*I am a sacked job looking for club now
He broke the jinx of over 32 years and there after that almost became a yoke on Rangers International of Enugu as the team struggled in the league and eventually dropping from the Champions League, to the Confederation Cup and finally out of the continental league. Coach Imama Amakapabo’s hero status turned villain in the state and he became the sacrificial lamb for the team, Olayinka Elebute had a chat with the coach who opens up on the challenges that comes from breaking a jinx for the team.
The last time I spoke with you, you were about winning the league but now I’m speaking to you as a sacked coach. What really happened?
First of all I’m grateful to God, government of Enugu state, board and management of Rangers International. The players that played under me within this period, I say a big thank you. A lot happened within this period. We’re a team that failed to build on the success of last season which affected us greatly.
What actually happened? The promises made or the trophy delivered what went wrong between the two factors?
It’s a cumulation of both of them. This was a team that had not won a trophy in 32 years and all of a sudden we won. We’ve to build on that and that required a lot of support. But we couldn’t manage that and it became a problem and affected the team psychologically.
I heard you registered 16 players to start a league. Playing a league and the Champions League how did you manage the team?
I’m a coach. Most of the times I had to improvise. I had started a contract and agreed to put things together. I always had hopes that things were going to get better but the more we deepened the more we were being swallowed by the water. No matter how hard we tried to work, it wasn’t working. The few players available were also getting injured and it became more challenging.
I know you’re someone who loves challenges. What did you really go through?
I had about 24 players to play in two competitions and a long list of injury to the players. Most of them were playing through the pain barrier. We also had challenges of remuneration of the players that were not met. So every time we had the psychological issues we deal with most times and this is where it got us to.
People have compared you to Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City saying he lost the dressing room. Did you lose the dressing room at any point?
Each time I hear this I just laugh. Because in the first place, after Ranieri won the trophy, he was given £150 million and Imama Amapakabo never got a dime to buy players. So, where is the comparison? I think I had a wonderful relationship with the players. Most of them couldn’t comprehend what happened. Felt terribly bad like they let me down. Life must go on. For now, Rangers is now in my past.
You were sacked from an email letter. How true was it? What was your contract like? Why the choice of email?
I can’t explain the choice of email. But I think it’s a form of correspondence. I was at Rangers’ training at 5:35pm when I got the mail and I walked away. I ran into the Rangers General Manager, Chairman Christian Chukwu and I asked him about the rumours flying around about my sack before the email and he couldn’t look me in the eye. And I walked away. That’s how coaches in the country are being treated. I had a two years contract, but it was terminated after six months and I think my lawyers have to look at it to see if there is an anomaly.
Sources said you had a 14 days notice if your contract was to be terminated. Also that you had not been paid this year. How true are these?
I think the terms of the contract doesn’t give a free way to talk about it. These are things my lawyer will be looking at. I’ll be quiet till whatever will be done about it.
How true is it that you’ll be getting a N53 million pay off if your contract was terminated by Rangers?
Well, you’re a journalist and I wonder where you get your information from. But I’m a coach that used to have a contract with Rangers.
So what’s next for Imama?
I’m a fired coach. A coach looking for a job now. Even if it’s an academy, so long it will put food on my table for my family. But right now, I’m holidaying, resting a bit before I go job hunting again.
You were one of the national team coaches. I got information you received a call from the national team head coach Gernot Rohr, what was the discussion? Are you back full time with the national team?
I’m one of the assistant coaches to the national team under the head coach of Nigeria. I’m privileged to serve in that capacity, he called to pay solidarity. He called me to say he is solidly behind me and I appreciate his first line when he said that every good coach will be sacked. I was highly elated that he called me. He told me he is solidly behind me and that solidarity is the key word in the Super Eagles which is responsible for our success so far.
A lot of people are looking at your last team and the position they are. What’s your wish for them?
I sincerely wish Rangers International the very best. They have a good chance to get out of the position they are because they have some outstanding games which can be won and put them back in good position. I also want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to showcase myself as a coach. I thank everyone that supported me while I coached Rangers international of Enugu.