●”Ghost Of Bendel Insurance” Strikes In Asaba
●As Kano Pillars Blew Historic Opportunity
40 years ago, precisely in 1978, Enugu Rangers Int’l FC otherwise known as the Coal City Flying Antelopes were trounced in the final of the prestigious Challenge Cup by Bendel Insurance FC of Benin. It was a shocking defeat. An upset if you like as Rangers had already been awarded the trophy on paper by bookmakers on account of their astonishing performance in that era coupled with the star studded squad they paraded.
The scoreline was famous. The defeat was equally popular as it went straight into record as one of the most memorable in the history of the competition especially the finals. Bendel Insurance coached by the indefatigable Alabi Aissen were the underdogs coming into the tie but they ended up carving a niche for themselves. The relatively unknown players became instant hits. Big stars were created and they shone brilliantly and straight into the national team, the Green Eagles after that epic encounter.
Here is the Insurance team line up on that historic day that beat Rangers 3-0 in 1978 FA Cup final :
Agwo Nnaji – David Adiele, Francis Moniedafe, Leotis Boateng, Kadiri Ikhana – Felix Agboinfo (cpt), George Omokaro – Christopher Ogu, Peter Egharevba, Henry Ogboe, and Rufus Ejele (65th Ebenezer Badger).
The 2018 Aiteo FA Cup has come and gone but it’s memory will linger for ages. Part of that memory is the flashback or throwback if you like of the ’78 final when Bendel Insurance went three goals up and everyone was hopeful that the Coal City Flying Antelopes will rise to the occasion with a great comeback magic to beat the minnows. But that dream and hope turned out a huge nightmare. Rangers loaded with Christian Chukwu and Emmanuel Okala among others got humiliated.
Enugu Rangers are champions of 2018 Aiteo Cup ….and deservedly so. They are now called comeback kings having come from a 0-3 trailing of Kano Pillars to pull a stunning 3-3 scoreline and victory via 3-2 penalty shootout.
For those who remembered the 3-0 spanking of Rangers by ruthless Bendel Insurance in 1978, they must have been troubled with that memory as Kano Pillars led the eventual winners by 3-0. That scoreline was scary and a reminder of an ugly past. They would have been praying for defeat but praying as well for the scoreline to be decent.
As at when Rangers pulled one back, it may have brought great relief and hope of a “better defeat”. When they scored the second, it was a matter of “Losing gallantly”. But hope came alive when the scoreline read three all. Like Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr said, Kano Pillars lost to tactical deficiency and lack of concentration.
For Enugu Rangers and their teeming fans especially the players who featured in that 3-0 humiliation by Bendel Insurance like Chukwu and Okala who are still very much around, it was a heavy relief. They would be saying “Never again. Not in our life time shall we witness this ugly drama”. Indeed had Kano Pillars ran away with the 3-0 lead, the game of 1978 will resonate in the minds of Rangers legends who played in that game and are still alive.
Perhaps, the 2018 Aiteo Cup final has sounded a clear warning and a reminder to Enugu Rangers Int’l FC to beware of the number 8. Though, they managed to fight back to stop the rampaging Kano Pillars in Asaba but it could have been a disastrous defeat bearing in the mind the 3-0 hammering they received from Bendel Insurance FC of Benin at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. Indeed, it was a big scare from Kano Pillars.