Nigerian torchbearers Rangers of Enugu continue their chase for continental glory since winning the defunct Africa Cup Winners Cup over four decades ago with a round of 16 first leg clash away to Gabonese side AS Pelican on Saturday in Libreville.
The Flying Antelopes were impressive last season in the same competition reaching the mini-league group stage but failed to progress to the quarter-finals after coming closely in third position behind Tunisian duo CS Sfaxien and Etoile du Sahel.
The seven-time champions have since bolstered their side with some experienced players notably veteran midfielder Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, a household name on the Nigerian football scene through his nickname Mosquito.
“It is great to join Rangers International and I’m here to contribute my quota to the success of the team especially in the CAF Confederation Cup because it has been a long time that the club won anything on the continent,” the experienced 33-year-old Ibenegbu, a graduate of Industrial and Microbiology from Imo State University told CAFOnline.com.
“It is my objective to win everything achievable here with Rangers; and we are looking positively at the CAF Confederation Cup as well as the NPFL and Aiteo Cup in Nigeria.
“I believe with my experience playing on the continent alongside that of others now in the team, would help Rangers achieve more than they did last season.”
Mosquito has indeed impressed over the years having played for the Nigeria Beach Soccer national team as well as the Super Eagles side at the 2016 Africa Nations Championship in Rwanda. He has also tasted continental football during his stints at Heartland of Owerri, defunct Warri Wolves and lately with Enyimba before switching to Rangers.
“Enyimba is familiar with playing on the continent and I had four great seasons with them where I gained so much experience playing in both in the domestic and CAF-organised competitions.
“I’ve been well received and the fans can be rest assured that I’m going to give my best after coming back from a knee injury that kept me out of the game for almost a year.
According to Rangers’ Communications Officer, Norbert Okolie, Mosquito has seemingly not lost his cutting edges with his impressive showings in the club’s practice matches ahead of this weekend’s trip to Gabon.
“Our preparation for the CAF Confederation Cup is well on course. We suffered only one game in 12 friendly matches against both professional and amateur clubs. Ibenegbu (Mosquito) featured in six of those matches and I think the coaching crew led by our new manager Benedict Ugwu is very impressed because he has shown his usual old form and assisted in some of the goals we scored.”
Ibenegbu, who acquired Mosquito as a moniker by admirers due to his bean-pole physique, said his coming over to Rangers soon after winning the 2018/2019 Nigerian league with Enyimba offers him yet another opportunity to show what he’s capable of doing.
“In all my years with Enyimba, I only won trophies in the domestic competition but I believe Rangers is strong enough to go all the way in this year’s CAF Confederation Cup and we must show our capacity starting with this weekend’s match against AS Pelican,” he reiterated.
The second leg will take place in Enugu in a fortnight with the winner advancing to the ultimate preliminary of the second-tier continental championship.
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