By Chimezie Anaso
Joe Aniedobe, a veteran player of Rangers International FC of Enugu, popularly called ‘Uncle Joe’, is dead.
The Chairman of the club, Davidson Owunmi, broke the news of Aniedobe’s death to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka on Thursday.
Owunmi described the deceased as a strong and active member of the Ex-Rangers Association, saying that the news of his death hit the club with shock.
“I am still in shock. The club is mourning because Aniedobe was a strong member of this family. We pray God grants repose to his soul,” he said.
Also, Harrison Okagbue, one of the deceased’s teammates in Rangers and close friend, said “he was a good player and a jolly good fellow off the pitch”.
Okagbue, a former Coach of Cranes of Uganda, said Aniedobe remained one of the best “outside left” Rangers ever had.
According to him, the deceased enjoyed good playing time from around 1974, when he joined the club until retirement.
“We were very close. We both started in Aba before coming to Rangers.
“He was my best friend in life. During his wedding, I was his best man.
“Joe was a mobiliser, a morale booster and one who brought lots of joy to the team.
“I spoke with him during the burial of Nwabueze Nwankwo and he said he couldn’t come because he was at another burial.
“I pray I come out of this shock soon,” he said.
Jude Emecheta, the Managing Director, Anambra Signage and Advertisements Agency, where Aniedobe worked before he died, said he had lost a friend and a colleague.
Emecheta said he knew Aniedobe way back in his playing days, while he was with NEPA FC in Enugu.
He described him as a team player, saying, “he blended with people of all age groups, helped to ease tension in the workplace and maintain optimal productivity”.
He said that the deceased was healthy the last time they met and wondered why death would snatch him so sudden.
“Am devastated with the news of his death, we were not just colleagues, we have been friends for over 40 years. May God bless his soul with eternal rest,” he said.
A veteran football administrator, Victor Nwangwu, said he played shortly with Aniedobe in Rangers before he (Nwangwu) got admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Nwangwu said Aniedobe played the role of a psychologist in the team.
“He did not only play well but sang songs and cracked jokes that made his teammates battle ready before going into the pitch.
He said Aniedobe had a successful club career before be retired and joined the Anambra Sports Council in Enugu.
“I don’t know what could be responsible for his sudden death.
“But I am aware he buried his wife, who was very dear to him, about six months ago. The shock may have played a role too,” he said.
Aniedobe started his football career with Textile Mill FC of Aba before joining Rangers in 1974, where he played and retired in 1981.
He was a member of Rangers team that won the Challenge Cup three consecutive times in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
His death came barely five days after Nwankwo, a foundation member of the club, popularly called ‘Bulldozer’, was buried in his Enugu-Ukwu country home.
Aniedobe died during a brief illness in his country home in Nimo, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra. (NAN)