…Rangers international football club (5)
As opponents of Barcelona FC coined “No mercy for Messi”, so did the slogan, “Mehalla will see Wahala”, was chanted by fans of Rangers in 1975 when Mehalla FC of Egypt came to Enugu for a return match after defeating Rangers 3 – 1 in Cairo. Did Mehalla see wahala? Find out.
In 1975, just a year after emerging as the double Champions in Nigeria Challenge Cup and National League, Rangers International Football Club hit Africa Club Cup Competition with a killer instinct. In its first match against the Accra Great Olympics, March 1975, Rangers defeated the Ghana team 2 – 0 in Accra Ghana; with Nigerian player, Christian Madu, who played for the Ghanaians, harassing Rangers throughout the match.
Two weeks later, in Lagos, Rangers stamped their authority over the Ghanaians by defeating them 2 – 1 through Alex Nwosu and Kenneth Abana with the visitors’ only goal scored by Christian Madu. Of course, Rangers “conscripted” Madu from Accra Great Olympics after the Match in Lagos and he was not allowed to go back to Ghana. He joined Rangers after the Lagos second leg match!
In the second round match against Young Africans of Tanzania, played on May 10 at the National Stadium Lagos, Ernest Okonkwo, the legendary radio Commentator had this to say of the match: “This is unbelievable….I cannot believe that Rangers that out played and outscored Great Olympics of Ghana last month is finding it difficult to score this Tanzania team.”
The match ended goalless in Lagos. Rangers prepared for the return leg in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, by staying put in Lagos instead of flying back to Enugu. In the return leg, two weeks later, Rangers played 1 – 1 draw with their hosts in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania with ex-Nigeria Academic player, Alex Nwosu, scoring for Rangers. Thus, Rangers progressed on away goal advantage.
In the Quarter Finals, Rangers defeated Green Buffaloes of Zambia, a predominantly military team on 4 – 3 aggregate having drawn 2 – 2 in Lusaka, Zambia, earlier on September 14th 1975. Rangers FC equalizer after trailing 2 – 1 up to two minutes to go was so dramatic and unbelievable. “I collected a pass from my skipper and ran through the left flank ending on the corner flag and pulling the ball into the eighteen, which Stanley Okoronkwo nodded in for the equalizer”, said Francis Nwosu, the dogged Rangers left full back. In the second leg, in Lagos, Rangers came from behind after conceding an early goal to defeat the Zambians 2 – 1 and moved to the semi-finals against Mehalla F.C. of Egypt.
In the first leg of the semifinals, Rangers travelled to Cairo, Egypt, to confront Mehalla FC and the match was moved to the club’s home where they walloped Rangers 3 – 1. In that epoch match, only one woman was in the field: Mrs. Julie Alale. It was alleged that it was the presence of Madam Rangers that helped Rangers to score a goal. “The Mehalla FC Supporters were said to be fetish and had banned women from coming to the match. However, they could not stop Madam Rangers from entry into the field and that spoilt their charm” was the submission of Rangers Supporters Club member, the late Mr. Robinson Okpara, known as “Jagua nana”.
The truth, however, is that the Rangers officials, prior to the match, had virtually no knowledge about Mehalla FC. In that country, especially in that environment, women hardly mix up with men in public gathering. Secondly, Rangers greatest goalkeeper, Emma Okala, had developed some eye problem on the eve of the match. Ogidi Ibeabuchi was also said to have been slightly indisposed. The match ended in the tragic 3 – 1 whipping of Rangers. Whatever, Rangers lost the match 3-1 in Mehalla. Rangers returned to Enugu, pleaded with NFA to move the return leg to Enugu where they roasted Mehalla 3 – 0, and qualified for the finals.
Madam Rangers: Madam Rangers is Rangers and Rangers is Madam Rangers
Mrs. Julie Alale stands alone as the first nationally recognized female supporter of a major Nigerian football club. She deserves special mention in the history of Nigeria’s football. Mrs. Alale was flamboyant and notable everywhere she went with the club….That Mrs. Alale would be identified with the club was not by happenstance. The club’s history, closely associated with the Nigerian Civil War, mirrors Mrs. Alale’s involvement with Rangers.
She was the wife of Mr. Philip Alale, a trade unionist who was commissioned as a major in the Biafran Army before he was indicted for treason and executed. Mrs. Alale was then detained for a good part of the war…but her spirit endured. It was not surprising then that she was the only lady among the various persons who met to establish the club at the end of the war on January 29, 1970. She had endured in her personal challenges and the Rangers club represented that spirit of endurance.
Mrs. Alale was to serve as the club’s Welfare Officer. She travelled with the club all over Africa. Some of these trips were made to difficult places but she was always easily recognizable as “Madam Rangers” with her usual hat to match her outfit….
The most unforgettable of Mrs. Alale’s travels was to Cairo against Mehala in 1975. Women, at that time, were scarcely seen in public places without covering their face with the hijab, let alone in a stadium. The Egyptians would have none of Mrs. Alale’s intent to be at the stadium for the game. She was harassed and threatened but she insisted, and with the support of the Nigerian delegates, Madam Rangers stood shoulder high as the only lady among thousands of fans who packed the Cairo Stadium to watch Rangers confront Mehalla. It was a triumph of spirit and commitment. It was a spirit that saw her through the death of her husband, Philip, the detentions in Biafra, and then the challenge of the cultural police in Cairo. It was the spirit of Julie ‘Madam Rangers’ Alale!
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