Former players of Rangers International FC of Enugu have paid glowing tributes to some of their colleagues who died recently.
The Rangers greats, including the foundation members, prayed for the repose of the souls of the departed when they had a reunion organised for them by an enthusiast, Francis Ebenebe in Awka.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some of the late former Rangers players remembered were Kenneth Ilodigwe a,k,a “Onye Egwu’’ and Kelechi Emetole popularly called Caterpillar.
Others were Christian Madu and Shedrack Ajaero who had yet to be buried.
Harrison Okagbue, a former Cranes of Uganda coach, who urged the observance of moment of silence and prayer for the departed, said it was a reality that must come face to face with everyone someday.
Mr. Okagbue, who joined the club at formation in 1970, said it sparked painful memories as most of them died after many years neglect.
He noted that their deaths would have come later if they were taken better care of in the light of how they used their youthfulness to make people happy.
Arthur Ebunam, the Chairman of Ex-Rangers Association in Anambra, said they were not getting what they deserved in the Nigerian society.
Mr. Ebunam said Rangers and some other clubs were agents of national re-integration and provided soothing effect in the immediate post war Nigeria.
“We are the heroes of national re-integration because some of us were recruited from the Biafran Army to player for Rangers which was what the Old East Central Region had.
“We were the ones who convinced the people that Jos was safe, that Maiduguri was safe, that Ibadan, Lagos other parts of the country were safe at that time.
“It is not too much to make us peace ambassadors but no government remembers us except that of Anambra; it is sad that our members are dying without attention,’’ he said.
Also, Francis Nwosu lauded the Enugu-based team for keeping the spirit as it did not drop from the elite division of the Nigeria league since it was formed.
Mr. Nwosu popularly called “German Wall’’ called for assistance to the families of their departed colleagues, while urging that the living veterans should be supported.
On the plight of the former football stars, Mr. Ebenebe, a retired Army General, called on individuals and business organisations to help them lead better lives as they played when the game was not rewarding but largely entertaining.
“I have been a fan of Rangers since the 1970s, I remember how they made us happy,” he said.
“But because the news about them is mainly of death these days, I decided to call them together to celebrate them while they are alive.
“I want government to do more for them; companies can make them brand ambassadors and individuals can also take care of those who are sick or in need.”
Veterans at the event include Kenneth Abana, Harrison Mecha, Patrick Iluno, Francis Nwosu, Paul Obiakor, Nestor Ufoeze and Mike Ogbodudu.
Others are Ifeanyi Mazeli, Ikechukwu Emele, Ifeanyi Onyedika, Ifeanyi Ezeji, Emeka Onwuekwe, Tony Iregbu, Emeka Nwobodo, Chudi Nnona, and Festus Agu.