*Says club’s triumph over 3SC and hope of promotion to NPFL is promise kept
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Bendel Insurance Football Club yesterday in Benin City, made a bold move to return to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) with a 2-1 defeat of 3SC Football Club of Ibadan.
The highly anticipated make-or-mar encounter between both teams, was concluded on Monday morning at the University of Benin Sports Complex, after a tension-soaked Sunday afternoon encounter that was postponed due to bad weather.
With the 2-1 win, the Edo Arsenal as Bendel Insurance is fondly called, has secured the three points it needed to top the Table and now awaits NFF’s decision on the NNL Super 8 play off.
If the NFF sticks to the same rule that allowed Lobi Stars to be declared winner of the abridged 2018 NPFL season, Bendel Insurance and their fans may well be preparing to return to the topflight again after over a decade in the wilderness of Nigerian football.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki whose sports policy made it possible for Insurance to achieve this feat received the team at the Government House in Benin yesterday.
A visibly elated Governor Obaseki congratulated the management and players of Bendel Insurance Football Club for defeating 3SC to be on course to returning to the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Obaseki said the victory was another fulfillment of his administration’s promise to Edo people and residents.
“My joy knows no bound because of what you have done today. I congratulate you and congratulate myself. I say this because it is another promise kept. We promised Edo people that we would bring Bendel Insurance to its lofty status which we all will be proud off and make sure they go on to play in the Premier league,” the governor said.
He described the Deputy Governor of the State, Hon. Philip Shaibu who led the team to his office as the father of the New Bendel Insurance FC and commended him for the giant strides he made in rebranding the club.
“We have built a team and have a machinery that will win the premier league, I am giving the club the sum of N25 million to show how grateful we are as a government,” Obaseki said.
The deputy governor of the state, said in 2017, the state governor gave him a marching order to rebrand Bendel Insurance FC and other sporting activities in the state.
“We did a lot of rebranding in the club and we appreciate the governor for ensuring prompt release of the budget of the club and the payment of salaries.
He said the technical team was working to sign in bigger players to join the players in the club in preparation for the national premier league.
Former National Deputy Secretary, Sports Writers Association (SWAN), Mr. Ben Ogbemudia, described the 2-1 win as deserved.
He said: “Bendel Insurance FC win over 3SC is making Edo people proud again that the huge investment of the Obaseki-led administration is delivering results.
“Obaseki took Bendel Insurance from an all-time low period in which salaries and allowances were not paid and when paid, they were irregular.
“The players used to wear tattered jerseys, no provision was made for a serviceable vehicle to transport players to and from match venues. The team used to travel on match days. They did not have a camp that was conducive for training,” recalled Ogbemudia who is a former Media Officer of the team.
The sportswriter said the tragic story changed when Governor Obaseki began the revamp of the team.
“What we have now is a truly rebranded Bendel Insurance FC and with this historic win and promotion to the elite NPFL, the players have demonstrated their appreciation to the Edo State Government for investing faith in them.
Bendel Insurance Football Club, originally known as the Vipers of Benin with a traditional base at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, was one of Nigeria’s top teams in the 1970 through 1980s.
The ownership crisis coupled with other problems plunged the team into relegation at the end of the 2007–08 season after finishing last on the table. It was the first time the team was being relegated from the top level in its history.
Despite the state government’s intervention in 2008, that reversed its ownership to the state government, Bendel Insurance FC continued to grapple with series of challenges that kept the club in troubled waters until the Obaseki administration overhauled its management.