•History of a people
The 1971 Amachree Cup Competition
Okey Anyichie, in his book, Football in Nigeria, the Coal City Connection (page 54-58), wrote: “The 1971 Amachree Cup Competition started on the 1st of March 1971 at the City stadium, Onikan, Lagos, with seventeen football clubs participating. The opening match was between Vasco Dagama FC of Enugu and ACB FC in Lagos. ACB defeated Vasco Dagama 4 goals to 3.”
“In modern football it is not supposed to happen that a team leading by three goals should in the end lose. But it did happen yesterday at the Lagos City stadium when Vasco Dagama after being 3 goals ahead up till the beginning of the second half let ACB, a Lagos 2nd Division side, push them out of the final stages of the Amachree competition” (See Daily Times, 2/03/1971).
“After Vasco Dagama fell by the way side in the competition, Rangers Football Club, another side from Enugu, held on courageously. It would have been a disaster if the two sides fielded by Enugu had fallen by the wayside in the competition.
“Rangers Football Club of Enugu began the campaign in the second Amachree cup competition against WNDC Football Club, one of the oldest clubs in Ibadan, capital of the Western Region. WNDC was one of Ibadan clubs that came into existence in the 1950s, and Football teams from that ancient city of Ibadan had won the Challenge Cup a record of nine times from 1945 to date. WNDC, according to Chief Lekan Salami, won the Ibadan city Division One League soccer competition in an unbroken period spanning from 1960 to 1972. With all these in their favor, WNDC (which later became IICC and SSC) faced the one year old Rangers Football Club of Enugu on March 3, 1971. The encounter began with Chukwuma Igweonwu scoring two goals while Mathias Obianika scored one goal to level the scored to three. WNDC of Ibadan scored two to leave the full time score at 3-2 in favor of Rangers.
“The next football club to be eliminated by Rangers was ACB Football Club of Lagos, the club that kicked out Vasco Dagama. Will ACB dismiss the two football clubs from Enugu? No! Rangers FC was in no mood to compromise victory with any team not even a Lagos side playing on their own ground.
But that victory over the Lagos side by Rangers nearly took the shape of quicksands. Rangers FC was leading 3-0, when ACB leveled up to 3-3. It was during the extra time that Dominic Nwobodo scored the only goal that made a lot of difference which brought the score to 4-3 in favor of Rangers. That was how Rangers shot into the semi-final of the encounter!
“The next opponent was the Army Football Club of Lagos reputed to be the most expensively equipped soccer outfit in Nigeria then. Besides being well equipped, the club paraded a bunch of football stars like Mohammed Lawal, Inua Rigogo who kept the goal for Nigeria for many years, Paul Hamilton, Sam Opone, Kenneth Olayombo and Segun Oladimeji.
“Nigerian Army, hot favorites to win the Amachree Cup square up to Rangers of Enugu in the second semi-final of the contest at the City Stadium, Onika afternoon. Everything pointed to a victory for Army authority in the final on Monday. But the preview was flexible enough to observe that “the men from Enugu cannot be expected to be mere stepping stones. They intend to fight every inch and win, and they have as much material for the job as the Army” (See Daily Times, 13/03/ 1971).
The Daily Times observation turned out to be right. Rangers, with their unique material for victory, defied all predictions to overwhelm Army Football Club of Lagos by 2-1. It was a great victory which some football analysts called ‘the final before the finals’ of the competition.
After that herculean achievement, the next opponent was the Ports Authority Football Club of Lagos – the first winners of the Nigerian Challenge Cup competition in 1945 when it began. In that first year of the competition, Ports Authority was known as Marine, and the Lagos Football team beat a fellow Lagos club, the Corinthian Football Club, by a lone goal to win the Challenge Cup. And so this competition saw the Enugu side squaring up to Ports Authority parading great ball jugglers like Bobo Mordi, Tunde Agbaniko, Edet, Ohiri and Dangerman Okonji.
The least match of this 1971 Amachree Cup competition between Rangers and Ports Authority was played on Monday 15 March 1971 at the Lagos City Stadium Onikan, Lagos. Before the capacity crowd of football fans at that local ‘Wembley’, Rangers Football Club of Enugu made no mistake about victory. They pumped in three goals into the Ports Authority’s net without giving the marine boys any chance whatsoever. The Daily Times Newspaper report of that epic 1971 Amachree Cup final clash found a hero in Rangers’ Kenneth Abana with the caption:
Abana is the hero : 3-0
Rangers of Enugu will carry Nigeria’s Challenge in the Club’s Championship this year, thanks to an explosive display by Abana, the lad who originally came as a team substitute. Six-footer Abana who got this chance when Nwobodo was injured in the match against WNDC of Ibadan, had a hand in all Rangers three goals (he scored one himself- against Port Lagos, in the Amachree Cup final at Lagos City Stadium yesterday 15th March 1971. It was Abana, a clever dribbler and as deadly as a snake who broke the even exchange in the 21st minute with a fantastic dribbling run through three defender before being pushed off the ball by a ports defender for referee Woghiren from Mid-West State to award a penalty. Skipper Godwin Achebe whose reflexes were razor sharp gave Agbaniko the goal-keeper of Ports Authority no chance from the spot.”
Although the Times newspaper report flattered Kenneth Abana, all members of the Rangers Football squad in the 1971 Amachree cup final were indeed heroes.