NPFL: Enugu Rangers return to Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium

Enugu Rangers are set to finally return to their home ground, the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, for the remainder of the 2023/24 season.

The Flying Antelopes have been playing their home matches away in Akwa since 2022, due to the renovation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, which had become deplorable.

This forced Enugu Rangers to adopt the Akwa City Stadium as their home ground for matches in the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL).

The club’s return to their original home stadium, which is christened The Cathedral, comes just in time for their big clash against old rivals Shooting Stars on December 28.

Both teams are ninth and 10th, respectively, on the table with 19 points apiece after 14 rounds of matches in the Nigerian topflight, which increases the stakes for their upcoming league clash.

Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium
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Free Gate for fans as Enugu Rangers return to Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium

Meanwhile, the Governor of Enugu State, Dr Peter Mbah, has facilitated free gates for Enugu Rangers’ fans as the club returns to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.

This was confirmed by the CEO of Enugu Rangers, Barrister Amobi Ezeaku, when he addressed the media on Friday, December 22.

Ezeaku said the club had intended to sell tickets to its fans for the game against Shooting Stars, but the Governor has decided to take up the cost for the supporters to watch the game for free.

“We had agreed at the management level to sell tickets for the match but our sports-loving governor of Enugu state, Dr. Peter Mbah, said he was going to pay for the tickets for our fans who will come out on December 28, 2023, to watch and cheer us to victory against 3SC of Ibadan,” he said.

“In other words, the gates would be thrown open at the behest of Dr. Peter Mbah just for the game of December 28. Our governor said that if our fans had patiently waited for our return for more than two years, Rangers should at the least, give them the opening match to watch for free,” said the target-driven Rangers boss.”

The Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium has been undergoing renovation in the last two years after it was deemed unfit to host NPFL games. The rehabilitation of the ground started under the administration of the past Governor of Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who invested N185 million in the project.

NPFL – Fidelis Ilechukwu aims to revive Enugu Rangers

Governor Mbah, upon assuming office, promised to see to it that the project was completed for Enugu Rangers to return to their home ground and has now honoured his promise.

The Flying Antelopes have won the Nigerian league seven times but have failed to lift the title since their last triumph in 2016. Rangers manager Fidelis Ilechukwu is, however, confident of returning them to their heavyweight status.

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“We are doing all we need to do to ensure we take Rangers back to where it rightly belongs, which is the top,” Ilechukwu said at the start of the season.

“Winning the league and doing creditably well on the continent is a target I have set for myself and the players. It is achievable with all the support we are getting from the government and management.”

With the club moving back to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, it should give them the needed boost for the remainder of the 2023/24 season.

Enugu Rangers are currently 10 points behind league leaders Remo Stars but they have a game in hand after last week’s fixture against Rivers United was postponed.

Ilechukwu’s side could, therefore, narrow the gap to the top to just seven points if they win their outstanding game. They will, however, need to massively improve on their form, having won just once in their last seven matches in the NPFL.

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.