The main-bowl of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City is to be overhauled and returned to natural grass surface from its current artificial astro-turf state. When completed, the Nigerian senior national team will return to Benin City to play home games there.
Ogbe Stadium as the facility was previously known until it was named after the two-time governor of old Bendel State, Dr Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia who built it in 1973, is to be re-grassed as part of the sports reforms embarked upon by the Godwin Obaseki administration in the state.
Speaking during the rebranding of Bendel Insurance FC in Benin city during the week, Deputy Governor of Edo State, Rt Hon. Philip Shaibu, explained that they have since discovered that the artificial turf was not really desirable for good football in this part of the world due to the climate here.
“When next people who are here (at the rebranding ceremony) come to watch a game at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, you will see a brand new stadium that is comparable to international standards,” observed the deputy governor who regularly trains with Bendel Insurance at the facility.
He admitted that given that when the pitch returns to natural grass, “fans are going to notice a difference in the quality of play of the Benin Arsenal.”
President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, who was a guest at the rebranding ceremony was excited with the move by the Edo State government to return the famous ground to same natural grass as the Uyo stadium where Eagles currently play their home matches.
He pledged a return of the senior national team to the facility if the handlers of the Super Eagles are satisfied with the job done there.
“His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki, contributed hugely, while I was running for the Confederation of African Football positions, he has also been in the forefront of hosting all our women national teams in this our great city and what can we reward him with than to bring back the Super Eagles to their original home in Benin City,” observed the NFF chief.
He recalled that at a point in the history of the Super Eagles, eight regular players of the senior national team were from the old Bendel State, consisting of Edo and Delta.
Pinnick thanked the governor and his deputy for bringing back the nostalgia of the days when the Ogbemudia Stadium was filled to capacity before 12 noon, any time Bendel Insurance had home matches. “I believe such era will return with the move to rebrand the team that has started now.”
The NFF president agreed that the future of club football in the country was to be private sector driven as envisioned by Gov Obaseki.