Progres chairman recalls Rangers win, details Seville agony and reveals Ibrox trip hope on fifth anniversary of Europa League shock

·5-min read
The Progres Niederkorn players celebrate
The Progres Niederkorn players celebrate

IT was a significant step back that was followed by many more important ones forward for Rangers. In the case of Progres Niederkorn, it was a moment of history that laid foundations for the future.

The events of that night in Luxembourg will forever be etched as most ignominious in Rangers' folklore. Five years on, the date - July 4, 2017 - remains the most cherished their conquerors have ever lived through.

Goals from Emmanuel Francoise and Sebastian Thill earned Paolo Amodio's side a win that sent shockwaves around Europe and the reverberations would last months, even years, at Ibrox.

It was the beginning of the end for Pedro Caixinha, another depths of despair moment for a club and support who had endured so much just to earn a return to Europa League action.

The Portuguese famously remonstrated with fans whilst standing in a bush outside the Stade Josy Barthel. Inside it, Progres lived the dream and started to savour a triumph that is still recalled with such heartfelt fondness to this day.

"It is the most important success in the history of our club," Thomas Gilgemann, the Progres chairman, told Herald and Times Sport as he recalled their first ever win on the European stage. "A big success with lots of memories for us all.

"It was the first time we had got to Nyon to look at the teams we could play and we had the luck to be drawn with a big club like Rangers.

"We were very happy for this. At Ibrox, it was a fantastic atmosphere, a beautiful stadium. We don't like to lose but we lost 1-0 and it was OK.

"Then we played a perfect game, scored two goals at good times and it is wonderful. It was a special victory for our team.

"Since then we have played other games in the Europa League and we have won against Gabala, Honved and Cork City. It is the start, a beautiful start, of the history of the club.

"That night we realised it was possible to win, to have plans and dreams, to have a good team and be better.

"This year, Rangers played in the final of the Europa League five years after the Progres game and I offer huge congratulations to Rangers for this achievement.

"The game against us was good in the end. It was a bad night in the history of Rangers, but a good step for the future of Rangers. I think they learned a lot.

"They made mistakes to lose against Niederkorn, but five years on after the work of Steven Gerrard, the work of the club and then the work of Giovanni van Bronckhorst, they are in a very good place."

It was the ultimate tale of David overcoming Goliath, a story that will be told for generations to come. In the here and now, it continues to inspire Progres.

When Gerrard's side returned three years ago, the aggregate victory was seen as a way for Rangers to banish the memories and exorcise the demons that had lingered even as the Liverpool legend set about revolutionising the club on and off the park.

Those that made the trip to Luxembourg or watched the horror unfold from afar will have their own recollections of the drama and defeat. Today, though, is all about the victors.

Gilgemann said: "It is not a normal day for the club. It is the anniversary, five years since the most beautiful victory over Rangers.

"We have communicated about this and on Monday we will use the social media of the club – Instagram, Facebook and so on – and all the bosses of the club will send messages of congratulations.

"We will never forget this victory. It is not just because it is the anniversary. It was so important for the club, we have the pictures around the club, on the stadium and the clubhouse.

"We keep this all the time and it will always be in the history of our club. It is a beautiful part of our lives.

"I am disappointed because the last two seasons we have finished in fifth position and we have not played European football.

"In this season, in March, we were first in the championship and then in the last ten games we didn’t play well and we finished in fifth position.

"It was a very big disappointment but we work hard to get back to the Europa League or Conference League to maybe play another time against Rangers.

"The second tie was not bad for us, we lost 2-0 and then drew 0-0 at home. It was a good result because a lot of players from that team went on to play in the final this year."

The journey that took Rangers from Luxembourg City to Seville is a remarkable one. Had it been laid out beforehand, the mere possibility would have been dismissed as absurd.

But the beaten Europa League finalists now have Champions League action in their sights once again as Van Bronckhorst prepares for the new campaign.

A band of adopted blues will watch on. The bonds formed when history was made are still strong to this day as the clubs are forever united by their deeds.

"When we played against Rangers, we became fans of Rangers," Gilgemann said. "We look at their games and results and we are supporters of Rangers.

"When they played in the final, they had an opportunity with Kent late on and I was watching with my son shouting ‘no, no, no!’

"We were not happy with the result. In the end, to lose on penalties was very sad because they had the opportunity to win.

"We want to organise a trip to Rangers to see a game this season. We want to organise that with the old chairman.

"At this time, I am chairman. When we played against Rangers, I was sporting director.

"We are very happy when we looked at Rangers winning the championship and getting to the final. It is a great club and it would mean a lot for Niederkorn if we were able to play them again.

"It is possible for us, we want to be at that level and we work for that every day since that day."

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