek for in Europe is also here. Some of the players who glamourize European football started here, Ahmed Musa played for Kano Pillars, Obinna Nwobodo marked out Lionel Messi few months ago in America, and he played for Rangers.

What more should be expected from you? 

Well, everything we announced in our strategic plan, both the short term goals, medium term and the long term goals should be expected. One thing going for us is that we are enjoying the full support of the state government, in fact particularly the governor of the state, every match that ends he sends a message. It speaks a lot about what lies ahead. Expect that we would try as much as we can to fully commercialise this brand, to professionalise this brand, to make people so eager and to put them in the anticipatory mode to always come to watch the Rangers game. The first thing on our strategic plan is commercial development. After that you have sporting excellence. When we fully commercialise and can sustain ourselves and support what the government is bringing on board then we can compete with the top clubs in Africa. Expect that in the future we will have a viable under 13 to under 17 team. We will have our women football team competing in the top flight in Africa and we will have a very solid supporters club, a supporters club that will be the envy of everyone, a supporters club that will have their flags flying around stadium in Enugu and around all the stadia in Africa, a supporters club that can as well be self sustainable. We want to play night games, Enugu people love night games, and we want to bring night games back to them.


Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.

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