BENIN CITY – After dropping from the Nigerian elite soccer league, for over a decade, Bendel Insurance Football Club, on Monday in Benin City, made a historic return to the Premier League with a 2-1 defeat of 3 SC Football Club, thanks to the revamp of the club by Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
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 are fondly called, has secured the 3 points it needed to top the NNL Table and book a place in the 2018/19 NPFL season.
Receiving the team at the Government House on Monday, a visibly-elated Governor Obaseki congratulated the management and players of Bendel Insurance Football Club for defeating 3SC FC of Ibadan to proceed to the Nigeria Premier League. Obaseki said the victory was another fulfilment 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.
Commenting on the Bendel Insurance win, soccer pundits said the new spirit in the team was created by Governor Obaseki, who has made real his promise to overhaul the team and bring back its past glorious years.
The team’s exit from the nation’s tier two league, where it contended with poor welfare, low players’ morale and disenchantment, will see it play alongside Enyimba FC and other tier 1 teams starting from next season.
Former National Deputy Secretary, Sports Writers Association SWAN, Mr. Ben Ogbemudia, described the 2-1 win as deserved.
He said: “Bendel Insurance FC the win over 3 SC as the team has been hungry to make Edo people proud after the huge investment into the team by the Obaseki-led administration.
“Obaseki took Bendel Insurance from an all-time low period in which salaries and allowances were not paid and when paid, thy were irregular.
“The players used to wear tattered jersey, 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.”
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.
With the revamp, the players welfare is now top priority as their entitlements are paid immediately after matches.
They now have a conducive camp with good beds, good food, water, a new technical team and all the things they need to excel. In fact, the players are ready to sacrifice their legs in matches now.”
Bendel Insurance Football Club, originally known as the Vipers of Benin with a traditional base at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, was one of the founders of the Nigerian Premier League in 1972.
The team’s woes started in its first month of the 2007–08 season which was delayed because of a management dispute over who controlled the team.
The ownership crisis coupled with other problems plunged it into relegation at the end of the 2007–08 season after finishing last on the table, the first time the team was suffering relegation from the top level in its history.
Despite the state government’s intervention in 2008, that reversed its ownership to the state government, the club continued to grapple with a series of challenges that kept in the troubled waters until the Obaseki administration overhauled the team.