Three Nigerians Eye Historic Europa League Glory With Rangers
Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun, and Calvin Bassey will be aiming for history when Glasgow Rangers take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
The match could even be more historic if Rangers’ manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst lists the Nigerians in the squad for the tie in Seville.
Wednesday’s match is another landmark game. It will be the first time three Nigerians will feature for a club that got to the European final. Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu played for Ajax in the 1995 Champions League final against AC Milan while Mikel Obi and Victor Moses were part of the Chelsea team that won the Europa League in 2013.
‘The Boys Are Buzzing’
Rangers face the Germans in Seville aiming to add to their 1971/72 Cup Winners’ Cup success.
Victory for Rangers will be a huge compensation for the trio who featured as Nigeria failed to make the 2022 World Cup.
But Aribo is determined to banish the memories of the World Cup miss and Nigeria’s Round of 16 crash at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
“All the boys are buzzing. We know what an opportunity we have and we are ready to go, to be honest,” Aribo said.
‘It’s Just Crazy’
For Calvin Bassey, 22, playing in the Europa League final is a dream come true.
“When I look at it four years ago, I was just like an U18s footballer. I’m in the youth team and now four years on I can potentially play in the Europa League final,” he told Rangers’ TV.
“It is just crazy just looking at how far I have come and how happy I am every day for being here and just being a part of it.”
Bassey’s compatriot, Balogun will be playing in his first European Cup final. The 33-year-old should be in the matchday squad if fit. Already, he has a goal to his name in the competition. He was on the scoresheet for Rangers against Crvena Zvezda.
Overall, he has played 10 games for Van Bronckhorst’s men in the Europa League this season.
‘Chance… To Be In History Books’
The game is also hugely significant for the club. When administration, liquidation, and relegation all blighted a broken Rangers in 2012, none thought they would be so swift in recovering.
But if the Rangers’ recovery was complete when they won the Scottish Premiership again last season, a final in Seville now offers them a shot at European glory too.
“We’re one game away from making history,” Rangers midfielder Aaron Ramsey said on Monday as the squad departed for Spain, the final leg of a journey that began eight months ago in defeat and disappointment.
With the chance to play in the Champions League on the back of winning the Scottish title, Rangers instead lost to Malmo in the third qualifying round, a result that set up a play-off to reach the Europa League with Alashkert from Armenia.
There were more prestigious opponents to come as Rangers, under Giovanni van Bronckhorst from November after Steven Gerrard left for Aston Villa, defeated Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, Braga, and Leipzig in the knock-out rounds to reach their first European final in 14 years.
A victory would earn the club its first cup on the continent since Rangers beat Dynamo Moscow 3-2 in Barcelona to lift the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.
“This is a chance for them to be in the history books of this club and really get a historic win,” said Van Bronckhorst.
“Then the stories they will tell in years to come will be the same stories that the players from 1972 tell to my players.
“I’ve said it before you have to dream of something to really achieve it. You can work hard and really give everything to achieve your goal and that is beautiful.”