Rangers vs Enyimba FC: Local league matches and matters arising

The drama that played out between Rangers International FC and Enyimba FC last Sunday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu is still generating reactions; TOPE SUNDAY writes.

The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) is home to some of Africa’s most exhilarating football rivalries. Thus the fiercely contested clash between Rangers International FC and Enyimba FC was not unexpected.

Rangers International FC, based in Enugu and Enyimba FC, headquartered in Aba, are two of the most successful and popular football clubs in the country. Their encounters are more than just matches; they are cultural events that draw passionate support from their respective fan bases and attract national attention.

Rangers were founded in 1970 and has a storied history marked by several league titles and cup victories. The club’s legacy is deeply intertwined with the spirit of Igbo nationalism, emerging shortly after the Nigerian Civil War. Rangers are known for their resilience and are often referred to as the Flying Antelopes.

Enyimba FC, known as the People’s Elephant, was founded in 1976 and has since risen to become the country’s most decorated club. With multiple NPFL titles and two CAF Champions League victories, Enyimba has cemented its place not just in Nigerian football history, but also on the continental stage.

Clash of the titans

The current NPFL season has seen both clubs in strong form, with Rangers and Enyimba vying for top positions on the league table. Matches between these two giants are always high-stakes, with both teams boasting skilled players and strategic prowess.
The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) match between Rangers International FC and Enyimba FC last weekend ended in chaos and was ultimately abandoned due to a controversial late penalty decision. Held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu, the Week 35 fixture was crucial as it could have significantly influenced the title race, with Rangers leading the league by two points over Enyimba.
The match remained goalless through regular time, but in the seventh minute of added time, the referee awarded a penalty to Rangers for a foul in the box. Enyimba players protested the decision vehemently, which led to a further escalation when fans invaded the pitch. This prompted Enyimba players to walk off the field, and despite efforts to resume the match, it was abandoned.

NPFL wields a big stick

Consequent upon the outcome, the board of the NPFL has sanctioned Enyimba FC with forfeiture of three points and goals for refusing to conclude the match against Enugu Rangers on Sunday.

In a letter addressed to Enyimba, the NPFL said the club’s action “goes against the principles of fair play, sportsmanship, and the league rules and is capable of bringing the game to disrepute.”
The team was also penalised N10 million for failing to ensure the proper conduct of its players, disrupting the NPFL live broadcast, and causing the disruption and discontinuation of the match.

Three Enyimba players — Eze Ekwutoziam, Chibuike Nwaiwu and Akanni Elijah — are under investigation for further sanctions.
“An order forfeiting three points and three goals in favour of your opponent refusing to allow the penalty awarded in favour of your opponents to be taken, thereby disrupting the match and bringing the game to disrepute,” the letter read in part.

It added, “An order for Enyimba to identify and produce for further investigation and appropriate sanctions, other players and officials complicit in the disruptive conducts (particularly against the match officials) that led to a discontinuation of the game, in addition to the following identified players; Eze Ekwutoziam (Jersey No.6), Chibuike Nwaiwu (Jersey No.27), and Akanni Elijah (Jersey No.10).”
Similarly, NPFL charged Rangers with “over-ticketing, which led to overcrowding” and failing to provide adequate security and crowd control measures during the match. The team got a cumulative N5 million fine for all the breaches incurred.


For football enthusiasts, the scenario that played out between the two respected football clubs in the East and Nigeria as a whole did not portray the league right, and a pointer to the fact that the winner-takes mentality is very much ingrained in the minds of their supporters.

Reacting, Abraham Kelechi, said the singular act displayed by the Enyimba players depicts that the Nigerian local league still has a very long way to go.

“Enyimba players said they were no longer playing and walked off. The Nigerian league still has a long way to go. Na so Chelsea or Manchester United dey do?
Another football lover, Akin David, said “even if it’s not a penalty that doesn’t warrant that behaviour from Enyimba fans.”

Also speaking, an Abuja resident, Wilson Alfred, blamed the officiating referee for the drama that played between the Rangers FC and Enyimba FC, saying that the development did not portray the Nigerian League very well.
Alfred, who noted that the last ‘error’ from the referee had drawn the league backwards, recalled that the crowd that watched the march “is a testament that Nigerians are ready to give the local league the desired support.”

He said, “The officiating was very poor. Our local league should be competing with other international leagues in the world. But why is our own still at the infancy level? The idea of winning at all costs is not helpful to our league.

“What happened at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu last Saturday was a dent to the image and the acceptability of our local league. Why the penalty in the first place? Why should Rangers FC win at home at all costs?

“But despite the noticed error, why did Enyimba players walk off the pitch? These are some of the issues that should be addressed if we want our league to attract international patronage.”

But Emeka Philip on his part commended Nigerians for trooping out to watch the march, saying, “I am personally happy that we are gradually aligning with our own! It’s no longer about foreign clubs. This should dominate our minds to build capacity at home. Nice one.”

Corroborating Philip, Genesis Nosa said, “I love this move; let’s promote our local League to the international level. God bless the Rangers and Enyimba team and the fans. Other states have to follow this path.”

Way forward

Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders in Nigerian football. Improved governance, better financial management, and investment in infrastructure are critical. Additionally, fostering a more sustainable league model that prioritizes player development and retention will be key to revitalising the NPFL.

The rivalry between Rangers and Enyimba showcases the potential of Nigerian football – the passion, talent, and drama that can captivate fans. However, realizing this potential on a broader scale will depend on addressing the systemic issues that have long plagued the NPFL.

The Rangers FC vs. Enyimba FC rivalry is a beacon of what Nigerian football can offer. While the challenges are significant, the opportunities for growth and development are equally immense. By focusing on sustainable improvements and leveraging the passion of its fan base, the NPFL can aspire to not only reclaim its former glory but also reach new heights in African football.