Bendel Insurance Returns to NPFL after 11 Years in Wilderness

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Bendel Insurance
  • Remo Stars, Gombe Utd back as Kada Stars completes list

Ojeikere Aikhoje

After 11 years in the wilderness of Nigerian club football, Bendel Insurance yesterday announced its return to the topflight Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) following the 1-0 defeat of Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) in the final Southern Conference match of the NNL Super 8 Playoff in Aba.

Captain of the Benin Arsenal, Charles Omokaro wrote his name in gold when he scored the lone winner 15 minutes into the high profile game. The victory sealed Insurance passage to the NPFL with maximum nine points from three matches.

Insurance entered the history books as the only team to win all three matches without conceding a goal.

The return of the Benin team to the topflight was also a fulfillment of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s pledge to Edo State indigenes and followers of the club when he rebranded it late last year.

Inspired by the presence of Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, who is a registered player, Insurance quickly displayed readiness for business as Omokaro got the opener in only 15 minutes into the match.

The former African Champions held on to the goal and remained resolute despite the dismissal of Michael Enaruna in the second half.

Interestingly, the Edo side maintained its unbeaten record against their opponents in three matches played in Ibadan, Benin-City and Aba, respectively.

Reacting to the team’s promotion, Chief Coach, Baldwin Bazuaye said: “I feel great. I won trophies as a player and I am happy to help Insurance return to the topflight”.

Skipper Omokaro equally expressed satisfaction with the feat.

“I feel very happy because this is what the people of Edo State have waited for.

“Insurance has been in the lower division for 11 years and now we are back.

“With the assistance of Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu, we have achieved this feat for Edo people,” Omokaro struggled with words to express his inner satisfaction.

Relegated at the end of the 2008 season, the famous Insurance struggled for over a decade to swim out of the lower division without success.

Succour however came with the administration of Governor Obaseki, who promised to turn around the fortunes of the team.

Remo Stars claimed a 2-1 win over Delta Force to join Insurance from the Southern Group.

Earlier, Kada City and Gombe United finished as leaders and runners up, respectively, in the Northern Group.

Today, Insurance will contest for the NNL title against Kada City.

…Fixtures Involving Newly Promoted Teams on Hold as NPFL Season Kicks off Jan 13

The 2019 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is scheduled to kick off on Sunday, January 13 in various centres with the conclusion of the Nigeria National League (NNL) Play-offs in Aba yesterday.

Bendel Insurance of Benin, Remo Stars of Sagamu, Kada City of Kaduna and Gombe United of Gombe are the four teams that gained promotion to the topflight from the NNL Super 8 playoffs.

However, some of the opening day matches would not hold as scheduled and are to be rescheduled for a later date.

The postponed fixtures are those involving the country’s representatives in CAF Club competitions and those involving the four promoted clubs from the NNL.

Following a mini-draw supervised by the LMC Chief Executive Officer, Hon. Nduka Irabor in Aba after the play-offs, Insurance took slot 1, Remo Stars in 2 while Gombe United and Kada City were in 3&4 respectively.

The mini-draw thus pitched Wikki Tourists against Insurance, Rivers United and Remo Stars, Yobe Desert Stars and Gombe United and Go Round FC to play Kada City.

The Chief Operating Officer of the League Management Company (LMC), Salihu Abubakar, who announced the decision of the League body to shift the matches, explaining that, “the games involving the promoted clubs from the NNL are being shifted to give the club’s time to return to their respective bases and make adequate plans to play in the NPFL”.

“It’s only fair that the players be allowed time to recover from the rigours of the tournament they just participated in and they would join from Match Day 2 while a new date will be announced for the postponed fixtures”, added Abubakar.

The other postponed games are those between Lobi Stars and Katsina United and between Rangers International and Niger Tornadoes. While Lobi Stars are playing in the CAF Champions League, Rangers are campaigning in the CAF Confederation Cup and both clubs are in action this weekend.

Below are the complete fixtures.

MATCH-DAY 1 GROUP A

(January 13, 2019)

Wikki vs Insurance (PP)

Rivers Utd vs Remo Stars (PP)

Rangers vs Tornadoes (PP)

Lobi vs Katsina Utd (PP)

Kwara Utd vs Sunshine

Enyimba vs MFM FC

MATCH-DAY 1 GROUP B

(January 13, 2019)

Yobe Stars vs Gombe Utd (PP)

Go Round vs Kada City (PP)

Nasarawa vs Abia Warriors

Plateau Utd vs Ifeanyiubah

Kano Pillars vs Heartland

Akwa Utd vs El-Kanemi