A galaxy of former Nigerian stars gathered last weekend in Houston, USA to celebrate the convention of Ex-Enugu Rangers International Players Association (ERIPA). It was memorable as stars of yesteryear turned out in large numbers to celebrate the club and raise funds for the support of its members that have fallen on hard times. The stars included celebrated Nigerian international footballers and those from Nollywood. At the late night event, attendees stood silent for a minute to remember fallen international and former Ranger, Kelechi Emeteole, who died recently after a brief illness. The club had raised funds for Kelechi and is currently funding the treatment of Christian Madu who is hospitalised.
The fundraising included an auction of Eden Hazard’s shirt signed by Chelsea FC players. Michael Emenalo, now Technical Director at Chelsea FC and former player for Rangers International, donated the shirt. The fundraiser was highlighted by the speech of the Association’s Chairman, Donald “Stone” Igwebuike, and a major donation from its Board Chairman, Chief Benson “Eze Omeogo” Ejindu. Ejindu spoke of his fondness for the club and then invited ex-International Segun Odegbami to speak. Odegbami received applause when he spoke about the greatness of the club and its competitiveness. Several ex-Rangers listened attentively including Nnamdi Anyafo, Ike Ofoje, Sam Onyeaka, Emmanuel Merenini, Vincent Chika, Donald Igwebuike, Kenneth Boardman, Totty O. Totty, Charles Okoye, Tony Orji, Okey Ozor, Bob Ubanwa, Charles Onwuka, Humphrey Lee Agunwa, Azuka Jean Harbor, Goeffrey Madueke, and Okey Onwudiwe. Also in attendance were ex-Nigerian football Internationals Samson Siasia, Francis Moniedafe, David Adiele, Paul Okoku, and Judith Chime.
Before the late night event was a memorable time at Segun Odegbami’s room where friends shared memories. It was a wide-ranging conversation that involved Segun Odegbami, Francis Moniedafe, Samson Siasia, David Imonitie, Paul Okoku, and Charles Okoye. Imonitie spoke about old times and his fondness for discipline. Segun and Francis spoke about previous encounters with Rangers and recollected the epic 1978 challenge Cup run of Bendel Insurance when Francis Moniedafe’s team surprised both IICC and Rangers to win the cup. It was fun all around.
Nnamdi “Whasky” Anyafo, who was to earn the name “Policeman” after his performance against Odegbami at the historic 1977 Africa Cup Winners Cup semi final between Rangers and IICC, spoke about reasons why he left Rangers for the United States. Anyafo had been a budding a star and left just after being a member of the national team to the 1978 AFCON. Anyafo noted that he watched the likes of Odegbami and Amaesiemaka gain admission to universities and his father, a staunch believer in education, pressured him to leave football and further his education. Anyafo had been promised by top ranking Rangers’ officials that he will get into one of the national universities but he missed the entrance examination because of an international match. Despite his commitment to playing, the promises were not fulfilled. After a two-year wait, he went in to speak to a top official who responded “Kedu, ihe nwokem ah na enye mmadu nsogbu?” (Why is this man giving us trouble?). It was at this point, that he decided to take matters into his hands and seek admission abroad. That decision paid off. Anyafo did get his degree and played NCAA soccer as well.