Kenneth Abanah, one of the pioneer members of the famed Enugu Rangers football club that made waves in the 70s celebrated his 71st birthday on Saturday 13th March, 2021. But is still nursing a chronic knee injury which he sustained during his football playing days.
Abanah, who scored historical first goal for Rangers spoke to Sports Central on EzeSportsTV in his country home, Agukwu NRI, Aniocha Local Government Area, Anambra state.
Follow us down with the interview......
1. Coincidentally today happens to be your birthday, how do you feel celebrating your 71st birthday?.
"I feel very happy and elated as this very birthday is exceptional, because I have not bee able to celebrate like this for the past two years due to sickness that made me bedridden, but got back better few months ago. That's why I'm so glad to celebrate this birthday in good health.
2. Can you recall what it feels like playing football those days.
"Actually during our days in the 70s to be precise, we played football with passion and love for the game. I noticed many people loved football and always troop in numbers to watch us play.
3. How did your passion for football started?
"The love for football started during my primary school days, where people and loved ones kept praising and pushing me to make football a profession because they believe I would go far and be successful in the game. Most especially from my teachers, who believed in my talent, so I continued practicing and playing before the war broke in. Then after the war, Rangers football club was formed and I was one of the pioneer members.
4. As one of the pioneer members of Enugu Rangers, can you recall other members of that famous team.
"Yes, people like late Cyril Okosie, Emmanuel Okala, late Ernest Ufele, late John William Nwosu, late Nwankwo Nwabueze, who died three weeks ago, late Godwin Achebe (Captain), late Sam Nwachukwu, Godwin Adimachugo, then of course me Kenneth Abanah, Dominic Nwobodo, late Mathias Obianike, late Emeka Onyedika, late Ogidi Ibeabuchi, and as you can see most of us are dead, while only few still lives.
5. It's well as pray their soul to continue resting, You played a lot of games with Rangers in those days, can you tell us who your toughest opponents was.
"The toughest opponents I have met or played against are the Hafia club of Guinea, they are a very tough and good side to play against, they gave us real wahala (problems), they beat us right at our backyard in Lagos, infact they were a team any team will suffer so much to play against.
6. A lot has been said about your goal against Sector 6 Niger that gave birth to Rangers the moniker Enugu Rangers international. What did you remember about that moment?
"Eventually I was the one that scored the first local and International goal for Rangers. The local goal was against the Police club of Enugu, while the international goal was against Sector 6 of Niger Republic, and the goal made Rangers to be recognized as one of the African biggest teams.
7. Can you describe how wonderful that particular goal made you feel like in such a stage.
"Well not only at the international stage because I was still a youngster at age of 21 and I happened to be the youngest in the team, that really gave me the motivation and enthusiasm to keep moving.
8. You had a history of injuries, how come, what was the nature of the injuries, any help from the NFF or the Government.
"I played active football for about seven years before picking up a serious knee injury on my right knee. This really cause my footballing career to end. The knee was seriously in a bad shape. There are indeed problem with ex footballers and their health, if only the Government can provide doctors who can come or invite us individually or collectively for treatment. Okay, take a look at me, I'm suffering from arthritis, the sickness is as a result of jumping and falling on the hard turf of the pitch, especially in the African soil. This same arthritis killed Nwankwo Nwabueze and also our doctor Obiora, who died two weeks ago. If there will be availability of doctors who can attend to us, I think most of these issues will be salvaged. I would like to thank former governor of Anambra state Dr Peter Obi, the present state governor his Excellency Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike), I won't also forget Stella Odua, who provided me with a wheelchair that I'm using now coupled with some money. I won't also forget Obi Ikpeazu and the sister, they have been of help to me, finally I call on the bodies involved to come to our aide and help is because who don't receive enough stipends to carry on, as our pension is nothing to write home about, with only few of us receiving the pension.
We believe those in authority will try and do the needful and help our ex stars to have the
sense of belonging they deserve.
9. Why did they call you magic?
"It was the commentator Olafola Isho that named me 'magic', people, both my teammates and coaches kept telling me that I am very good with the ball on my feet, some people call it 'ball reception'. The way I manipulate opponents spoke volume, it was when I dribbled an opponent in a match that the commentator screamed 'my oh my ladies and gentlemen, this is indeed magic', from that moment, instead of calling me by my name Kenneth Abanah, he now changed my name to Magic, the famous name Magic now started from there.
10. What was your experience like when you were called to Green Eagles camp.
"I was invited to the Green Eagles camp in 1975, but due to one reason or the other, I did not wear the Green Eagles jersey, although it's a story I wouldn't want to talk about because when I entered the camp, I discovered that my name was asterisked and when I tried to find out why, no one was able to explain the reason, that made me to leave the camp, despite not being asked to. I knew something could be wrong and wouldn't want to risk staying since only my name was asterisked". So I wouldn't want to go into details about that.
11. Do you remember Godwin Ogbueze, how special was he?
"He was my childhood friend right from His, the young man was a wonderful talented player, his trickery play earned him the name 'Pele', oh my God, Goddy was an exceptional star, infact he was indeed wonderful. He also played for Rangers before he left for US.
12. NRI town also produced ex Internationals, do you remember any outstanding ex International from Nri?
"Okay, we have Stoneface Igwebuike and late Fausta Ikeagu, I think three of us were the one I can remember that played up to International level.
13. What is your greatest regret in football?
"I don't have any regret playing football, if you asks me to play tomorrow, I will still do that, so I have no regret at all.
14. Can you give us your all the time Rangers best XI.
"Okay, Goalkeeper- Cyril Okosie, Ernest Ufele- right-back, John William Nwosu- left-back, Peter Okeke- defensive midfielder, Godwin Achebe- Central defense, Luke Okpala- Central defense, Emeka Onyedika- right forward, then myself Kenneth Abanah- forward behind the striker, Godwin Nwobodo- striker, Mathias Obianike- Central midfielder, and Shedrack Ajero- left forward. This is the best evelen to beat during our time and did not lose to any team before others later joined.
15. Do you still follow up situation and happenings at the present Rangers stars?
"Unfortunately, as you can see I am not well health wise, and I currently use wheelchair, that means I can't walk normal at the moment due to the arthritis but I do hear about their progress and I believe they're doing well because success is in our DNA..