“Egypt like most of the Theocratic nations of North Africa, do not allow women to mingle with men nor does the government authorise their women to sit together in the open with their men, to watch football matches. In the 1975 Rangers clash with Cairo based Mehalla FC… there was wahala when I trooped out with the Rangers squad to enter the full capacity stadium. Immediately the Security Chief saw me, he ordered a full company of soldiers to stop me at the gates…. ‘Sorry Madam, women are not allowed to…’ I’m not a woman, please bring your doctors to conduct the tests, I blurted.”
Telephone conversation with Madam Rangers, August 22, 2017; also see Rangers International FC… a History of a People, Edwin Eze/Emma Okocha, pp. 85, Gomslam 2017
The officer was thunder struck and the Rangers were not going in without Madam Rangers. The Referee was kept waiting, the crowd not in the know of what was happening were becoming restive. Cairo had jammed the stadium and paid astronomical charges for tickets, to watch Africa’s greatest club of that era play their heartthrob, the Cairo based Mehalla FC of Egypt. The Security Chief, who was no longer sure of the correct gender of the Rangers Periapt, was never prepared and could not handle the Madam Rangers response. Egypt had hitherto never experienced a Doctor’s test to ascertain the true gender of somebody in public. Moreover, the Cairo mob noted for their violence especially when they are denied bread may pillage and ransack the stadium if for any reason the Rangers International FC were no longer appearing to play as promoted all week long!
The standoff was over when with a lot of ‘shakara’ and inviting mischief Madam Rangers seductively, approaching the Captain and directly looking at his green eyes, started pulling at her trouser pants, bracelets, snapping them, ready for the test. That was enough for the young Egyptian officer. He ordered his company to attention, withdrawing them for the Rangers International FC squad commanded by Chairman Christian Chukwu, to approach the stadium unhindered. At the rear in triumphant trot was the vivacious Mrs. Julie Alale, the Ezenwanyi Gburu Gburu of the Mediterranean. There was an earthshaking ovation for the Rangers, who put the place on fire dancing Atilogwu to the center line.
When the hilarious crowd noticed her majesty trotting in like the men in front of her the stadium rose up in a bedlam. Most of the Aristocrats at the VIP stand were in tears. That was the first time a woman by her own sheer force, personality, overwhelming enchanting feminism, singlehandedly challenged Egypt’s century’s old Pharaoh Degradation of women. Without any predisposition, Madam Rangers brushed aside the dictatorial effusions of a bigoted Security Chief who dared to stand on her way to a free open air of the coliseum where women could seek entertainment and exercise through sports.
Years after that moments’ encounter, I was in Algeria to watch the same Rangers play FC Kouba of Algiers. I saw a lot of improvement. There were women in the stands. Distant from the men, you could see that the girls were coming, enjoying the game and are now playing the Sports: Volleyball, Football, Basketball, Athletics, Table Tennis, Hockey etc. Today the North African women have come and can be counted.
The Rangers African successful campaigns in the immediate decade following the end of the civil war brought to them unprecedented splendor and the team became more popular than China and Japan. It won for itself unprecedented followership and worship amongst the people and their leaders. Idi Amin, the Ugandan famous Dictator in a dinner he hosted for the Rangers and Madam Rangers in Kampala at the height of his supremacy in Uganda welcomed the defeat of his Ugandan Cranes by Rangers and asked to be enrolled in the Rangers foreign Honorable Supporters list. Rangers in 1975, was Barcelona plus Manchester United in the eyes of their fans from Egypt, Ghana to Lusaka, Zambia.
Incidentally, it was in Lusaka at this time that President Kenneth Kaunda went on national radio and declared to the Zambian people that Zambia is counting on its deity, the Buffalo to at last tame the Rangers rampage across the continent. Without waiting for anybody, Madam Rangers called an immediate national Press Conference and responded to the President who was the last African country to recognise Biafra in 1967. “I will swallow the Zambian Buffalo!” True to his predictions, the President personally led his Army Football squad the Green Buffaloes to battle in Lagos and scared the Rangers who managed a 2-1 win. At the return match the President, Kenneth Kaunda landed in helicopter at Half time, and the Buffaloes scored, making it 2-1 against the Rangers. With only two minutes to go President Kaunda hopped into his helicopter and the helicopter hovered in victory almost touching the head of Madam Rangers. The stadium was in ecstasy and President Kaunda took off.
On page 92 of Rangers International FC… a History of a People, Memorable Matches, Stanley Okoronkwo disclosed that the Zambian President’s display in caricature of Madam Rangers pushed the envelope for the Rangers. They decided that the remaining two minutes would be two minutes of “onwu na ndu!”… do or die! “I was a Mid-fielder and it was just 35 seconds to go, Francis Nwosu was pairing with Christian Chukwu when he turned in the ball at a fast pace and I nodded the ball into the net… at the dot of time! Kenneth Kaunda who had left the stadium two minutes earlier with the impression that his team had defeated us was shocked to hear the final score at home.”
In consideration of her memorable exploits, mostly recorded during her activities amongst men, the woman who went to Lusaka and sparred with the Zambian President before swallowing the Buffalo is a phenomenal pathfinder. In many ways, she can be compared to other Nigerian women of extraordinary historic contributions; who ensued and threaded in their paths, asterisk footprints on the sands of time…. Queen Amina, the lady conqueror, Anikulakpo Kuti, the first woman to ride and drive a motor vehicle, Madam Christy Okocha, the first woman to break the neck of the Champion male wrestler amongst Asaba Ibokwe community.