Imama Amapakabo. The boy is now a man

By Nduka Orjinmo

For six months in 2014, Imama Amapakabo wore his beards long.

He wasn’t trying to rekindle the pretentious cold-war Marxist days of a 70’s Nigeria, or was he casting for a role in a biblical documentary. No.

Mr. Imama grew his beards, grey and black all of them, to protest the inability of young football coaches to break into the helm of the fraternity in Nigeria. His mane was symbolic; the young adult that kept goal for Nigeria at a youth championship in the 80’s, was angry at his prolonged initiation rites into the coaching fraternity in the country, he felt he had strayed on the sidelines for too long with a clean chin, the world only recognizes adults with a full beard. That did the trick.

It was refreshing to see Imama shave off his greying beards. But more refreshing than seeing a man lose facial hairs was his elevation into the top job at Rangers International of Enugu.

After successful internships at Sharks, Enyimba and Rangers, the man fondly called Chief, has the opportunity to show the league what he’s made of, asides growing a rich mane and carrying a wooden slate during matches.

But what can Imama do at Rangers? A club supposedly with a hex hanging round their neck when it comes to winning trophies.
For one, he would entrench an attacking style of football at the Enugu club. That has always been his mantra and approach to the game. He favours a swift passing style that seeks to transition to attacking modes quickly. At the half-way point of the campaign, Rangers have scored 21 goals and conceded the same number. But knowing Imama, he wouldn’t be too worried about how much his team ships in, as long as they always outscore their opponents. That much was evident during their qualification for the last eight of the Federations Cup, a game they led three times to win 3-2 against Kwara United.

But that is where the rub is. Against such teams, the game of goals might be easier to achieve, but no team can effectively win a championship without a solid defence. A lecture Imama and his Rangers team received first hand when they lost 1-2 at home to Enyimba. Coach Amapakabo only has to look at his former employers to learn a thing about organizing a team for the long haul of a 38 game championship.

But the Federations Cup he can win. And what pleasure it would give him to announce his presence in the comity of football coaches with a trophy at the end of his first campaign in charge.

With top guns Enyimba, Kano Pillars, Heartland and Dolphins all out, Rangers play El Kanemi Warriors for a place in the last four knowing that this is a great chance to bury the ghosts of that generation long trophy-less regime.


Whatever the outcome of this season for the club, for Imama Amapakabo it would mean a coming of age. An initiation long overdue.  Afterall, according to an Etche proverb, when a man can introduce himself without pointing to his beards, then he has truly arrived.
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